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My first Pride and the impact it had on me

Do you remember your first Pride festival?

SPONSORED: Attending your first Pride festival always leaves a lasting impression. Gay Star News writers and readers look back on their first time

‘It felt revolutionary’

‘My first Pride was in London all the way back in 1989. I was 20 and at university.

‘I’d started dating a guy, and he had told me it was the most amazing day of the year. I didn’t know what to expect. I made myself a t-shirt to wear, with an illustration of two stick men and a pink triangle: Looking back, it probably looked rubbish, but I loved it because I’d made it myself!

‘My boyfriend threw a champagne breakfast for a group of friends and then we were off.

‘The thing I remember most was the people – there were thousands of them and there was such an incredible party atmosphere. People were carrying banners and blowing whistles and we marched through the streets to the Pride festival in Kennington Park.

‘It felt revolutionary just to be walking in the road, and to be holding hands with my boyfriend in the street. ‘Pride’ summed it up perfectly – that’s exactly what I felt: proud and defiant.’

David Hudson

‘Because of my parents, I wasn’t allowed to go’

‘I attended my first pride, Northern Pride in Newcastle, back in 2015. I originally wanted to attend the previous year but as I hadn’t come out as gay and because of my parents, I wasn’t allowed to go. When I did come out at 21, it was one of the things I really wanted to do.

‘The feeling and atmosphere was amazing, walking through the crowd in the parade until we got to the fields and Northern Pride’s main stage. Going on the fairground rides was a blast although I don’t really have a head for heights and being spun around and around nearly made me throw up!

‘Seeing B*Witched was my favorite part of the day as I loved them since I was a kid. They even got the whole crowd riverdancing along with them. It was an amazing weekend.’

Adam Bloomfield

‘It wasn’t until early last year that I fully got involved with the LGBTI community so 2016 London Pride was my first pride. I was actually walking in the Parade, so you could say that I was thrown into the deep end. It was so overwhelmingly exciting that it’s all a bit of a blur, but in the best way possible.

‘I was walking with Student Pride so not only was I surrounded by loads of exciting friends, the equally-as-excited crowds lining the streets made the whole thing so much more – ‘thrilling’, is probably the most fitting word. Everyone was so infectiously happy and proud that I had a grin on my face the entire day.

‘Compared to most people, my first Pride was quite different I guess in the fact that I was actually involved in the Parade. I wouldn’t change it in the slightest though because it’s such a bright and positive memory that I’ll keep with me forever.’

Charlie Mathers

‘Overwhelmed and surprised’

‘I had just come out and was a student in Canterbury when some friends invited me to my first London Pride, which was in 1995 and also celebrating 25 years of Pride.

‘The structure of the Pride Parade was quite similar, but started at Hyde Park. This year we will see the Parade led by the Armed Forces and many companies participating, previous to the Millennium gay people were banned from serving, so aside from the regular drag queens and colorful people, there was a more political and community feel than the Parade we see today.

‘When the Parade ended we with tens of thousands of people headed to Victoria Park for the festival-style Pride.

‘As my first gay event of this size, I was a bit overwhelmed and surprised by the sheer diversity and visibility of the LGBT community. The event was free, but I remember Pride volunteers with buckets asking for a £3 donation to keep Pride going, unfortunately the money raised wasn’t adequate and in future years Pride in our capital has taken many guises to survive.

‘I miss the festival style Pride, but it’s a lesson that if we want to keep these type of events going, we need to support them.’

Sarah Garrett, MBE, founder of British LGBT Awards

‘My first Pride was London in 2014. I had moved, unconsciously, into a majority LGBTI flatshare in Kennington and my flatmate was going, so I tagged along with her.

‘It was pouring it down with rain, but the atmosphere was incredible. The sun eventually came out and we quickly dried out. It was so much fun: people young and old, black and white, massive corporations but also small local groups.

‘I had great fun seeing all the groups and from that alone learned so much about what it means to be LGBTI in London.

‘Then I got really drunk on a rum lemonade mix I’d brought with me, smashed my phone, kissed a boy in a Chinese restaurant, and another in Soho Square, then ended up at a roof party in Islington, as there was a girl my flatmate fancied. they didn’t last alas. I obviously went back in 2015, and then marched myself for the first time in 2016 with LGBTLabour. I’m a total convert now!’

Martin Bailey

‘The effect it had on me was huge’

‘My first Pride was Trans Pride Brighton in 2014. The effect it had on me was huge: seeing a march full of hundreds of trans people made me feel so much more powerful suddenly.

‘The trans rights movement still has so much to achieve, and this means that Pride is very special. It’s a time for us to celebrate each other, to heal our pain and to raise the profile of the very real struggle many of us still face.

‘It was great to have time and space to be happy about who I am rather than being apologetic or ashamed. It made me very emotional to see so many of us, and really made me feel part of something. Even just writing about it still does!’

Natalie Washington, Snickers

‘My first pride is this year, because this is my first year out. My girlfriend and I are going to Nashville together to go explore and enjoy ourselves! I’m excited to finally go out and celebrate what I’ve been holding in for so long! So thrilled and so in love!’

Brianna Fearing, Snickers

Snickers will be giving away Snickers bars in special rainbow-decorated sleeves at Pride festivals around the UK this summer. Look for the packages in Gay Star News tote bags at the end of Pride parades in London, Bristol, Glasgow, Brighton and Manchester.

Pride images: Scott Nunn and David Hudson