City’s shows its Pride in LGBT celebration

Jemma Kameen leading Sainsbury's colleagues at Leeds Pride last year.
Jemma Kameen leading Sainsbury's colleagues at Leeds Pride last year.
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The future’s bright, the future’s orange...

The city centre will be hit by a sea of colour, culture and celebration as it welcomes the 11th Leeds Pride event this weekend to celebrate Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans* life.

With over 40,000 people expected to attend, it is the biggest event in Leeds’ calendar and the largest pride event in the whole of Yorkshire.

And leading the way at Sunday’s highlight event, the main parade, will be 500 employees from Sainsbury’s supermarkets from across Yorkshire donning orange T-shirts, fronted by Jemma Kameen.

She is the store manager at The Headingley branch and was one of the driving forces behind the retailer’s growing involvement.

In 2015, the first year Sainsbury’s took part in the parade, there were 180 employees involved, last year there were 400 and this weekend there are set to be more than 500.

She said: “Every year I have been going to Leeds Pride and saw all the other retailers but we were never there. I am proud to be gay and proud to work for Sainsbury’s – I have done for 21 years.

“When the then marketing director said Sainsbury’s would be taking part I thought all my Christmases had come at once.

“In the parade, I am at the front with my colleagues, many are not part of the LGBT scene but want to make a difference, my friends and family, I think about what I went through, turn around and see all these people and I am so proud and emotional.”

Jemma, 37, has been a regular at Leeds Pride with her partner ever since it started back in 2006 and says the event has played a huge part in the movement to challenge the stigmas that were, and in some places still are, connected to the gay scene.

She added: “The highlight of Leeds Pride for me has always been the parade, going with my friends and having a really good time.

“It is a place where you feel safe and that is such a nice feeling. It has not always been like that but there is a lot more education and role models and for the generation coming up it is normal, everyone can be who they want to be.

“I love that about the gay scene, everyone can be who they want to be, everyone is welcome – Leeds is just great like that.”

This year the parade route has been extended to include more of the city centre.

It will begin in Millennium Square before going past The Light, down The Headrow, past Victoria Gate, Leeds Kirkgate Market and towards Lower Briggate.

There are two hours of music and entertainment from 12 noon prior to the parade starting at 2pm.

Along the route there will be 60 floats, a market-place, fun-fair, dance area, kids area and food and drink stalls.

The party continues afterwards as this year’s event accommodates a lot more visitors to the city and there will be music from a main stage set up in Lower Briggate until 8pm.

The official site also includes areas over Leeds Bridge on the River Aire for the first time ever, past Bridge End and towards ASDA Head Office.

Fringe events started last night and continue throughout the weekend with yoga, running, film showings and club nights.