By KLTV Newsdesk –
The UK’s first-ever national Pride took place in Huddersfield on 4th July 1981, making this Sunday, July 4 its 40th anniversary.
To mark such a significant milestone, a series of arts events will take place from now until July 2022, as a yearlong multi-media celebration of LGBTQ+ history of the UK.
The events have been made possible by funding from the Arts Council of England, Kirklees Council and LGBT+ History Month UK.
History of Pride in Huddersfield
There is a good reason as to why the UK’s first national Pride took place in Huddersfield of all places.
In 1976, The Gemini Club was opened in Huddersfield and quickly became a popular nightclub for gay and bisexual men.
The West Yorkshire Police Force regularly raided the club. So, in a show of solidarity, the organisers Of Pride moved it from London creating the UK’s first National Pride.
It took place on Saturday 4th July 1981. Around 1,500 people marched through the centre of Huddersfield to Greenhead Park, with the NUS Gay Conference happening subsequently at Huddersfield University (then a polytechnic), workshops at the Mechanics’ Institute and an all-nighter at the Gemini Club.
There will be three main elements to the yearlong celebration:
- Photographic Exhibition: Internationally renowned photographer Ajamu X will take a series of 20 portraits of people who marched in 1981 and people who are part of the LGBTQ+ community in Huddersfield today. Ajamu was born in Huddersfield and saw the original Pride 81 march. In February 2022, there will be a Street Exhibition of some of the portraits at key parts of the original Pride 81 route (bus stops, billboards and buildings). The full set will then be displayed at the Lawrence Batley Theatre from 1 June to 31 August 2022. After that, they will become a part of the permanent collection at Huddersfield Art Gallery
- Immersive Performance: Inkbrew Productions will create an immersive performance recreating Pride 81. The audience will be participants in the march, co-creating the piece with actors playing activists from 1981, who tell their stories as they march. Ten monologues written by award-winning playwrights Stephen M Hornby, Abi Hynes, and Peter Scott-Presland, (an original Pride 81 marcher) form the heart of this piece. They will also be performed as a showcase at the Lawrence Batley Cellar Theatre, Huddersfield and the Kings Arms, Salford from 1 – 3rd July 2022.
- Online Archive of Pride 81: the West Yorkshire Archive Service (WYAS) & Heritage Quay are making a call-out to capture personal photographs of the 1981 march. Digital copies will become stored as a permanent part of each archive. WYAS will be holding the first of two Pride 81 Submission Days at Kirklees Archives Pop-Up opposite Huddersfield Library on Saturday 25th September, 11 am-4 pm. People can turn up and have their pictures scanned and returned.
Everything kickstarts this weekend on the official anniversary with Kirklees Council dressing the original route of the march with the Pride rainbow on lighting columns, beginning at the junction of Leeds Road and Bradley Mills Road and ending at the south gate of Greenhead Park.
Speaking on the celebration, Professor Sue Sanders, of OUTing The Past, said: “This is an extraordinary project. The first national Pride in Huddersfield in 1981 is a wonderful piece of forgotten history that needs to be known across the UK.
“These excellent events will not just create some wonderful new art and performances, they will leave a legacy for Huddersfield, a lasting memory of its own past.”
Ajamu X is an acclaimed fine art photographic artist, archive curator and radical sex activist. His work has been shown in many prestigious galleries, museums and alternative spaces around the world.
He said: “It’s very special to me to be able to take these portraits celebrating the hidden queer history of my hometown.
“As a 17-year-old, stood on the street corner watching the Pride 81 march go by, I had no idea of the life that lay ahead of me.
“To return now to celebrate that moment is a unique opportunity to show the true diversity of communities in Huddersfield.”
Inkbrew Productions is an award-winning theatre and film company, with specialisms in performing heritage, political theatre and dramatising archives
Artistic Director and Playwright Stephen M Hornby, said: “The Pride march of 1981 was full of extraordinary characters from Huddersfield and from across the country.
“And the stories! It’s a treasure trove for playwrights and Abi and I can’t wait to get started.
“We hope some local writers will be joining us to rediscover what marching in the UK’s first national Pride felt like.”
Councillor Will Simpson, Cabinet Member for Culture and Greener Kirklees, said: “As this year’s Pride month comes to an end, I’m so pleased we can announce our yearlong plans to commemorate and celebrate the 1981 Pride march in Huddersfield.
“The 1981 march is a unique piece of – often forgotten – Huddersfield history. I’m extremely pleased that we have been able to plan these engaging events so that we can collectively celebrate this significant moment in our history.”