A 50-metre rainbow flag sailed down Montpellier for Harrogate’s second Pride in Diversity festival, carried by the spirits of all those watching and taking part in the parade.
Sitting atop of a double decker parade bus, the march stretched as far as the eye could see.
A huge cross-section of charities and community groups proudly marched to Valley Gardens to celebrate the district’s diversity - each cheer and flag wave a powerful expression of inclusivity and solidarity.
The gardens hosted dozens of events and activities throughout the day - from a packed programme of live music at the bandstand, to an exhibition of artwork from young people.
Festival goers of all ages danced and sang along together - every one of them joyously in the moment.
As well as celebrating diversity, the festival’s organising committee has been clear from the start that there is also a campaigning element, too.
Vicki Lever, North Yorkshire Youth’s LGBT champion for Harrogate and Craven, said: “It’s an important event because people should be able to live how they choose to live without fear of prejudice. I think today must be very empowering for children and young people.
“I think we still have a long way to go as a society, but as Pride in Diversity grows each year, it’s only going to help and improve things.
“I also love the fact that it’s called pride and diversity, and not just LGBT exclusively. It’s for groups like young carers and young people with disabilities too. It’s great to see organisations like Disability Action Yorkshire here as well. It’s for groups like young carers and young people with disabilities too. It’s great to see organisations like Disability Action Yorkshire here as well.”
The secretary of the Pride in Diversity committee, Poppy Winks, said: “There’s a real sense of community at Pride in Diversity. It’s amazing to have the emergency services here in massive numbers supporting the event.
“I had an email from a lovely lady who asked if she could bring her daughter along to Pride in Diversity. I said of course, and she said her daughter had just come out and her family wanted to show they support her by coming along. Lovely stories like that make it all worthwhile.”
Jeannine Fisher, who took part in the parade with LGBT Parents, said: “I think it’s really important to show your support for events like this.
“When you think back 40 years, people were persecuted and locked away in mental hospitals. This is a chance to celebrate how far we have come, but to also reflect on what still needs to be done.”
A large group of students from Rossett School were also among those taking part in the parade.
The school took part in the first-ever Pride in Diversity event last year, and enjoyed it so much that they wanted to do it again.
Max Davies said: “I think it’s very important to have this event because you hear homophobic slurs in schools which can feel quite menacing and people can become quite reclusive as a result. When there are a lot of people out in town like this, and the school community is showing their support, it can make LGBT students feel more safe and supported.”
A big part of the festival this year was a tepee at the heart of Valley Gardens, which housed a moving display of artwork produced by young people from across the district - themes included being unapologetically yourself, and embracing who you are.
Each piece had an empowering message, forming part of a project run by Connecting Youth Culture in partnership with North Yorkshire County Council.
Marshal Meredith created a number of the artworks. He said: “Art can speak in so many ways. I hope my art gets across those messages of inclusivity and diversity.”
Lindsay Lewis, whose dog Julio was wearing a rainbow scarf for the occasion, said: “Every community should be able to have these pride events, so that everybody can feel comfortable with who they are. It’s important to celebrate and showcase our diversity.”
The chair of Pride in Diversity, Leonora Wassell, said: “It’s about marching and parading together, to say we are proud of our uniqueness, and saying that each of us is going to work together to make sure that everyone is treated with respect and dignity.”
For parents who brought their young children along, the event was also a chance to instil positive messages for future generations.
Helen Rees said: “I’ve come down with my family because it’s a really positive event for everyone. It’s important for children to be experiencing events like this from an early age because it makes for a better future. The ethos of pride and diversity is really important.”