Even several hundred metres away from Endcliffe Park, this year’s location for Sheffield’s annual Pride Festival, the electricity in the air is palpable. Music can be heard blasting through the streets, rainbows flags are draped over shoulders and, for once this summer, the sun is shining. Or, at least, it’s not currently raining.
People are flooding in and out of Endcliffe’s gates. Huge grins adorn glittered faces, sparkling with all the colours of the spectrum. As the park’s main green comes into view, the sea of multi-coloured accessories shine across the several-hundred strong crowd flowing between the booths.
As I wander between the stalls to see what’s happening, I’m met with wares of wonder ranging from trinkets to treasures. Some are selling generic rainbow merchandise, while others are more specific; a Thrasher skateboard stall where each deck is limited-edition and adorned with LGBT icons, a Mankind make-up booth selling cosmetics designed specially for men.
According to Mankind spokesperson John Axton, concealer is particularly popular: ‘The concealer sticks work wonders for fixing that ‘after the night before’ look. Us men deserve the chance to look our best too, you know?’
Just past the rows of booths, several hundred more people are gathered around a pop-up stage at the far end of the green. Throughout the day, dozens of musicians take to the stage to perform songs new and old, covered and original, but all with a similar, overarching theme – of love, equality and acceptance.
The vibe here is fantastic, and everyone is just having a good time. You can wander in any direction and just start talking to people. ‘We’re all here to celebrate the same thing and’, Karen Brown tells me when I engage a group of leather-clad folk, ‘that’s the ability to be who you are, and what you like.’
‘It’s like a place without hate. Who needs fear?’ Jack DeCampos asks mischievously, before fiancé Jesse Taylor pitches in with, ‘I’ve never been to Pride before, and to see so many people – gay or straight – just here to support the cause is so uplifting.’
Suddenly, the roar of police sirens sound in the distance, and swathes of people turn towards the melodious droning, anxious that someone has decided to disrupt the peace. Apprehension melts away when, on the other side of the park, a toddler climbs out of a parked police car, and the next child in line is lifted inside by the South Yorkshire Constabulary.
After a few hours of browsing paraphernalia and listening to mostly in-key renditions of Celine Dion on the main stage (some near, some far, some… wherever they are) I called it a day, and retired from the rainbow runway Endcliffe resembled. Sheffield Pride 2017 wasn’t some mass-protest or demonstration, just a gathering of people wanting to have fun and be free. 50 years earlier, the decriminalisation of homosexuality had only just gone through. Whilst we’ve still got a ways to go as a nation, the last half-century of progress has enabled us to get from decriminalisation to celebration. In the words of particularly poetic Pride-goer Suzy Mitchell: ‘Let the rainbow flag flutter in the winds of progress’.