40 years later: celebrating the anniversary of the time Pride broke out of London and came to Huddersfield!

The UK’s first-ever national Pride took place in Huddersfield on 4th July 1981.  To mark the fortieth anniversary, a series of arts events will take place from now until July 2022, a yearlong multi-media celebration of a milestone in the LGBTQ+ history of the UK1.   The events have been made possible by funding from the Arts Council of England, Kirklees Council and LGBT+ History Month UK.  Social media for the project uses “#Pride1981”

For the anniversary day, July 4th, the route from Leeds Road to Greenhead Park will be dressed with Pride decorations and lighting.

Up until 1981, the annual Pride parade had always been in London. The move was made to show solidarity to members of the LGBTQ+ community in Huddersfield, due to repeated police raids on The Gemini Club, a regular haunt for many.

There will be three main elements to the celebration:

  1. Photographic Exhibition: Internationally renowned photographer Ajamu X will take a series of 20 portraits of people who marched in 1981 and people who are part of the LGBTQ+ community in Huddersfield today.  Ajamu was born in Huddersfield and saw the original Pride ’81 march.  In February 2022, there will be a Street Exhibition of some of the portraits at key parts of the original Pride ’81 route (bus stops, billboards and buildings). The full set will then be displayed at the Lawrence Batley Theatre from 1 June to 31 August 2022.  After that, they will become a part of the permanent collection at Huddersfield Art Gallery.

    Ajamu said: “Its very special to me to be able to take these portraits celebrating the hidden queer history of my hometown.  As a 17-year old, stood on a street corner watching the Pride ’81 march go by, I had no idea of the life that lay ahead of me.  To return now to celebrate that moment is a unique opportunity to show the true diversity of communities in Huddersfield.”
  1. Immersive PerformanceInkbrew Productions will create an immersive performance recreating Pride ’81.  The audience will be participants in the march, co-creating the piece with actors playing activists from 1981, who tell their stories as they march.  Ten monologues written by award winning playwrights Stephen M Hornby, Abi Hynes and Peter Scott-Presland (an original Pride ’81 marcher) form the heart of this piece.  They will also be performed as a showcase at the Lawrence Batley Theatre and the Kings Arms, Salford from 1-3rd July 2022. 

    Stephen, Playwright and Artistic Director of Inkbrew Productions, said: “The Pride march of 1981 was full of extraordinary characters from Huddersfield and from across the country.  And the stories!  It’s a treasure trove for playwrights and Abi and I can’t wait to get started.  We hope some local writers will be joining us to rediscover what marching in the UK’s first national Pride felt like.”
  1. On-line Archive of Pride ’81:  the West Yorkshire Archive Service (WYAS) and Heritage Quays are making a call-out to capture personal photographs of the 1981 march.  Digital copies will become stored as a permanent part of each archive.  WYAS will be holding the first of two Pride ’81 Submission Days at Kirklees Archives Pop-Up opposite Huddersfield Library on Saturday 25th September, 11am-4pm.  People can turn up and have their pictures scanned and returned.  

And everything is kickstarting this weekend on the actual anniversary with Kirklees Council dressing the original route of the march with the Pride rainbow on lighting columns, beginning at the junction of Leeds Road and Bradley Mills Road and ending at the south gate of Greenhead Park.

Professor Sue Sanders, of OUTing The Past, said: “This is an extraordinary project.  The first national Pride in Huddersfield in 1981 is a wonderful piece of forgotten history that needs to be known across the UK.  These excellent events will not just create some wonderful new art and performances, they will leave a legacy for Huddersfield, a lasting memory of its own past.”

Councillor Will Simpson, Cabinet Member for Culture and Greener Kirklees, said:
“As this year’s Pride month comes to an end, I’m so pleased we can announce our yearlong plans to commemorate and celebrate the 1981 Pride march in Huddersfield.

Pride 1981 in Greenhead Park

“The 1981 march is a unique piece of – often forgotten – Huddersfield history. I’m extremely pleased that we have been able to plan these engaging events so that we can collectively celebrate this significant moment in our history.”

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