The growth of Leeds Pride
Ali talks about how Leeds Pride has developed over the years.
TRANSCRIPTINTERVIEWER: So how has Leeds Pride changed over the years that you’ve been involved?
ALI: Massively! I keep telling people, the first Pride we had, there was 300 people. We were stood on the stairs outside the Civic Hall, there was no staging, no nothing. We had 300 people going down the Headrow waving rainbow flags, there was no one lining the streets to watch. There was a police van at the front, a police van at the back, and that was pretty much the parade. We got to Lower Briggate, like ‘what do we do now?’ Y’know, we could drink in the streets, because no one had any outdoor notices or anything. The venues got really full, people spilled out onto the streets, and that went on for – the year after we had a few more floats and stuff, but we didn’t have, we still didn’t have any streets closed off. The third year we got Lower Briggate itself closed off, so that was from like the Cosmopolitan Hotel, what is Revs De Cuba now, up to Nando’s – we got that little section closed off, we had the stage out there and the PA system, and, but then that excluded quite a few, three of the LGBT venues because at the time there was the New Penny, the Bridge, and over Leeds Bridge there was also Xibit, or it might still have been called Base, but I think it was called Xibit in them days, so there was the three venues and they were kinda like excluded. It took another couple of years before we could get the inner loop road closed off. And that’s where the event morphed and morphed and now we close off all the way down to Asda House, with the parade, like we said, the first year it was 300 people in it, no one lining the streets. Last year it was about 6,000 participants in the parade and tens of thousands lining the streets – the streets were lined all the way from Millennium Square, all the way down to Kirkgate Market and beyond. Two or three deep. It was fantastic to see how they event has kind of like grown over the last 14 or so years. And it’s nice to see, it’s nice to see that more and more companies are getting involved in it as well.
It’s nice to see more and more companies getting involved and more and more people wanting to be part of it. So we’ve got some fantastic partnerships with companies that have their head offices in Leeds and things like that, and companies that are moving to Leeds are always in touch with us, y’know, we have a good relationship with Leeds City Council and Visit Leeds, so any contacts that they have, new companies moving in, they always direct them towards Leeds Pride. So this week alone we’ve been talking to, well I’ve been speaking to Channel 4, about their move here and how they want to be involved in Pride. When The Ivy moved here they were in touch about how they want, wanted to be involved in Pride and stuff and they unfortunately opened in September and Pride was in August, so we’re working with them for this year. And we’ve got the big nationals, y’know, Sainsbury’s being a massive support of Leeds Pride. There’s a girl at Sainsbury’s called Gemma who, every participant that she has in the parade, she fills a form in for them and claims £10 back per participant and gives it to Leeds Pride. Last year alone we got £5,400 off them, so she had to fill in 540 forms in her own time, so it just shows how people have bought into Leeds Pride and how people want it to succeed, and from our point of view, we know Leeds Pride is always gonna be a free pride event. When it comes to the day that it gets that big or you need to charge or people insist on charging, that’s when we’ll walk away from it, cos we – we’ve always said, we don’t want people to come see a big headline act, we want people to come, enjoy the whole day, take in the whole day, and know what pride is about, kind of thing, it’s not just about a concert and all the rest of it, y’know.