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Chase Waterman gives us a local’s view of Rochdale in Rainbows’ first ever outdoor event – Pride in the Park.

On Sunday 26th June, hundreds of residents came together in Broadfield Park, Rochdale under a characteristically overcast sky to celebrate Pride 2022, the 50th anniversary of UK Pride.

Rainbow flags were hung from trees and around the bandstand where cheesy, upbeat music played, and the smell of hot food wafted gently on the breeze as everyone milled around the stalls or sat on the grass. It wasn’t cold (a welcome surprise for Rochdale), but gusts of wind disturbed the stall banners every now and then, and the blue sky was visible between the clouds even if the sun wasn’t.

What is Pride in the Park?

Pride in the Park was proudly (pun intended) presented by the organisations of Rochdale in Rainbows, including Your Trust Rochdale and Touchstones, and was the first full outdoor Pride event held in Rochdale. Stalls ran by all manner of groups offered fun activities for all ages, as well as valuable information on queer history, Pride, and current resources available to the public. Just a few of these included:

  • The LGBT Foundation, which ran a stall offering information to anyone curious or uncertain about gender and/or sexuality as a whole, or anyone who may be seeking advice or help with their own or someone else’s identity.
  • Arcon Housing offered protest sign making, a reminder of the ever-important roots of Pride and a celebration of 2022 marking the 50th year since the first UK Pride event.
  • The Proud Trust, whose stall offered information about their work and signposting resources and help for young people or anyone curious. There was a ring-tossing game for people to play and the stall gave out badges, chocolates and rainbow flags, as well as offering a few independently made, hand-sewn leather art pieces by The Monarch of Rymden.
  • Local artist Bushra Sultana was offering an identity portrait workshop, with ceramic tiles for visitors to paint.
  • Skylight Circus offered a free circus skills workshop, which was popular with the kids! Spinning plates, stilts, hula hoops and more were available to try as part of the organisation’s Circus Rainbow programme.

Other fun activities included face painting, pronoun badge making and taster yoga sessions—there was something for everyone! Food and punch were also provided by the wonderful Vintage Worx Cafe, and the smell of their stall on the breeze was truly delicious. Greater Manchester Firefighters and Police also made an appearance, with the bright red fire engine making it easy to spot the event from a mile away.

Not to mention awesome performances by all manner of folk, notably the hilarious and mega-talented Vegan Queens, as well as fashion, vogue and dance specialists Ghetto Fabulous who truly lived up to their name.

My personal take away from Pride in the Park

As a young queer person, Rochdale has never felt like the safest place for me to express myself fully. But times they are a-changin’, and Rochdale is taking that in its stride.

To me, Pride in the Park felt like a breath of fresh air. A celebration of life – both the vibrant lives of those in the Borough and of queer existence in general. And to be celebrated in a place that isn’t often hailed as a champion of diversity made it all the sweeter.

Things in my personal life have been difficult, lately. Just two days before Pride in the Park took place I was almost 200 miles away, holding the hand of my aunt as she passed away in a hospice. She was the first family member I ever came out to when I was barely 14. Being the only queer family member I had ever really met at that time and having come out later in life, she still managed to create a life for herself that was happy, where she was loved, where she helped those around her and everyone was charmed by her.

She had relationships with women, she had dogs, she loved horror movies, she had a great career with the NHS and she made friends with everyone she met. Seeing and knowing an older queer person who had created this life for herself was so meaningful for me, especially when I was younger. I painted a tile in her honour at Bushra’s portrait painting stall—painting isn’t my strong suit so it wasn’t very good, but it came from the heart which is what really matters when it comes to art, I think.

For many people, it’s easy to forget why Pride is important these days. In its 50th year in the UK, Pride has come a long way since its beginning. It means so much to me, and I’m sure to so many others, that Rochdale is slowly but surely coming forward with more Pride events for everyone to take part in—families, young people, or just anyone who might not have access to resources or information on the LGBTQ+ community. Because just knowing that community exists, seeing it at these events, seeing all manner of people draped in rainbows and having fun, learning about LGBTQ+ history and enjoying each other’s company, is healing for the soul.

Everyone deserves to be celebrated for who they are, throughout their entire lives, and everyone deserves to be loved exactly how they exist, because how they exist and how they love is beautiful. And I’m proud that Rochdale could bring together its local community to show that Pride really is everywhere.

About the author

Chase Waterman (he/him) was born in Manchester and is a graduate of MMU with a degree in English and Creative Writing. He is a queer writer who enjoys creating poetry, character fiction and informative articles. Currently living in Royton, he is working on a fantasy novel in his free time outside of copywriting.