Photo: Northern Pride 2019 | Credit: Thomas Anderson-Thatcher & LGBT History Project NE

Northern Pride, the UK’s biggest free lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT+) Pride event, took place in Newcastle from 19th – 21st July 2019 and we were there. The city was a sea of rainbows with thousands of people coming together to show their pride at the inclusive event.

2019 marks 50 years since the Stonewall Riots in New York, a moment in history that started the pride movement and was a catalyst for the fight for equality for LGBT+ people around the world. ‘Remembering Stonewall’ was the key theme for this years Northern Pride.

Northern Pride mixed things up this year and returned to Exhibition Park and the Town Moor on the outskirts of the city, only a short walk from the city centre. Pride-goers had lots to look forward to with a packed weekend of events and awesome entertainment – something for everyone.

“I ask you all, regardless of who you love, how you identify, or what your background is, please bring your true self to our festival, and strive to do this each and every day.”

In advance of the event Ste Dunn, Chair of Northern Pride, said: “I ask you all, regardless of who you love, how you identify, or what your background is, please bring your true self to our festival, and strive to do this each and every day.”

Northern Pride kicked things off on the ‪Friday night‬ with the Bongo’s Bingo Pride special. We didn’t attend this event but we know lots of people who did and it looked like a fun and wild night. What a start!

Photo: Bigger, louder and prouder | Credit: Thomas Anderson-Thatcher & LGBT History Project NE

The Northern Pride march just seems to get bigger, louder and more colourful every year and this year was no exception. The march took place on Saturday 20th July and started at the Civic Centre, home to Newcastle City Council, where the LGBT+, Transgender and Bisexual flags were proudly flying.

It’s estimated that 20,000+ people walked in the march this year. There was a diverse mix of charities, community groups and corporate businesses showing their support. These included Costa, LGBT+ Northern Social Group, Wickes, Albert Kennedy Trust, NHS, Scouts, Home Group, Newcastle Frontrunners, Tesco, Sky, National Trust, LNER, The Co-op, Manchester Airport, St Oswald’s Hospice, Christians Together, Barclays, Nationwide and Amnesty International. The march felt like a grass-roots protest and it made us happy seeing lots of people join the march as we made our way through the city.

“The march felt like a grass-roots protest and it made us happy seeing lots of people join the march as we made our way through the city.”

Although Inclusive Networks didn’t have a visible presence in the march this year, we were delighted to join our friends at Queer Britain (the charity working to establish the UK’s first LGBTQ+ museum) and iconic fashion brand Levi’s. We proudly walked the route holding their ‘Let’s Make History’ placards and gave away hundreds of their fabulous badge packs to those cheering us on along the parade route. We had a brilliant time and we were made to feel very welcome. Thanks for having us!

WATCH THE OFFICIAL NORTHERN PRIDE MARCH HIGHLIGHTS VIDEO

We were applying suncream one minute and it was pouring down with rain the next minute…you do get four seasons in one day in Newcastle. This didn’t dampen the spirits of the pride-goers snaking through the city and the thousands of people who lined the streets to show their support for inclusion, diversity and acceptance in Newcastle and beyond.

Thomas Anderson-Thatcher, Founder of Inclusive Networks, Director at Somewhere and Northumberland Pride Committee Member, said: “I lived and worked in Newcastle not long after I came out as gay so Newcastle has a big place in my heart. The first gay bar I ever stepped in was in Newcastle and it’s the place I really started to accept myself and live authentically. I love coming back to the city. Well done to the team of Northern Pride volunteers who worked hard to make the event the huge success it was. I had a fantastic weekend with my husband Matthew. We can’t wait to return next year when Northern Pride hosts UK Pride.”

As the march ended we joined the queue to enter the Northern Pride Festival site. This year the event was split across two sites adjoining each other. In Exhibition Park we explored the Community Village which was home to the charity and trade stalls, the Curious Arts Stage, Health and Wellbeing Zone and the Family and Youth Zone. We filled our little tote bag with branded freebies, spoke to lots of interesting people doing important work, signed as many petitions and mailing lists as we could and left feeling inspired and thankful that these amazing charities and community groups exist. They really are a lifeline to so many people. Thank you for everything you do!

Credit: Thomas Anderson-Thatcher & LGBT+ Northern Social Group

We then headed to the Festival Arena and grabbed a much needed drink and bite to eat…and a sit down to recharge our batteries. Refuelled, we were ready to check out the main stage. But not before we braved the Extreme ride at the on-site fun-fair – perhaps not the best idea after a huge wrap.

Hosted by Miss Rory, Newcastle’s undisputed queen of comedy, musical acts performing on the main stage over the weekend included Sax star Fleur East, X-Factor finalist Saara Aalto, noughties chart-toppers Liberty X (minus the guys), fresh from Eurovision Michael Rice, pride regular Sonia and friend of Northern Pride Lorraine Crosby…and many more. Local LGBT+ radio station Pride Radio were broadcasting live from the event.

WATCH THE OFFICIAL NORTHERN PRIDE DAY 2 HIGHLIGHTS VIDEO

A special shout out to Janice Robinson who lifted the massive crowds of pride-goers with her huge hit ‘Dreamer’ (with Livin’ Joy). Something a bit unexpected, she gave a powerhouse performance of her version of Miley Cyrus’ hit The Climb, watched on by X-Factor winner Joe McElderry who had a UK No1 hit single with his version of the song.

Returning to the event this year was the Be Scene tent. The return of this beloved space was only possible due to fundraising by the local community. It was home to some of the best drag talent in the UK as well as incredible DJ sets, live music and plenty of dancing. A testament to the quality of the acts on stage, the crowds were spilling out of the tent.

“It was wonderful seeing this celebration of creativity and drag culture being given this amazing platform to entertain and share their thought provoking work.”

New to Northern Pride this year was the Curious Arts Stage. This stage featured poetry, live performances, a spectacular drag story-time, spoken word, music, lip syncs and so much more. It was wonderful seeing this celebration of creativity and drag culture being given this amazing platform to entertain and share their thought provoking work. We’re now very curious to find out more!

Walking around Newcastle you couldn’t escape the visible support for Northern Pride from some of the UK’s biggest retailers and financial institutions, as well as many local businesses too. So many store windows were proudly displaying colourful rainbow branding, special pride themed products and messages of support. It was amazing to see, although whether this support stretched to a financial contribution to the Northern Pride charity we don’t know.

#Greggs4Everyone: A standout was the effort made by North East based bakers Greggs – the official Northern Pride volunteer supporter. We were really impressed seeing their many Newcastle city centre stores flying their #Greggs4Everyone flags, their stores covered in rainbow branding, their staff smiling with pride wearing their pride uniforms and badges…and their packaging rebranded to include the Greggs logo in rainbow colours. They also had a strong presence in the march, getting snap happy with their pap board. If you picked up a copy of the Northern Pride Guide, check out the Greggs advert (page 17). Take this into any Greggs store in the UK (except franchise stores) by 16/08/19 to claim your free coffee.

Newcastle isn’t short on LGBT+ bars, venues and club nights, with the majority located around Life Science Centre just a short walk from the train station. We had a great night enjoying the music and atmosphere in Switch, The Bank, The Yard, Heaven’s Above and Powerhouse. We had a fabulous weekend!

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT NORTHERN PRIDE:

Visit their website at www.northern-pride.com