By Milan Perera, Deputy Editor
Streets of Bristol were alive again with colours, sequins, and a strong sense of solidarity as the annual Bristol Pride march returned on Saturday, July 8. The parade was followed by the official Pride Day celebrations at the Downs which featured over 100 acts.
The intermittent rain did not dampen the spirits of the thousands gathered at Castle Park for the Bristol Pride march. The parade moved through the streets of Bristol via Cabot Circus, Union Street, and St Augustine’s Parade before reaching its destination at Millennium Square.
The shuttle bus service transported the attendees to the site of the official Pride Day festival at the Downs.
The diverse march featured LGBTQ+ individuals from various walks of life from university students to firefighters, along with their allies who marched in unity. The sight of families, friends, and community groups marching side by side reflects the diversity and evolution of the LGBTQ+ community in Bristol.
Bristol Pride is one of the largest annual Pride events in the UK offering a host of activities and an unmatched line-up.
This year’s festival boasted five large stages, each featuring an array of entertainment from cabaret to circus. The festival goers were entertained by the likes of Natalie Imbruglia, Nadine Coyle, Ladyhawke, Alison Limerick, Ro Pound and Órla Blige. This year’s headline act was the flamboyant frontman of Scissor Sisters, Jake Shears who delivered a captivating performance that had the crowds spellbound.
Guiding the proceedings at the main stage was the Bristol-based comedian, Jayde Adams, who served as the compère for the event.
The festival catered to all ages, providing a range of activities and entertainment options for families. From silent disco to interactive art installations, there was something for everyone to enjoy. Food stalls lined the festival grounds, offering a delectable variety of culinary delights.
Speaking to Epigram, Daryn Carter MBE, the Director of Bristol Pride summed up this year’s event:
‘This year’s Bristol Pride Festival has been just incredible. We hosted over 40 events over the last 2 weeks all culminating the in the massive outdoor music and arts festival. The festival has been filled with poignant and special events to showcase and celebrate the community and we saw record numbers joining the parade and it's been filled with joy and love, it has felt really special.’
When we asked about the themes he would like to highlight in this year’s Bristol Pride, he pointed out:
‘With everything going on at the moment this year it felt important to think about talking about the online hatred towards our community, in tackling the prejudice and hate levelled at our community and to be a space where people are able to be themselves authentically.’
Regarding those who took part in Pride for the first time, he said:
‘It's also about ensuring our voice is heard as the LGBTQ+ community are still fighting for equality but I know for many and especially those who are attending their first Pride event how special Pride is. I recall my first Pride and it truly changed my life. It showed me that I was not alone and that there was a massive community out there, just like me, that I wasn't a freak or abnormal. Pride is also the chance to come together and be surrounded by joy and love. I think that's something special to take away, you are not alone and you are loved.’
Among those who took to the streets on Saturday was Sayoni Ghosh, a University of Bristol student who identifies as asexual and was celebrating her firstever Pride event. Ghosh who is reading for her Masters degree in English Literature spoke of the sense of reassurance and acceptance felt during the event:
‘My first Pride march as an asexual, to say the least, was unforgettable. The hundreds of smiling faces, the proud waving of colourful LGBTQ+ flags, and the unending sea of cheering gave me a sense of assurance that despite facing so much resistance and discrimination, we as a community can be a force to reckon with, because every human regardless of their orientation deserves to love, live, and laugh with dignity. More importantly, it gave me a deep sense of belonging, which I think everyone yearns at the end of the day.’
She believes that the journey of each LGBTQ+ member is unique and reiterated the need to identify the intersectionality of discrimination in order to understand the struggle of each individual better. For Ghosh, Pride Day meant education, sensitivity and community.
Also speaking to Epigram was Rhiannon Shaw, President of the University of Bristol LGBTQ+ Society who elaborated on the importance of Pride Day, especially at the aftermath of several transphobic incidents.
‘We felt it was important to maintain that Pride is a protest, and as no mainstream political parties in England can truthfully claim that they are standing behind trans people, we were pleased by the decision of Bristol Pride to not allow political parties to take part.
‘Trans people are one of the most marginalised groups in the country and it was incredibly positive to see Bristol's LGBTQ+ community come together to support each other.’