Exeter Pride festival in Northernhay Gardens

Exeter Pride – an LGBTQ+ celebration

A major date in our calendar every year is Exeter Pride. It’s one of the first Pride celebrations to take place across the UK each year and is a great start to spring and summer.

About Exeter Pride

Exeter Pride is a registered charity and inclusive LGBTQ+ celebration. Now in its tenth year, we’ve seen the parade and the main event grow year on year since we moved to Devon. This year’s pride celebration was on 12th May and offered a really varied programme of events across Northernhay Gardens, Exeter Phoenix and the venues of Gandy Street.

Rainbow flag flying at Exeter Guildhall
A rainbow flag flying over Exeter Guildhall for Exeter Pride

Rainbow flags flying in Exeter

It was great to see rainbow flags flying at venues across Exeter for Pride this year. Gandy Street was covered in colourful bunting and flags, as was the Exeter Phoenix arts centre. The Guildhall also had the rainbow flag flying and it was great to see it so visible on the main high street. A number of other retailers also showed their support by providing food and drink discounts to wristband holders.

Exeter Pride parade

The parade started from Sidwell Street and marched down Exeter High Street on its way to Northernhay Gardens. For anyone who’s not seen the parade, it’s a great show, with an enormous 50m rainbow flag at its heart. There are also Morris dancers, roller skaters, a samba band and a colourful showing from local community groups, businesses and emergency services.

Northernhay Gardens festival zone

After watching the parade we headed to Northernhay Gardens. The sun was shining and we had a great time wandering around the stalls and enjoying a pint or two. Exeter Pride is smaller than quite a few of the UK’s other pride events and we love it. It has a really nice non-commercial feel to it and a fantastic atmosphere. The garden setting and inclusive entertainment, incorporating local food producers, Morris dancers and musicians lend the event some of the charm of a county show, whilst still maintaining the focus of an LGBTQ+ celebration.

Exeter Pride main stage

The top end of Northernhay Gardens was set aside for the main stage. For a fair bit of the afternoon we’d based ourselves near the bar, so whilst the stage made for good background music, we didn’t fully commit until mid-afternoon. We were completely drawn in, however, by the high-energy gospel of Oh My God! It’s The Church! Big on southern charm and even bigger on sequins, OMG It’s The Church! delivered up a disco sermon of classic hits. Retro songs like Love Shack became gospel services with plenty of audience interaction. It was a really fun performance and a totally unique highlight of the afternoon.

Exeter Pride festival in Northernhay Gardens

Exeter Phoenix Pride day events

We were having a great time in Northernhay Gardens and as the sun was shining we decided to make the most of the festival atmosphere outside. However, there were a whole host of events taking place in Exeter Phoenix throughout the day, including cabaret and drag acts on the showcase stage, an LGBTQ+ ceilidh, drumming workshop, screenings of LGBTQ+ films and panel debates.

Gandy Street party

New for Pride this year was the Gandy St street party. Bars the length of Gandy St came together to host a party on the cobbles. There were live DJs playing outside John Gandys and it was an incredible atmosphere with hundreds of revellers dancing in the narrow street. It was a really energetic set and the close confines of the bars gave it a proper festival feel, as the whole street seemed to pulse to the same beat.

Gandy Street street party at Exeter Pride

Exeter Phoenix evening party

After the fun of the street party, we finished our night at Exeter Phoenix, which had been fully given over to Pride celebrations. The café bar had been turned in to a dance floor and there was live music in the main auditorium. The culmination of the evening’s entertainment was Magic Hatstand. DJs took over the auditorium whilst a seemingly endless supply of quirky hats kept appearing on the hatstand at the base of the stage. After much hat swapping and dancing, we finally hung up our dancing shoes shortly before midnight having had a fantastic Pride!

Magic Hatstand at Exeter Phoenix

Find out more about Exeter Pride, including how to volunteer to shape next year’s event at Exeter Pride.

You can also find Exeter Pride on Facebook and Twitter.

Exeter Pride is normally the second or third week in May and will return in 2019.