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To mark Pride Month and the 15th anniversary of Bristol Pride, AAA speaks to the festival’s director Eve Russell about the event’s growth, the importance of Pride, and what to expect from this summer’s edition on 13 July.

As well as reflecting on the festival’s journey to becoming one of the UK’s largest Pride events, Russell highlights the need for Pride Month amidst rising LGBT+ hate crimes and provides her perspective on the event industry’s evolving attitude towards diversity and inclusion. 

How has Bristol Pride evolved and grown over the years?

Since the first Bristol Pride in 2010, we’ve evolved hugely; the festival has grown from a much smaller event, which saw 4,000 people at the event in Castle Park and a small march of about 400 people, to moving to our new home on The Downs with capacity for 20,000+ people. Not only have we grown in attendance but the calibre of our showcase grows stronger each year, alongside the variety of events we put on in our Pride Fortnight.

Despite facing challenges like growing festival costs, we’re glad our evolution has been recognised by the industry, we are now one of the largest Pride events in the UK and recently won Gaydio’s Pride Organisation of the Year Award and received three Bristol Life awards for Best Event since our move to The Downs.

“We can’t be complacent when there’s a lot still to fight and speak up for.”

How important is Pride Month is as a concept?

Pride is still incredibly important; LGBT+ hate crimes across the UK are rising year-on-year, with rights being reduced rather than built upon. We hosted a LGBT+ Hustings for the general election and the consensus within the room was one of fear regarding the direction the government are moving towards.

The same rhetoric heard around section 28 in the 1980s is being repeated towards trans people today. We heard stories of conversion therapy survivors who are still wondering when the ban is going to be put in place, and from people who felt safe holding hands with their husbands 10 years ago but don’t feel safe to do that today. We take for granted that once rights are given, they can be taken away. Every year after pride we hear from people saying that it’s the time in the year they feel safe to be themselves and visible.

Pride Month is the chance to celebrate our community, commemorate things like the Stonewall Riots which really was the birth of the modern Pride movement but also to focus conversations and opportunities for engagement and support.

Last year, our billboard was set alight on the same day that Lawrence Fox was burning pride flags on Twitter. Our Trans Pride Picnic was shot at with BB pellets in a reported hate crime. We can’t be complacent when there’s a lot still to fight and speak up for. Allyship is more important than ever and I think that’s the most important part of Pride, how it brings people together and galvanises a community to get together and demand more.

What is the industry’s attitude to D&I and has this improved in your experience?

I think for a lot of organisations D&I isn’t really on the agenda, especially in such a difficult climate for events and festivals, but I’m certainly hearing it talked about and considered far more than it was 10 years ago.

We know that increasing diversity and inclusion leads to different ways of thinking, bringing new perspectives to problem-solving or just getting things done and staff who feel supported and able to be their authentic selves at work thrive and perform their best.

We’re currently working with Big Team (an arm of Team Love who produce Love Saves the Day and Forwards Festivals) on a pilot project that opens doors for young people from underrepresented communities or backgrounds to enter the festival, events and creative industries. Lots of promoters and event producers operating in Bristol have got on board with the project and we currently have two young people working with us part-time in the run-up to this year’s events that wouldn’t previously have been in a position to do so and they are fantastic additions to the team.

What are the key developments at Bristol Pride this year?

2024 will see us expand our offering in our fortnight of events and our main festival day. It’s our 15th anniversary and we’re so excited to be celebrating with electronic pop legends, The Human League, plus many more amazing performers across 5 stages. Our newly named Uplift Stage will also be a chance to showcase emerging and local talent. During our Pride Fortnight of events, alongside our much-loved returning events, we’re running new events like a Ceilidh, multiple sports taster sessions, queer film screenings, and alternative theatre as well as Circus Night events, and Comedy Night which hosts some of the leading comedians from across the UK, all showcasing incredible local LGBT+ talent. We want to provide spaces and events that make sure everyone can find something to enjoy during Bristol Pride.