This weekend the annual Bristol Pride Festival starts. This year sees its returns as a full physical festival after two years of online and hybrid events due to the pandemic.
We’re certainly back with a bang! Over 50 events will take place this year over the next two weeks, which will see the city come alive with Pride with our biggest ever programme of events.
Making a return this year is the Pride Day festival on Saturday 9 July. Taking place on the Downs, it’s the first time the event has been held since 2019 and it’s going to be great to be able to have everyone back together to celebrate, for people to be able to truly just be themselves, and of course to enjoy some incredible music and performances.
Over 100 acts will be taking part in Pride Day including Alexandra Burke, Katrina of The Waves, HYYTS, Canada’s Drag Race winner Priyanka, and the headline set from Grammy nominee and global icon Carly Rae Jepsen.
Of course, we have an incredible festival lined up but, this year as about coming back together as a community and poignantly, the Pride March is also back this year, taking place in the morning of Saturday 9 July. The March has not been able to take place for the last two years and its return this year coincides the with the 50th Anniversary of the first Pride March to take place in the UK.
The Parade is truly something special. In 2019, 18,000 people took part and it was just incredible to see. The atmosphere is electric: such love and positivity but with a vital an important message behind it. Yes, it is celebratory, but there is an important message behind Pride and why we still need Pride and events like the Parade. The Parade is a chance to give our community visibility for people to reclaim the streets, to be proud of who they are and perhaps hold their partner’s hand in public in a safe environment, something that may not be possible due to fear of abuse or violence other times of the year, even here in Bristol.
It’s also our chance to protest against prejudice and hatred and fight to not only further the rights we currently have as a community, but also to further those that are falling behind. We’ve seen too many times recently that our rights can easily be taken away so we must never be complacent. We currently have a government that seems to ignore its own consultation on positive reforms for our Trans siblings and is now looking at ripping up the Human Rights Act.
I’ll admit I do roll my eyes a little, because I get asked it every year the ‘Do we still need Pride?’ question. I know it comes from a place of assuming that everything’s great now, right!? The answer is no, it’s not, and yes, sadly we do still need Pride because, quite simply, LGBT+ people are still being attacked for simply existing. LGBT+ Hate Crime has increased over the last few years and those attacks have become more brazen and violent. We need Pride to empower our community too. I hold close to my heart every year when planning Pride what the first Pride I went to meant to me. As an isolated and lonely young person who was in a dark place, to see such a large community and realise that I was not alone, I wasn’t a freak, was incredible. Sadly, there are still young, and old, that are in that position and Pride can offer that chance to see yourself reflected in society and to feel that warmth, love and true acceptance for the first time. It’s also a vital space to connect and make friends or access dedicated support services too – which is why our community area on Pride Day remains the heart of the festival.
It’s going to be very special to have Pride back as a full festival this year. Like many we’ve found it hard to keep going through the pandemic. We believe in keeping Pride an open and accessible event for all, so we don’t ticket the festival and rely on the public donations on Pride Day and our supporter wristbands. Without that support over the last two years financially it’s been tough and then, coming out the other side, we’ve been faced with cost increases at every turn but we have an incredible festival lined up this year and as ever we encourage as many people as possible to get a Pride Supporter wristband! They’re just £7 and as well as supporting Pride to happen and keep happening, they offer great rewards such as free bus travel on Pride Day with First Bus, free rides on our dedicated shuttle bus service, and money off the onsite bars and food traders too.
I’d encourage everyone to get involved in Pride this year. Check out our incredible programme of events to come and enjoy and hear more about and from our community. Why not come along to the Parade to showcase your support to the community and help us declare that prejudice and hate has no place in our city? Stand up for our community, if you feel able to challenge homophobic, biphobic, and transphobic language if you hear it. You may not know it, but it could mean so much to someone you know. Moreover, it helps to create a better society for us all, not of tolerance but of true acceptance where everyone can simply just live their lives without fear.