Leeds Pride was my much-awaited, first-ever Pride

by Darci Tillbrook
August 2022

Leeds Pride crowd and Darci's outfit

Leeds Pride finally went ahead last Sunday after two years of being postponed in the pandemic, and over 70,000 people attended.

Despite being an ambassador for Just Like Us, the LGBT+ young people’s charity, and speaking about being LGBT+ in schools, I still hadn’t ever been to a Pride event.

But Leeds Pride was about to become my first-ever Pride experience.

I knew I was bisexual from a young age but going to Pride did not feel like an option for me. Being raised in a Catholic family, and attending Catholic schools, I had stashed all my queer feelings firmly into the tightly locked closet. 

Growing up in Edinburgh, I could see that outside of the strict bubble I was in. I knew that there was inclusivity and acceptance aplenty in the colourful explosions of Pride Scotia (now Pride Edinburgh). I dreamt of joining the flamboyant celebrations and important protests. So, I made it my goal to attend Pride when I moved away from family and friends to Yorkshire.

Leeds Pride: Nerves and excitement

Ahead of Leeds Pride, I was nervous and excited. Friends that had previously attended Leeds Pride reassured me it would be a fun, friendly, and safe event. I had spent weeks planning my outfit – a bisexual extravaganza consisting of a pink, purple, and blue floral crown, a white floaty dress (with pink, purple, and blue flowers) and trainers that I had tie dyed (with, you guessed it, pink, purple, and blue dyes). I finished off with dripping face gems representing the inclusive rainbow flag designed by Daniel Quasar.

After meeting up with a couple friends around noon (with my straight cisgender partner in tow, also experiencing his first-ever Pride), we made our way to Millennium Square. 

Music pumping from the stage, we followed the waves of rainbows and signs guiding us to the square. We joined the dancing crowd just as new acts took the stage. 

Leeds Pride march
Leeds Pride march

We’d made it just in time to see Rock Choir Leeds, a fun local music group, and a Dua Lipa tribute act. After almost getting too carried away singing along to some classic gay anthems, we secured a spot on The Headrow to watch the Parade.

Thousands of people proceeded to fill the streets of Leeds to show support for the 130 floats taking part. Local LGBT+ networks from nurses and teachers to faith groups carrying ‘some Christians are gay, get over it’ signs marched as we cheered. 

We danced as loudspeakers and bands passed, waved our rainbow flags, and we shouted support for our local LGBT+ groups. It was at this point I felt my throat hoarse and my voice departing, but I didn’t care.

Lawrence Chaney performed and blew us away

We met with even more friends and followed the parade to the Pride Party. I only had one act I was desperate to see: Lawrence Chaney, winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK. 

Lawrence Chaney floated onto the stage in head-to-toe shades of purple and cheering in their charming Glaswegian accent. I danced along to their routines as they brought Pride goers to join them onstage to perform a lip sync to ‘Bing Bang Bong’. It was incredible!

“Leeds Pride felt exactly like our community should during Pride.”

My first Pride was everything I needed and wanted it to be, and so much more. Everyone I encountered was friendly and smiling. From compliments on my bisexual flag-themed outfit to their solidarity and ridiculous parade chants, it felt so inclusive.

Leeds Pride felt exactly like our community should during Pride – celebratory of who we are and how far we’ve come, but also aware of the struggles that still exist. I felt safe, and I felt like I could be me. And I can’t wait to do it all again next year.

Volunteer with Just Like Us

We need LGBT+ volunteers aged 18-25 to join our Ambassador Programme. You’ll meet new LGBT+ friends, speak in schools and help bring much-needed representation for the next generation.