We went to meet the organiser of Bristol's Pride Festival to gain some insight into what it takes to run one of the city's largest festivals, what Pride means to people and what is in store for this years celebrations.
How did you get involved with Bristol Pride?
In 2009 a few dedicated and passionate people got together to try and make Pride happen. Bristol is one of the largest cities in the UK but we didn’t have a Pride event. Prides are really important to support our community, raise visibility for the LGBT+ community as a platform to tackle issues that affect us. I had initially just gone along to see how I could get involved and support the plans and before I knew it I was one of the founding directors of the festival and the rest, as they say, is history. It’s been incredibly hard work, just getting Pride of the ground in 2010 was incredibly tough but to sustain it on no funding with increasing costs year on year has been really difficult, but Pride has gone from strength to strength.
What are you most looking forward to this year?
It being over? No in all seriousness there is so much to look forward to this year it feels like I want to say all of it. Pride truly has something for everyone and with it comes unique events for every part of our community or simply bringing together like minded people with a shared passion. Surprise hits for us have been our LGBT+ Gaming event which we run with Bristol Video Gaming Social and sees the fans of Mario Kart, Street Fighter, Pokémon and Retro Arcade Gaming as well as everything in-between come together or our Dog Show which has also grown year on year – we’ve added a puggiest pug round this year! Of course there’s the acts on Pride Day to look forward to and as well as our Main Stage acts which includes Little Boots, Lucy Spraggan and headliner Lisa Stansfield we have a new dance performance stage on Millennium Square this year with lots of amazing local dance groups. Those who want a boogie must check out our afterparty at the O2 Academy. Headlined by Bright Light Bright Light we have 3 rooms of DJs which include top picks from The Guardian, and firm festival favourites at Glastonbury and Bestival, Guilty Pleasures, RnB and 90s night: R&SHE and Party and Music project Fleetmac Wood who play nothing but the music of one of the most iconic bands. It’s going to be pretty epic.
What do you enjoy most about running this festival?
Oh that’s tough. It really is incredibly hard work to run any type of festival but more so to do one of the biggest events in the city (and country) and with 10 days of events too. All this is done around a day job due to lack of funding, but seeing the results make it all worth it. I really enjoy seeing the community come together to celebrate together, sometimes it feels like just having equal rights is such a battle that the celebrations and the importance of creating visibility for our community can sometimes be forgotten. I also get to meet so many amazing and inspiring people, Pride has such an amazing ability to connect people. People are out there doing such amazing work in the community or as volunteers or just championing equality in their workplace and it’s nice to be able to find out, and shout about that. Pride also works all year round tackling issues such as hate crime, or workplace discrimination or school bullying that just being able to see smiling happy faces is enough for me.
What are your hopes for the future?
Longer term it’s that Pride is no longer needed in the way it is now and that we simply just have equal rights, that people are free to hold their partners hand without fear of persecution and hatred, or feel comfortable to be themselves in the workplace or for young people at schools to not be bullied.
For Pride though it’s about continuing to be the best it can be and to be an event that continues to welcome everyone and that campaigns equality for all. We’ve moved to a new home this year so there will be some settling in to do there; it’s also about putting Bristol on the map. We have a lot to shout about so it’s making sure that we do that. As we look at Bristol’s future we aim to bid for European Capital of Culture in 2023 and we’ll be playing our part in this.
What can people expect that's different from last year’s festival?
More space! We’ve seen record numbers attending Pride year on year and this, along with the ongoing works in Castle Park, have prompted the move to the Bristol Amphitheatre and At-Bristol’s Millennium Square. This means we can offer more truly dedicated spaces at Pride including our Family Area which will be home to fantastic play activities and is the chance for LGBT Parents and parents of LGBT children to come together, network and socialise or simply to show the younger generation how wonderfully diverse life is and ensure the next generation are the ones that finally stop the hate. I’ve already mentioned our new dance performance stage but this will be really exciting and as well as being visually stunning, it gives a platform for local dance groups and has already proved to be amazingly popular. Be sure to get involved in the free Zumba workshop!
We have diversified our main stage a little with some more live acts so as well as big name acts we’ve got amazing vocalists and live bands, including Bristol’s own Wildflowers, punk band iDestroy and the all-female Duran Duran covers band Joanne Joanne, who I cannot wait for. We’ve also continued to develop our week of events which includes our award winning film festival at the watershed, collaborations with local theatre groups and Bristol Shakespeare festival for our Theatre Night and some of the biggest names in LGBT Comedy at our comedy night.
In 3 words, describe Bristol Pride...
Important, Community, Equality.
Bristol Pride is happening from the 1st to the 10th of June, with Pride Day celebrations happening on Sat 9th July. Find out more about what is happening at bristolpride.co.uk