The catalyst for starting Happy Valley Pride was a piece of homophobic graffiti seen in the town of Hebden Bridge in the summer of 2015. This was a reminder that we are still fighting for equality, even in one of the most LGBTQIA+ welcoming towns in the UK. We agreed on a mission “To celebrate LGBTQ+ life in Hebden Bridge and surrounding areas. Promoting equality and diversity to eradicate discrimination, based on sexual orientation and gender identity, through arts, education and engagement.”
Back in 2015, as word started to spread about a Pride organisation that was starting in the town, we couldn’t believe how many people wanted to get involved. Sally Wainwright launched Happy Valley Pride early in 2016 and Peter Tatchell joined soon after as our Patron, later to be joined by Kate O’Donnell. Soon we were running monthly socials, building our volunteer team, and planning our first Pride Arts Festival. We were quickly cementing ourselves as an alternative Pride, with a grassroots commitment to eradicating discrimination based on gender and/or sexuality through art and education, and our first full outing that summer set the tone for what was to come.
By 2017, we were rolling out the 7 day Queer Arts Festival & Pride that has now gained the attention of LGBTQIA+ people across the country. Our events are for and by the community – Lesbian Writers Reads, Tea Dances for our elders, school art projects, a whole day dedicated to the talent of local musicians, art exhibitions celebrating a different local artist each year, human rights talks and discussions. It was during our second year we adopted the tagline ‘Be Here, Be You, Be Proud’ - which we felt was the perfect expression of our Pride.
When an international queer artist manager and Soho Theatre associate producer joined our team after our first festival we were able to start bringing the crème de la crème of cutting-edge LGBTQIA+ talent to our town, acts who would normally only ever be seen in the big cities. Olivier Award winning Duckie make their only trip up North each year to put on a show of diverse art & activism at the Trades Club, London legend Jonny Woo’s taken on Todmorden, comedians Zoe Lyons and Suzi Ruffle have graced our stages, Ursula Martinez stripped naked and ran down Holme Street in patriarchal defiance, Camille O’Sullivan lit up Hope Baptist Church and stole the town’s heart, and satirical superstars Bourgeois & Maurice have become part of our family.
With the help of local artists, we turned the offensive graffiti statement into one of celebration and acceptance.
The energy that was coming into Happy Valley Pride was enormous, and continues. Our Trustee and Volunteer positions attract people who can offer so much: our team includes: a non-binary producer and performer of socially engaged arts, a renowned artistic director in the arts world, a Mary Anne-Hobbs championed Lesbian DJ, a Lesbian Project Manager whose energy and attention to detail takes our festival up a notch year on year, a judge with a background in fighting for human rights, a head primary school teacher who shines as an example of what can happen when diversity and equality wins , a Communications specialist with a passion for LGBTQIA+ Mental Health, a teacher who’s social media skills have propelled our reach far and wide, a writer who has helped spread our good word across the UK, artists, activists, Doctors, shop keepers, doers and believers who keep Pride alive in the valley.
Our weekend outdoor stage The Big Day Out takes pride of place in the centre of town and features a great line-up of amazing, local LGBTQ+ performers and an information fair with stalls from LGBTQ+ organisations and allies.
As well as the festival we hold regular Big Nights Out throughout the year as an opportunity for our local LGBTQ+ community to socialise and spend time together. These events include talks, comedy, singalongs and club nights at The Trades Club,
Community engagement has also grown, we undertake an annual Youth Engagement project with the local schools, educating kids, teachers and families about LGBTQ+ lifestyles through art and engagement. We have also run several successful awareness raising campaigns highlighting LGBTQ+ issues focusing on Hate Crime and Stand By Your Trans, highlighting the need to support our local trans community.
Every year we hold a vigil in the centre of Hebden Bridge for Transgender Day of Remembrance to honour the trans people who have been killed through transphobic violence.
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit in 2020 we moved our events online and hosted virtual shows from big names like Jinkx Monsoon, Horse McDonald and Justin Vivian Bond to feel-good singalongs, a literature event from local historian Jill Liddington about Anne Lister (the first modern lesbian) and an LGBTQ+ mental health panel. These events have proved incredibly popular as a respite from the pandemic for the community, over 5000 people engaged with our mini-festival in July 2020.
Also in 2020 we were thrilled to be asked to become one of eleven partners forming Queer Arts North, a network of leading, northern LGBTQ+ organisations including Homotopia Festival in Liverpool, Curious Festival in , Northern Stage in Newcastle, Contact Theatre in Manchester and more.
And now in 2021 we are looking to the future and hopefully the end of the pandemic and a return to normality and live events in some shape or form (fingers crossed). In the meantime we are presenting more digital events and we have also created our first paid roles within the organisation.
Let's all show our pride together.
We are thrilled that in January 2021 we have become a registered charity, which means we can continue to serve our community with this added recognition of trust in the work we are doing to provide a service solely for the public benefit.
We are grateful for all the support of our sponsors, volunteers and the kind donations of the public and local businesses. We wouldn’t be able to continue without them.
We believe education through art can help an equal society for all. Transphobia, Biphobia, Homophobia is all learnt behaviour, so we want to make sure everybody learns that this is never acceptable, and difference should be celebrated. The graffiti that started it all has become symbolic of the power of the people in overcoming intolerance and anti-social behaviour for Happy Valley Pride. You should be able to be yourself here, no matter how you identify and the sense of community shines through.
Let us all show our pride together. Be here, be you, be proud.