First-ever Pride march in Harrogate 'will highlight town’s diversity'

Some members of Harrogate's new Pride in Diversity group.
Some members of Harrogate's new Pride in Diversity group.

The first-ever first Pride in Diversity Festival and Parade is to take place in Harrogate.

The new event is the work of a group formed in Harrogate last September in the wake of the Orlando massacre at a gay nightclub

Leonora Wassell, chair of Pride in Diversity and a Harrogate resident, said: “Harrogate is known for being a beautiful town but it is also more diverse than people think.

“We want to raise the awareness of this diversity and to foster an attitude of dignity, respect and inclusion for all.”

The festival’s ambitious programme, which will run from March to May, encompasses everything from a picnic in Valley Gardens and several arts events to an interfaith service.

A minister in the Methodist church, Leonora Wassell said although the new festival would be the first in Harrogate under the umbrella of Pride, the aim went beyond celebrating and supporting the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender comunities.

Proud to wear a clerical collar with a rainbow-coloured trimmings, she said: “I’m passionate about dignity, respect and inclusion for everyone.

“Harrogate has a diverse community. It contains people with disabilities, people of different faiths including Muslim.

“Despite Brexit, the town has welcomed Syrian refugees recently.

“We want to highlight all the good work already happening in the area and raise the profile of Harrogate as a district of diversity.”

Describing herself as “happy to be out”, the chair of Pride in Diversity was ordained, originally, in the Anglican faith and was a curate at St Peter’s Church in the

1990s.

After switching to become a Methodist minister in the Nidd Valley circuit, she was forced to retire after developing a disability which affected her muscles and prevented her from walking until recently.

Among the events already planned for the Pride in Diversity Festival are:

May 14 - A pre Pride Party at Somerset House.

May 15-19 - A series of evening events at the Crown Hotel in Harrogate covering diversity in Literature, Art, Sport and Faith.

May 20 - The Pride in Diversity Parade down Montpellier Hill followed by a picnic party in the Valley Gardens with live bands.

The hard work of both the chair and the volunteers of Pride in Diversity seems to be paying off with positive feedback and support already from the likes of Harrogate Police, Harrogate Town AFC and Transdev, which has offered an open top bus for the parade.

But Leonara, who recently discussed the venture with Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones and Harrogate Borough Council leader Coun Richard Cooper, said the group was inviting people to support them via Crowdfunding.

She said: “Our group is truly passionate about equality for all.

“After the Orlando shootings, there was the shooting of Jo Cox and then Brexit.

“Hate seems to have come to the fore but the new festival will, hopefully, highlight that it isn’t all like that at all.”

Anyone wishing to take part in the start of the parade on May 20 should visit the group’s Facebook page.

Pride in Diversity’s activities can be followed on Twitter @Pride_Diversity