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Kiss FM presenter Harriet Rose kicked off her “first ever Pride” on Saturday 6 August with the Brighton and Hove LGBTQ+ Community Parade 2022. The presenter and DJ was one of around 400,000 people who marched and lined the city’s streets to mark the event’s (delayed) 30th anniversary after being cancelled for two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s been an emotional journey, I’ve already cried twice,” she told Yahoo Life UK, marching down the parade, as onlookers cheered.
“Happy tears though, just seeing people come together, families and just the love that I can see with everybody around, it’s amazing.”
From playing table tennis on a moving stand and dancing down the street, to mingling with the crowd, Rose fully immersed herself in the action, while reporting on the event for Yahoo.
“I’m so excited. I can’t believe I’m involved,” she said, as other than being there for her own enjoyment, she’s been booked to interview headline acts from Christina Aguilera to Paloma Faith.
“This is such a historic year because we’ve had two really rough years, and the LGBTQ+ community has been really affected by that, especially as lots of LGBTQ+ events are about coming together and celebrating in proximity. So I feel like today is an extra big celebration!”
The atmosphere of the Parade says it all. The legendary House of Suarez dancers led the whole parade dancing alongside the Yahoo purple truck, ‘Voguing’ through the streets of Brighton. The parade made its way from Hove Lawns to Preston Park, lighting up every onlooker’s face and creating a wave of high-pitched screams.
First impressions of Pride
“It's my first ever Pride,” Rose told us excitedly.
While she’s celebrated Pride in other ways – such as a little Pride party at home with flags and posting about it on socials to help draw attention to it – being a DJ has meant her summer weekends have kept her fully-booked.
“I’ve basically worked non-stop since I first came out," she told us. "So it’s not only my first ever time hosting, but my first ever time actually attending Pride as well.”
So is it how she imagined, so far? “It’s way better than I ever expected. I always imagined it was going to be an amazing opportunity, an amazing event, but this is just top-tier level joy.”
This year’s theme of the Pride march was 'Love, Protest and Unity', reflected in the mix of more serious floats campaigning for LGBTQ+ rights, and the rights of everyone ( for example, demonstrated with ‘refugees welcome’ signs), plus a mix of light-hearted floats spreading the love, joy and fun of the event.
There were lots of surprises too, including the huge ‘squealing pig’ float, that got everyone asking what it was (a wine brand, apparently).
How Brighton Pride began
Brighton held its first Pride march back in 1973, a year after the first ever UK Pride in London and three years after the world’s first Pride in New York. The Pride in NYC marked the anniversary of rioting outside the Stonewall Inn, in response to police raids and arrests of the LGBTQ+ community.
While it has certainly grown in size and evolved over the years, Brighton Pride has played a major role in helping promote acceptance, equality and the rights of LGBTQ+ people.
Read more: The History of Brighton & Hove Pride
And Rose’s first experience of it all was no doubt made even better by how she’s feeling within herself, too. “I feel the most confident and comfortable in my sexuality that I’ve felt in my entire life,” she revealed.
“So it feels almost perfect that I’m attending my first Pride now because I just feel unequivocally proud and excited to be part of this community.”
While her family would have been supportive, she said she still subconsciously hid her sexuality for years, partly due to the lack of education.
“I didn't know I was gay until I was 23. I went to school in a place where being gay wasn't cool,” she explained. “And so I think the more we talk about it, the more we celebrate it.”
When she was younger, Rose’s dad once told her that he and her mum wouldn’t mind if she was gay, which they’d also said to her brothers.
But, she added, “At the time I didn't really understand what gay was. And because they didn't teach you about it at school, they only taught you about heterosexual sex, they only taught you about heterosexual relationships.”
Sadly, Rose’s dad passed away before she came out. “But I know if he’d been around, he would have absolutely loved it,” she said.
A role model in the LGBTQ+ community
Rose uses her voice to help raise awareness in her own unique, but important way.
“I'm a very light-hearted presenter. So for me, it's about integrating it into normal conversation,” she explained, which often happens live on her Kiss Breakfast show with Jordan and Perri. “So it's not me talking about LGBTQ+ issues – I mean, I do do that too – but my way of doing it is by normalising it,” she said.
“So I’m joking on the radio about a girl that I fancy that doesn't fancy me back, or I'm joking about being single and looking for a girlfriend, so when you’re on the school run and you’re sat with your mum and dad, they’re hearing that.”
“I think I have a lot of privilege,” she added. “ I'm a white middle-class woman, I do a job I'm very lucky to do. And so, by normalising myself in that position, I hope it helps to normalise that for others too.”
Rose said it blows her mind when parents contact her and thank her for talking about her sexuality because it’s helped their child.
“If a parent can come to you and say thank you… that is all I care about – that I am doing something that is making one person in North Yorkshire or in the Midlands or somewhere random feel more comfortable about being themselves, that is my job done,” she said.
She was joined on the Pride march in Brighton by thousands of other people – including around 100 Yahoo employees - all happy to embrace who they are, or supporting others to be who they are.
Harriet wasn't the only one feeling the love in the city. A man in a clown costume, MD Nazir Uddin, had the words 'Love Pride' written on the cheek and was decorated in flowers and Pride flags. Uddin told us, “After two years we are finally able to do Pride again, so it’s good to meet lots of people from the community.
“Pride is a movement where we fight for our rights and it feels so great to be a part of the parade.”
Thomas, 33, a Yahoo employee who had travelled to the event from Belfast, agreed, “It’s fab, it’s the first time I’ve walked a work parade – and my first Pride back since the pandemic.”
And the highlight of the day? “The House of Suarez dancers, one million percent.”
Watch: What Brighton Pride means to me