Taking pride in a Sheffield festival that welcomes everyone

Fran, Erin, Jasmine and Izzy enjoying Pride in Endcliffe Park, Sheffield, United Kingdom on 30 July 2016. Photo by Glenn Ashley Photography
Fran, Erin, Jasmine and Izzy enjoying Pride in Endcliffe Park, Sheffield, United Kingdom on 30 July 2016. Photo by Glenn Ashley Photography

Following its return to Endcliffe Park last year, the Pride Sheffield celebration is firmly established at its most familiar home once again - with good reason, says the festival’s vice chair Luke Allan.

“It’s a community-focused event and we want it to be in an environment for families where they can sit down, relax and have a picnic.

Ashley, Brian and Les enjoying Pride in Endcliffe Park, Sheffield, United Kingdom on 30 July 2016. Photo by Glenn Ashley Photography

Ashley, Brian and Les enjoying Pride in Endcliffe Park, Sheffield, United Kingdom on 30 July 2016. Photo by Glenn Ashley Photography

“In the city centre there was sometimes not enough seating provided, and not enough space for families to feel comfortable.”

The free lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender festival - the biggest of its kind in South Yorkshire, attracting a turnout of up to 10,000 - is back on Saturday, featuring stalls, food, live music, cabaret, drag acts and workshops in the park. It will be preceded by the customary parade along Ecclesall Road, expected to involve hundreds of participants, from individuals to groups representing big charities.

The city’s first gay pride festival - called South Yorkshire Pride - happened at Cemetery Park, Sharrow, in 2008, changing its name to Sheffield Pride a year later for its Endcliffe Park debut.

After 2012 the event was held on Devonshire Green and, in 2015, at Sheffield University’s students’ union.

A new organising committee then took over, reinstating the parade which was dropped two years ago because of the risk posed by an English Defence League protest in the city centre.

“Many people don’t know how much effort goes into holding a one-day event,” says Luke.

“Starting in September we work pretty much solidly throughout the year.”

Changes have been made for 2017 after listening to last year’s festivalgoers. There will be a dedicated family tent - “A space for families to come together with activities for children” - and other areas have been shaken up too.

“There are no places in Sheffield that bring same-sex parents who identify as LGBT+ in the community,” says Luke.

“It’s also important that their children can interact with each other.”

Pride Sheffield is looking at setting up a group that can run throughout the year, rather than just a one-day offering.

“It will be a place where people can talk about issues they may face.”

Luke also draws a distinction between the community feel of Sheffield’s festival and the ethos of events in other big cities. Manchester’s, for instance, is partly ticketed and trades on hosting ‘the biggest names in music’.

“They lose sight of the different groups in the community who are left out because of that.”

Pride Sheffield’s committee comprises five members from different backgrounds, such as activism and politics, across a broad range of ages.

Luke, aged 21, of Netherthorpe, used to be the LGBT+ student representative at Sheffield Hallam University, and says he enjoys ‘making a positive difference’.

“There’s so much prejudice and discrimination, as well as issues across the globe.”

He cites the recent court ruling granting equal pension benefits in the UK - brought by a retired businessman whose husband faced receiving less money than would have applied for a wife - as an example.

“In Chechnya they are rounding up LGBT+individuals and putting them in concentration camps, and in the UK there are legal issues with same sex-marriages, fostering and adoption.

“Many people say the fight for equality is won but we’ve still got a long way to go.”

The parade begins at midday on Pear Street, next to the Champs sports bar, before heading to Endcliffe Park. The festival then runs from 1pm to 7pm.

n Visit www.pridesheffield.org for details.