Why Sheffield remains the UK’s largest city without an official Pride event

It has been four years since the Steel City’s last official Pride event

Pride in Sheffield has confirmed that the city will not be hosting an official Pride event in 2023, making it the largest in the UK not to do so.

Earlier this month, the group, which operates under the auspices of LGBTSheffield, announced via Facebook: “There is not going to be a Sheffield Pride again this year.”

The announcement leaves Sheffield, the seventh largest city in the country, as one of the only, alongside Coventry (11th), not to host such an event this Summer.

Martin Ward, a volunteer from the smaller LGBTQ+ event, Sheffield Pinknic, explained: “Sheffield is similar to Coventry, as funding is a big thing we struggle to run a Pride event.

“To organise such event is not a part-time job, we rely heavy on volunteers to be able to commit to a task as big as a Pride event (…) We just don’t get [the] numbers to run such an event.”

Nonetheless, Pride events up and down the UK are boasting stacked line-ups this year, from Ava Max to Zara Larsson. Even smaller towns in the region, such as Barnsley and Chesterfield, are pulling big names, including Stooshe, Baga Chipz and Tinchy Stryder.

In fact, you have to travel all the way down to Slough (41st) to find the next largest town not hosting a Pride event this year.

However, Sheffield hasn’t always been such an outlier.

The first official Sheffield Pride event took place in 2008 and was organised by the Sheffield Pride committee as South Yorkshire Pride. The event enjoyed 11 iterations before the committee was replaced by new organisers after the 2018 edition.

These new organisers, Pride in Sheffield, has opted against an official Pride parade and 2019 marked the last time Sheffield hosted an official Pride event. 

In the four subsequent years, Pride in Sheffield has instead hosted Pinknic. According to Ward, Pinknic “has become the Sheffield Pride event, even though it’s smaller.

“[The event’s] success is down to the volunteers that we have, the support from the local people and our sponsors (…) Last years event attracted 6000+ people from cities such as Leeds, Manchester and Birmingham.

“Hopefully it can grow bigger to become a Pride event.”

Pinknic hosts live music, food stalls and drag performers. 2023 will mark the event’s 10th anniversary and will take place July 15th, in Sheffield’s Peace Gardens.

Endcliffe Park

Endcliffe Park hosted Sheffield Pride 2009-12. Photo by Benjamin Elliott on Unsplash

The explanation for Sheffield’s recent lack of official Pride is complex.

The original Pride Sheffield committee resigned in 2018 after claims of “pinkwashing” and “sanitisation”. This vacuum has been filled with unofficial community projects and queer spaces.

One of the city’s drag performers, University of Sheffield’s Drag Society president Conrad, has commended this grassroots tilt: “Sheffield doesn’t have a mainstream corporate Pride event because that whole soho-type scene is pretty much absent from Sheffield

“We will see a Pride event from the Sheffield Radical Pride group (…) This is not an ‘official’ Pride as in it’s not a corporate sanitised Pride, but it’s as official in its reclamation of our community’s roots.”

Sheffield Radical Pride, launched earlier this year, describes itself as a “queer grassroots group (…) bringing anti-capitalist protest back to Pride & focusing on accessibility.”

The group will be holding its own Pride march on July 22nd, to coincide with the Tramlines Festival. 

In a public statement, Sheffield Radical Pride said: “The inclusion of corporations and government bodies goes entirely against the spirit of Pride.”

The event, unlike mainstream Pride festivals, is not being organised in partnership with businesses or Sheffield City Council. Instead, neutral stewards will be in place to manage the route.

The splintering of LGBTQ+ organisers helps to explain the recent absence of an official Sheffield Pride.

Ward explained: “The organisation SAYiT wanted to take over and run a Sheffield Pride event but [I] heard the committee couldn’t come up with agreed ideas as to what should be at the Sheffield Pride event.

“Too many people in the community have an idea of what they think Pride is or should be and common grounds never get met.”

SAYiT is a Sheffield based charity providing support to LGBTQ+ youth and is also an exhibitor at Sheffield Pinknic.

On Sheffield Radical Pride, Ward also had criticisms: “Sheffield Radical Pride don’t help (…) they want a pride event with no police presences as they feel the local authorities don’t or haven’t helped the gay community.

Personally, they have supported all gay events that I’ve attended or worked at in Sheffield, whether that was Sheffield Pride or Pinknic.”

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