History in the making for gay York

York Pride 2010: this year's event includes a parade past the Mansion House. Photograph: Matt Dinnery
History will be made in York on Saturday. For the first time ever, the city’s gay pride will begin with a colourful parade through the ancient streets, passing the Lord Mayor’s residence, where a rainbow flag – the international symbol of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender pride – will fly following a momentous decision by City of York Council last week.

York “Northern” Pride 2012 has a theme of supporting marriage equality. Participants will gather at York Minster – centre of controversy following recent comments by the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, against proposals for gay civil marriage – at 12pm on Saturday 21 July.

A peaceful parade will then pass through the city centre to celebrate the progress made in terms of gay rights and to press for marriage equality and for fair treatment internationally for people regardless of their sexuality.

As well as a celebration it is a moment for reflection – particularly for organisers York Pride, the charitable group which aims to promote equality, diversity and advances in education, in order to eliminate discrimination against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

“We are so very proud that Saturday will see the first ever gay parade through York – a city at the heart of the history of this nation,” said Dan Sidley, chair of York Pride.

“Times have changed here in York and across much of this country and it is telling that a significant element of the gay people of the city can now celebrate openly and feel a valued part of York life.

“We are grateful to the City of York Council for its assistance with a parade through the city centre, for flying the rainbow flag above the Mansion House and for supporting marriage equality. Please join us on Saturday to enjoy the diversity and tolerance of York in the 21st century.”

Flashback to York Pride 2011. Photograph: Andrew Page

But there is more to be done, Dan warned. “However, there is still much room for progress here in York and North Yorkshire.

“It is still commonplace in York in 2012 for residents, including many younger people, to feel unable to reveal their sexuality to their friends, family and colleagues for fear of rejection and alienation.

“Despite its many visitors, life in York often does not reflect the cosmopolitan experience of the UK’s larger cities and can be a mix of highs and lows for many LGBT people – although there is marked improvement over recent years.

“Through the activities of York Pride and the LGBT Forum we try to encourage the people of York and the politicans that represent us to do everything they can to remove fear and prejudice surrounding LGBT people and to help gay and lesbian people to live happily, openly and with equality in this city.”

The Pride Parade will be led by the York Samba Band, whose Brazilian drumbeats will fill the city’s streets, followed by a Trans-Dev supplied double decker bus, bedecked in rainbow flags, carrying Pride performers and local politicians.

A 100 metre rainbow flag will follow, carried by masses of gay, lesbian, bi and transgender people from York and beyond, together with their friends, families, and other organisations supporting the Pride event – including many city councillors.

Police will assist in a series of rolling road closures along the Pride Parade route between 12-15 pm and 1-45 pm on 21 July. Any disruption will be kept to a minimum and only one side of the highway will be temporarily closed along those sections of the route that carry traffic.

Pride stewards will assist the police to ensure that the safety of both motorists and those in the Pride Parade is maintained, and roads will be reopened just as soon as the Parade has passed by.

York “Northern” Pride events

The parade will leave York Minster to head along Duncombe Place, Blake Street, Davygate, Parliament Street, High Ousegate, and Low Ousegate, crossing Ouse Bridge and then passing along Skeldergate, Bishopthorpe Street, Bishopgate Road, Campleshon Road and Racecourse Road to reach the Pride venue of Bustardthorpe Field.

An afternoon of entertainment will follow between 1-30 and 6pm, headlined by X Factor finalist Craig Colton and Eurovision entrant Scooch.

Leader of York City Council James Alexander, and Hugh Bayley, York MP, will speak at the Pride event in support of gay rights, alongside representatives of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat groups on the City Council.

Tokyo, the major York nightclub on Toft Green, will host the official ‘Afterparty’ for York Pride from 11pm on Saturday 21 July, following early evening fun at the Yorkshire Hussar on North Street. A Pride Pre Party takes place at OUTrageous @ Vanity on Friday 20 July.