Beyond London – Enjoy Pride Season across the country
While things may well have been different many years ago, we’re pretty sure that there has never been a better time to be an LGBT+ visitor to the UK than right now. Whether you identify as straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex or asexual, or if you best fit into another bracket, there are plenty of places in Great Britain where you can just be yourself. With the country revelling in peak Pride season, find out where to join in this month.
If you asked a UK resident to name the most gay-friendly place in the country, we’d bet a few pink pounds that they’d say Brighton. This southern seaside destination also pulls off the trick of feeling like a small town, but with a cultural scene typically reserved for larger cities. It’s a great day trip from London, taking you from the humid Tube to a breezy beach in less than 90 minutes. The heart of LGBT+ Brighton is Kemptown, a seafront strip between the Palace Pier and Brighton Marina. It’s filled with boutique hotels, shops, pubs, bars and great restaurants – we recommend Curry Leaf Café, an acclaimed, casual spot serving Indian street food and craft ales. Kemptown is also home to some of Brighton’s best nightlife, including The Basement Club inside Legends hotel and the gay scene veteran Club Revenge, which has been filling its two dancefloors for more than 25 years.
Brighton Pride 2018 (3rd-5th August) is set to be one of its biggest, thanks to a superstar appearance on Saturday night: Britney Spears is starting her European tour here. The level of affection shown to Britney within the UK’s gay community has really grown during the past decade, so this will be a big moment for Brighton. Most events are ticketed, but the daytime Pride Community Parade on Saturday is a great way to get involved. The theme is ‘Colour My World’, so put on your loudest clothes (and perhaps some sunglasses).
In the north of England, Yorkshire is the United Kingdom’s largest county and home to the city of Leeds, which has steadily established itself as a lively hub for LGBT+ visitors to the region. You’ll find beautiful Victorian architecture, four theatres and plenty of shopping options. The city is also very close to the natural wonders of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, making Leeds a great base from which to venture there. Back in the city, the Freedom Quarter is a good place to start exploring the most inclusive side to Leeds. You’ll discover a clutch of gay bars including The Viaduct Showbar, which is open every day and has just emerged after a big refurbishment. This venue is dedicated to having as much fun as possible, whether that’s an afternoon bingo session or some raucous live cabaret. Blayds Bar is another entertainment specialist which was refurbished recently, while the historic New Penny is the oldest gay bar in Leeds.
Leeds Pride (5th August) is now the largest Pride event in Yorkshire. The parade makes room for 60 floats (the decorated vehicles that each organisation uses to move along the parade route) and continues for five hours, moving through the city from Millennium Square to Lower Briggate. For the first time, Championship football team Leeds United is a sponsor, which is a tremendous step forward for the city’s LGBT+ credentials – and English football.
Called ‘Cymru’ in Welsh, Wales is not to be overlooked. Combining culture and the coast, its capital city Cardiff has a busy month ahead as its Pride event (24th-26th August) coincides with the Extreme Sailing Series festival (24th-27th August). Gather on Cardiff Bay’s shore to watch elite sailing teams race, or have a go at rafting with Cardiff International White Water. Not into watersports? Stay dry with a visit to a castle, or ride a bike through Sophia Gardens and Pontcanna Fields, a Grade II-listed parkland in the city centre. LGBT+ visitors should feel most comfortable in the central areas of Charles Street and Churchill Way. The handsome, Grade II-listed Golden Cross pub provides a heady mix of karaoke, cabaret and strippers, while The Kings is a bigger venue with a roof terrace and a mixed, young crowd. If you’re partying, head to Pulse club on Churchill Way, while drag addicts will be happy at Minsky’s Showbar.
Pride Cymru (24th-26th August) is guaranteed to be a major event. The hub for all of the festival’s events is the City Hall Lawns, just to the north of the medieval Cardiff Castle, while Pride Cymru’s Big Weekend combines live music and a funfair with the all-important parade; it’s set to wow the crowds between Capitol Shopping Centre and City Hall Lawn from 11am on Saturday. Monday 27th August is a public holiday in England and Wales, so you can expect the locals to be seriously up for partying all weekend.
Situated south of Leeds in the north west of England, fans of British music need no introduction to Manchester: Oasis, The Smiths, Take That and The Stone Roses all call this great industrial city home. Hate all of those bands? Fine, but you should visit Manchester all the same: the city buzzes like never before with dozens of brilliant restaurants, superb shopping and a vivacious cultural calendar – look out for the Caribbean Carnival of Manchester (11th-12th August), as well as more than 100 two-metre-high bees, each individually decorated and to be found across the city this summer. The LGBT+ community has been a key part of Manchester’s identity for decades, with Canal Street at the centre of the city’s gay village. It’s right next to Chinatown (another strong indicator of a progressive British city) and alongside the Rochdale Canal, which means you can expect lots of al fresco eating and drinking opportunities. Canal Street is such a major destination now that it even has its own website (www.canal-st.co.uk), which will lead you to legendary addresses including the lesbian bar Vanilla, the area’s largest nightclub Cruz 101 and the multitasking bar, club and restaurant VIA.
Like Cardiff, Manchester is taking advantage of the bank holiday weekend by running its Pride at the same time (24th-27th August). The line-up includes Scissor Sisters frontman Jake Shears, Rita Ora and dance DJing royalty Pete Tong, while the parade takes over the wider city on Saturday. This being Manchester, that’s only half of the story however: on the last day you can pay tribute to AIDS victims at the annual candlelit vigil in Sackville Gardens, while the new Superbia Weekend project offers a calmer alternative to the main Pride festival, by shining a light on film, comedy, music, literature, sports and theatre.We have chosen to profile LGBT+ friendly spots which are celebrating Pride this month, but there are plenty more destinations that will welcome you too. From Bristol in the west, all the way upto Glasgow in Scotland, the country awaits.