‘Leeds Pride is the most epic party I’ve ever been to’

CELEBRATION: Last year's Leeds Pride parade on The Headrow.
CELEBRATION: Last year's Leeds Pride parade on The Headrow.
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On the afternoon of Sunday August 5, my husband, toddler and I will be joining thousands of people across Leeds to celebrate Leeds Pride as the parade snakes its way through our beautiful city and I’m really looking forward to it.

Last year was the first Pride event I’d ever been to, I think because I wasn’t really sure if I was allowed to go. I wasn’t sure if Pride was exclusive for people who associated as LGBT*. I wanted to stand and be counted as someone who believed we are all equal but I wasn’t sure if my presence as a heterosexual woman would be taken as offensive and I was also terrified of doing or saying the wrong thing.

For my first Leeds Pride I was in at the deep end as I was asked to go on stage at Millennium Square and introduce some of the acts. There were thousands of people and it was a bit terrifying. It was something I’d done many times before but this time it felt different because of the audience and because I was really worried about people finding out about how ignorant I really was. To be brutally honest, I was worried about what words to use.

I have friends who associate as lesbian, gay and bisexual but as far as I was aware, I’ve never had any friends who associate as trans* and I was worried about accidentally offending someone. I knew I was completely supportive but I was born female and I’ve always felt female and have never experienced feeling anything other than comfortable in my own skin. I suppose I was a bit scared. I’d usually come on stage and say something like “Ladies and Gentlemen” but in 2018 was that the wrong thing to say? Would that be offensive, if so what should I say instead?

I was concerned that with the best will in the world, with genuine feelings of equality I wouldn’t be able to pick the right words to express myself in the way in which I wanted my expressions to be received. I felt uncomfortable and awkward and at the same time I knew that wasn’t a good enough excuse and that it was my responsibility to educate myself.

It wasn’t even difficult – just a quick Google cleared up a lot of misconceptions and actually admitting I didn’t have the answers and being willing to learn felt better. It also made me realise that for as much as I was completely behind the equality, I had fallen into a trap where I’d forgotten the simple fact that people are people and Leeds Pride reminded me of that.

Last year’s event was incredible and it was a joy to see so many people coming together in the name of love – love of themselves as much as love of another person. It felt great to be part of something so positive and it was incredible to see the city covered in all the rainbows and that much glitter. The atmosphere was outstanding and what started off as a day I was really nervous about turned into one of my best days of the year.

Leeds hosts huge events every year from the Tour de Yorkshire to Slam Dunk festival but this felt completely different. The streets weren’t filled with one type of person – just cycling enthusiasts of just rock fans, it was filled with all sorts of different people from all different walks of life whose goal was to celebrate and fight for each other. It was the most epic party I have ever been to.

This year, my husband and our two-and-a-half year old are joining me.

Our toddler has his whole life ahead of him to discover who he is and we need him to know that whatever his gender or sexual preference he is perfect. I want him to grow up seeing how normal sexual diversity and gender variation is and I also want him to know that anything other than equality is completely unacceptable and to feel strong enough to stand up and insist upon it.

We’re going to be with the Radio Aire team at the very front of the parade. We’ll be decked out in glitter rainbows and he’s ready to roll with his rainbow tshirt and matching boater hat.

If you fancy joining in the celebration next Sunday then there’s loads to do. Barclays is hosting a family area just over Leeds Bridge where you’ll find storytellers as well as giant games and crafts. There’s also a huge market there too, and of course there’s the parade which kicks off at Millennium Square at 2pm and finishes at Lower Briggate.

Perfect gift for mum

It was my mum’s birthday last weekend and I stumbled across the most perfect present.

Her favourite animals have always been donkeys and she’s always had a dream where one day she’d have enough money for a bit of land and she’d get two but sadly it’s never become a reality. As I was Googling ‘donkey’ and ‘Leeds’ I came across the Donkey Sanctuary in Eccup and to make it even more perfect they do animal adoptions where you can sponsor one of their therapy donkeys – my mum has spent her career working with children and adults with special needs so this was perfect!

We adopted her the cutest little chap called Harbin and on her Saturday took her to meet him. There’s no charge to go and visit the centre and the staff are so friendly – actively going out of their way to tell you about the different donkeys and their personalities. All of the animals are rescued and have heartbreaking back stories but it’s lovely to see them now being given a great life and to hear about how much they’ve changed since being given the love and attention of the staff. The donkeys were so friendly and we took many a selfie of us giving them a pat and a scratch behind the ears. On top of that there’s a kids play area both inside and outside and a café. It’s open for everyone so if you’re looking for something free to do with the kids during the holiday this is a perfect way to spend a couple of hours (although good luck resisting an adoption and their Victoria sponge!)

End of school memories

School is officially out for the summer.

As we received calls from parents, teachers and pupils this week it got me thinking of my own last day of school. Technically I didn’t really have one. We’d expected to finish school on the Friday but then during our last lesson on Wednesday we were handed a letter saying that was it, school was over.

The powers that be had decided that since the previous year caused so much havoc on their last day (washing up liquid in the town’s fountains, illegal barbecues in the public park and just general unruliness) they would save their reputation and catch us unaware. The scene that unfolded as 300 girls simultaneously read their letters was nothing short of a catastrophe. First the chins started going, then the tears started streaming and then the wailing started. It took two hours to get rid of us and some girls were so upset their parents had to be called as they weren’t in a fit state to catch the bus. Plus eggs were available for purchase in the shop next door.

Caroline Verdon is one half of the breakfast show on Radio Aire. You can hear Caroline and Ant between 6-10am every weekday morning.