Everything You Need To Know About Northern Pride
Having been awarded the title in 2018, Northern Pride is finally getting to celebrate the accolade of hosting the official UK Pride event this year. We had a natter with Ste Dunn, Director of Northern Pride, about what to expect from the amazing inclusive event, and why Pride is still so important – not just to the community, but for everyone in Newcastle and the North East.
When and where does Northern Pride take place?
Northern Pride takes place on the Town Moor from Friday 22nd to Sunday 24th July. Friday night is a fundraising event (and the only ticketed event), with the free festival running on Saturday and Sunday from 12pm-9pm.
Thanks to our friends the Freeman of Newcastle we get to take over quite a significant part of the Town Moor, with access to the festival through Exhibition Park, and the main entrance just beside the boating lake.
Northern Pride is the official UK Pride celebration this year, what does that mean for the event?
It’s really about shining a light on a particular Pride and why they’re good at what they’re doing and what their mission is. We wanted to showcase how we not only support the community over the weekend but everything we do throughout the year. We were supposed to deliver it in 2020 but we’ve been fortunate to retain the title for this year.
What makes Northern Pride, and Newcastle in particular, so special?
We know a lot of organisations are striving to be inclusive and better at supporting the LGBTQ+ community in the North East. We know the city is welcoming and has a vibrant LGBTQ+ scene; we’ve started to see a surge of venues popping up, with different Queer club nights throughout the city in different venues; the arts and culture scene is rich and diverse in what’s programmed.
The festival kicks off with the March on Saturday, tell us more about that
It really is the spearhead of the weekend. We’ll leave from the Civic Centre at 12 noon, so anyone wishing to take part needs to be there for 11.30am. We’ll march through the city centre for about a mile and a half, and end up at the entrance to the festival site on the Town Moor. In 2019 we had 22,000 people with us, so we’re expecting to see more people with us this year!
For anyone who hasn’t experienced it I’d always say to come along, whether you’re a member of the community or not. The March will give you an example of how beautiful, rich and diverse the community is, but it’ll also give you an opportunity to see what messages people are sending to government – whether that’s the ban on conversion therapy, or the challenges in accessing healthcare for parts of the community – it’s an opportunity to understand why people are wanting to be accepted for who they are regardless of their sexuality, identity or gender expression.
The atmosphere is always one of excitement, and it can be very heart-warming to see the community come together in a common cause. This year, we’re asking people to consider how they can march for trans rights using placards and signs, and the personal pledges that they can make to support our trans community.
Tell us about the Friday night fundraiser
The Friday night fundraiser is a fully ticketed event, and helps to raise money to help keep the main event free. The line-up includes Todrick Hall, Katy B, Jodie Harsh, Bimini and Dean McCullough, with tickets from £23 +bf.
Who’s performing at the main festival this year?
Over 90% of the dancers, creatives, performers and artists on the main stage throughout the weekend are LGBTQ+ and from the North East. That’s something we’ve worked really hard on, to make sure we’re putting them front and centre. The big finale, Ibiza In Symphony featuring DJ Michael Maddison, is all about putting our Queer local artists front and centre. We’re making sure our entire event celebrates who they are.
Saturday’s line-up sees Spice Girl Melanie C taking the top DJ spot, with other performances including Karen Harding and Choriza May. Local artists include Michael T Ogilvie, Kay Greyson, MXYM, Hannabiell & The Midnight Blue Collective, Louis Chrisp, St. Buryan, Sophia Flanagan and Northern Proud Voices.
On Sunday, the focus is on the headliner Ibiza In Symphony who present a stunning live orchestra/DJ set, plus there’s live sets from pop sensations Louise, Joe McElderry and Adele Roberts. Elsewhere, expect performances from Re-Take That, Smash Hits Live, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Sam Dickinson, Drag Castle, Jackson Soul, Louise Pye and Amada Badge among others. The festival closes with the traditional Candlelit Vigil.
What are you most excited to see?
I’m most excited to see the richness of the performances we’ve got. In particular Hannabiell & The Midnight Blue Collective, who are bringing their percussion and vocal performance to the main stage, which will be a very loud and very carnival-like multicultural experience which will get the audience up on their feet dancing and jiving!
On Sunday, Newcastle Mela will be taking over the main stage and the Curious Arts stage as well as having their own space in the community village, to show how they’re looking to be more inclusive in their event this August bank holiday.
And we’ve become very big fans of the work Drag Castle have been doing; the drag collective are very young and fresh in their performance methods and the stories behind them, using drag as an art form to get political and poignant messages across.
What other spaces can festival goers enjoy?
The community village will include a Curious Arts stage, the Family And Youth Zone and the Health And Wellbeing Zone.
Tell us about the various Zones this year
The Be Seen Zone is led by the LGBTQ+ scene and operates as an open mic space for drag performers, singers, performers, musicians and DJs. It’s their space to programme and showcase their talents, and it’s the only space of the festival which is for over 18s.
The Family And Youth Zone offers a great opportunity to see families coming together in a safe space to experience different things, whether that’s storytimes or hands-on activities – we’ve got a wide range of things going on including a small stage and performance area.
The Health And Wellbeing Zone is a great place to get help and advice; we provide a space for people to learn about health and mental health, and also get access to sexual health testing as it’s important for everyone to know their status, so we will provide rapid testing for HIV on site.
Back in 2019 we worked with Newcastle NE1 and Newcastle City Council to deliver some activity for the European rugby championship and we ran an LGBTQ+ inclusive sports zone on the Quayside – it was great to see how many people wanted to engage with LGBTQ+ inclusive sports, so the Sports Zone is where people can get access to information about sports clubs – not just LGBTQ+ ones, but clubs we recognise are safe and inclusive for members – and get a chance to try things out, whether that’s with Newcastle Frontrunners, Newcastle Ravens or the Panthers.
What other ways are you supporting the community at the festival?
We’ve introduced the LGBT+ Northern Social Group Zone – they’re a small group which started in the virtual space online and began to grow in its membership, supporting individuals at grassroots level. They do picnics, coffee mornings and book groups among other things, and we wanted to work with them to bring an experience to the festival particularly for individuals who might be coming on their own or are looking to start their personal journey in a welcoming and friendly space.
Also in that space we’ve introducing some changing facilities, because we acknowledge that some people are unable to travel to the festival in the gender expression that they choose. So people can come to the festival and feel safe when they’re travelling, get changed when they’re on site and experience the festival as their true authentic self, then have access to changing facilities before they travel home if they need to use them.
What can people expect from the Rainbow Village market?
The Rainbow Village is where people can learn about different organisations around the North East, and speak to some of our sponsors and partners about how they’re supporting LGBTQ+ people. They can also find different stalls selling arts and crafts, Pride merchandise and lots of other things. it’s a very popular part of the festival because you never know what you’re going to find!
Do you need a ticket?
One of our key driving forces is to keep the event free to make sure anyone can have access, so no tickets are required. We avoid putting a price on people’s gender and sexuality and we want to give them free access to the advice, support and safe spaces without the worry of a ticket price.
What is the Platinum Pass?
To help us to deliver a free event those who would like a special experience can upgrade to the Platinum Pass (from £20 +bf), which allows exclusive access to a private bar, the Platinum Garden, uninterrupted viewing right at the front of the main stage, posh loos and a quicker entry to the arena. Under 14’s don’t need a ticket, but they must be with a paying adult over 18.
What steps have you taken to make the festival accessible?
There will be accessible toilets throughout the festival, a viewing platform in the festival arena and BSL interpreters for all performances and speeches which take place on the main stage. Ear defenders will also be available for those that require them.
Plus, if you can’t attend the festival you can still enjoy it from home! Across the weekend our roving reporters Dami and Max will be broadcasting live across our YouTube, Facebook and Instagram channels, bringing you the excitement of the festival and exclusive interviews.
Is everyone welcome?
Northern Pride is very much open to everyone, not just people from our community; we encourage people who don’t identity on the LGBTQ+ spectrum to come and join in because they will see how amazing our community is and become better allies, so when they leave the festival they can advocate on our behalf for the rights we’re still trying to fight for.
All ages are welcome, and we invite everybody to come and experience the event at any point. Saturday will have an incredible atmosphere and Sunday will be slightly more relaxed and chilled.
As well as having a great time, UK Pride’s focus is also on understanding the history and stories behind the fight for equality and what the future holds for the community – how is Northern Pride reflecting that?
Our mission statement is Remember, Resist, Rise Up.
That’s about Remembering our histories and the fights we’ve had to go through and also acknowledging that some of those fights are still ongoing. Which is why the second one is Resisting oppression; we’re still feeling oppression within the intersectionalities of the community – for example the trans, non-binary and gender diverse communities are still being oppressed and removed from sporting spaces and victimised on social media – we need to stand up for trans rights. Which is why the final part of this mission statement is about Rising up – and that’s an internal challenge to ourselves – people like myself who are in a privileged position, to use my voice to support that community.
The trans community have been with the lesbian, gay and bisexual community since day dot, but unfortunately their rights are nowhere near the level of our rights, and that’s why Rise Up is about our time to use our voices.
Northern Pride is set to be a wonderful celebration of the LGBTQ+ community, full of music, performance, colour and fun. Whether you identify as part of the community or want to lend your support as an ally, all are welcome!