Pride of place in Sheffield

Sheffield Pride parade up Ecclesall Road to Endcliffe Park
Sheffield Pride parade up Ecclesall Road to Endcliffe Park
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IT’S a summer festival which hasn’t always gone perfectly.

There was the year organisers put the poetry tent next to the dance stage leading to a standoff – albeit a somewhat civilised one – between the wordsmiths and the shape-throwers. There was also the time when the funfair was put up right in front of the emergency exit – meaning the entire site had to be replanned just hours before opening.

Last year, meanwhile, the good old British weather did what it does best: quite literally rained on the parade.

But Sheffield Pride – the city’s annual lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender festival taking place on Saturday July 6 – is never anything other than colourful. Rainbow colourful to be exact.

The huge day-long jamboree is now in its sixth year and this summer, for the first time ever, the event will be held in the city centre.

That means some 6,000 visitors – many decked in the movement’s rainbow colours – are expected to descend for a day of live music, street entertainers and craft stalls in Barker’s Pool and Devonshire Green. A huge procession will promote equality for all. It is thought more than £150,000 will be pumped into the local economy.

“Or in other words,” says Adam Hood, organiser of the event, “it’s going to be another great summer event in Sheffield’s calendar.

“This is about putting on a festival which has something for all and where everyone is made to feel welcome – whatever their sexuality. It’s not just for Sheffield’s gay community. It’s for the city as a whole. We’re saying come and celebrate with us. We’re still a relatively young festival but this move to the city centre will really help put us on the map.”

And it should be quite a different proposition to that first event in 2008.

Then a bunch of volunteers, perturbed that Sheffield was the biggest city in the north without such a festival, got together to throw a massive party in the General Cemetery. That went so well, the event was moved to Endcliffe Park in 2009 where it has been held annually until now.

“The thing with Sheffield is it’s such a welcoming city that, in many ways, there’s no real need for a gay scene,” says Adam, who leads a team of volunteers – including students, young professionals and one builder – in organising the event from a headquarters in Eldon Street. “Historically, in other cities you tend to find people have stuck together for safety which is why you get gay villages like Manchester’s canal district. But in Sheffield there’s just never been any need for it. That’s why our Pride festival has been so much smaller than in cities like Hull.

“But there’s no need for it to stay a small event. We’ve advertised nationally this year and we’re hoping for people to come from around the country as well as around South Yorkshire.”

That means, as well, as a terrific festival right here on our doorstep (and the headline music act is chart-topping electronic act Sam And The Womp, rather than some reject from The X Factor), there’s also huge economic benefits.

“We’ve not yet done a study on the financial impact,” says Adam, a 24-year-old law graduate of the city centre. “But you have 6,000 people coming and spending money on food, drink, transport and, in some cases, hotels – that’s a significant investment.”

The festival itself costs £60,000 to put on and is funded by a variety of partners including both universities, Irwin Mitchell solicitors, Napoleon’s casino and South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service.

And this year, for the first time, after the daytime hi-jinx finish a massive after-show party will be held at the O2 Academy, in Arundel Gate. An array of events will be held all next week, meanwhile, leading up to the big day itself. They include a launch party today, a secret cinema event Wednesday and speed dating Thursday.

“A lot of hard work has gone into putting this on,” says Adam. “Now we’re just hoping it’s a great success. We’re confident it will be.”

What’s on at Sheffield Pride

Sheffield Pride 2013 will comprise four main events on Saturday and a series of build-up nights through the week.

The festival itself includes:

Barker’s Pool (12 – 5pm): mini stage for local talent, craft stalls, charity stands, street entertainers and face painters will make Barker’s Pool a relaxed family-style area. Free entry.

Devonshire Green (3 – 11pm): a huge Tramlines-style stage will feature chart-topping dance act Sam And The Womp, while there will also be a funfair, social media area, LGBT history wall and picnic patches. Ticket needed.

Pride Parade (3.30pm): thousands of attendees will be invited to stroll together from Barker’s Pool to Devonshire Green, singing and shouting in the name of equality.

O2 Academy (11pm – 4am): eight DJs will spin records across two dance floors (and multiple bars) for those wanting to keep the shenanigans going. Ticket needed or pay on door.

A range of tickets can be bought for Sheffield Pride starting from £8.

All details including the line up of build-up events to be held all this week at www.sheffieldpride.co.uk