Press & Media

We are extremely grateful for the continuous coverage we receive from local media including: Reading Today, B Radio Berkshire, GetReading, Reading Chronicle, ITV News Meridian, BBC Radio Berkshire, BBC South Today and others.

For press enquires and insights into LGBT+ issues and media appearances please contact us directly on 0118 304 5424 or through our contact form.

History & Background


  • In 2002, founding member, Leslee Barron organised a ‘question time’ type debate after 39 church leaders had signed an open letter which appeared on the cover of the Reading Chronicle stating they were against the repeal of section 28. Over 150 local people attended. Angela Mason director of Stonewall, at the time, was on the panel with church leaders and other LGBT activists.

    At the end of the debate, some of the church leaders removed their names from the letter. This convinced Leslee that positive communication, discussion and visibility were essential if ever we were to be accepted as part of the community in Reading.

    It was very important to Leslee that it would be a festival for all the community so had to be family friendly, it would be free and happen in September, the last festival of the year.


  • Leslee Barron then began some market research by compiling a questionnaire across the then three LGBT venues The Dove Inn, The Granby and The Wynford Arms and also across Reading University [now named University of Reading] which yielded a very positive response to have a Pride festival in Reading.
  • Planning then began for the very first festival began by building a team of dedicated campaigners and in March they had their very first meeting.
  • Reading Pride Limited was registered with Companies House.


  • The first Reading Pride festival took place on 4th September 2004. It was the first town Pride festival to take place in the United Kingdom.
  • Leslee Hopper, then Chairperson said:

    During our first meeting in March last year we decided on our theme, which is a celebration of diversity, and we took the commitment that it would be free and open to all.

    It’s the first Pride to take place here, it’s the first to be held in a town rather than in a city, it’s also the first in Berkshire and the nearest free Pride to London.

    In terms of crowd attendance, we are expecting at least 5,000 people [throughout the day] and hopefully many more, so come and have fun. It’s just another excuse for a party, and it’s not a political statement.


  • Jamie Wake, set out the very first memorandum and registered the organisation with the Charity Commission. The very first trustees were elected that year after forming a membership with the local community.
  • Introduction of the Parade arranged by the Wynford Arms through Reading.


  • Reading Pride took over the Parade from the Wynford Arms with a new central starting point.
  • We gave out our very first Pride Awards:

    • John Woods – Lifetime Achievement Award
    • Dennis Hambridge – LGBT Campaigner Award
    • SohoBoyz – LGBT Charity/Business Award
    • Chris Gibbons / Stonewall – LGBT Impact Campaigner Award
    • Simon Hallam & Sue Green – Community Campaigner Award


  • Reading Pride was awarded the “LGBT Event of the year” from Canterbury Pride, for a back to basics and on message celebration in January 2010.
  • Diane Abbot MP became a Patron, she said:

    I am absolutely thrilled to have been offered the opportunity to become a Patron of Reading Pride.

    So many towns and cities across the country see local pride events as an important part of their summer calendar – I hope that the next few years brings us greater equality – gay marriage, greater protection for trans people, blood service reform and gay families being seen as equal and important has heterosexual families.

    And I hope that by working with Reading Pride we can do our bit to make this a reality.

  • Lorna McArdle, then chair received a Pride of Reading Award for Cultural Contribution.
  • We gave out the following awards:

    • Lorna McArdle – Lifetime Achievement Award
    • Roy Perestrello – Best LGBT Campaigner [in Reading]
    • Thames Valley Positive Support – Best LGBT Charity [in Reading] with a £100 donation
    • The Granby – The Best LGBT Friendly Venue [in Reading]


  • Reading Pride received a call from the public that it needed a support service in the town. A survey was put out at the festival which was then used to ask the council to support some premises, which was granted.
  • Lorna McArdle later stepped down as Chair along with Andrew Stonehill-Brooks then Volunteer Coordinator to focus on Support U and remains there today.


  • As a Pride of Reading Award winner in 2010, Lorna McArdle was selected to be a Torchbearer for the Olympics.


  • At the 2013/14 AGM, Kerry Kleis and Beth Wright put forward a motion to change the acronym used from “LGBT” to “LGBT+”. Despite some resistance to the change, the motion was passed.
  • Christina Dearlove, Kerry Kleis and Beth Wright combined their community liaison roles into what would be the foundations of the MyUmbrella LGBT+ project.


  • The MyUmbrella LGBT+ project was officially launched at the 2015 festival.
  • We gave out the following awards:

    • Mikey Russell – Long Service & Commitment [to Reading Pride]
    • Christina Dearlove – Outstanding Personal Contribution [to Reading Pride]
    • Simon Hallam & David Milward – Exceptional Contribution to the LGBT+ Community
  • On the 19th of December, Selwyn Jones, one of our long-standing Trustees, who played a leadership role in Reading Pride from the very outset, passed away. Andrew Adams, then chair said:

    Sel touched the lives of everyone who knew him with his positivity and enthusiasm – Pride simply would not be what we are without him. His loss leaves a gap that we can never fill, but if he were here he would tell us to shut up and get on with it, so Pride 2016 will be a tribute to Sel, in every way possible.


  • Mikey Russell Reading Pride’s principle web designer rolled out a stronger strategic online presence including the pioneering educational work carried out by MyUmbrella LGBT which he steers forward as a trustee.
  • The 2016 festival was dedicated to Selwyn Jones.


  • In 2017 Reading Pride adopted the “Love Unites” festival brand building the on ideals of uniting everyone together to stamp out hate which Reading Pride Chairman Paul Britt brought in with a new fresh brand paying homage to the civil rights campaign marshaled by Shepherd Fairey’s Hope Poster..
  • Since then Reading Pride “Love Unites Festival” has enjoyed international coverage including many brands adopting the Love Unites inclusion brand into their support for LGBT+ people globally.
  • To show our commitment to diversity, Reading Pride for the first time joined the Reading Caribbean Carnival Parade on top of an open bus named Fernanda courtesy of Reading Buses.
  • The Pride aLive Stage made its first appearance at the festival, starting out with acoustic artists from the local LGBT+ community and its allies.
  • We dedicated the “Selwyn Jones Award” in his name for significant contribution to the Reading LGBT+ Community.
  • We gave out the following awards:

    • Laurence O’Meara – Selwyn Jones Award


  • We gave out the following awards:

    • Richard Powell – Selwyn Jones Award
    • Martin Cooper, Bradley Cooper, Lee Krafft (as Wilma Fingadoo) – Exceptional Service to Reading Pride
    • Steve Winter-Gray – Exceptional Service to the MyUmbrella LGBT+ project


  • On the 9th of June, Alice Driver (28) died from a brain tumour. Alice had been diagnosed for nine years but this did not stop her shear determination to campaign as a feminist and LGBT+ rights activist. She also was a strong advocate for LGBT+ refugees and asylum seekers fleeing persecution and death threats at in their home nations.
  • We dedicated the “Alice Driver Award” to highlight those like Alice who have worked tirelessly for the community.
  • The PrideXtra Cabaret Stage made its first appearance at the festival after high demand for more drag at the festival.
  • We gave out the following awards:

    • Mark Lawrence – Selwyn Jones Award
    • Charlene Chetty – Alice Driver Award
  • On the 19th of October, Reading Pride coordinated a protest “Get The Chick Out” against a newly opened Chick-fil-A restaurant within the Oracle Shopping centre. The chain’s owners are known for their anti-LGBT+ stance and for funding directly/in-directly organisations that run conversion therapy and promote hate campaigns towards the LGBT+ community in The USA.

    Chair, Paul Britt said:

    As a community organisation we listened to the community, and they were very loud, and very clear that they do not want this organisation in Reading. The protest that has been organised is an appropriate and just response, and we hope that we can see the removal of this outlet from our town. We will welcome a company with a better track record of LGBT rights in its place.


  • On the 20th of June: Joe Richie-Bennett (39), James Furlong (36) and David Wails (49) were fatally stabbed in Forbury Gardens by a hate filled terrorist. Martin Cooper our then CEO said:

    James, Joe, and David were true gentlemen. Each with their own unique personality. They were regulars of the Blagrave, a community pub, who’s regulars will be in mourning. They were a support network for individuals, and I know they will be sorely missed by many.

    We will come together as a community.

    We will work with local authorities as well as with the families and friends of the victims. We will work to make things better and assist if there is any shortfall in any aspect of this atrocity.

    Love Unites, and we must rally together as a community. We must be there for each other.

  • In October, during COVID-19, Reading Pride put on a “Digital Together” online event whilst it was not possible to put the annual Parade & Festival on.
  • To lift peoples spirits, Reading Pride created a Christmas themed animated video that was part of What’s On Reading’s Digital Advent Calendar video series. Pay attention and look out for the “easter eggs” contained within.


  • We dedicated the festival to the Forbury Three: Joe, James and David.
  • The Community Area was introduced to provide a space for our local LGBT+ charities and organisations that qualified for our Community Fund to be visible and accessible.
  • We gave out the following awards:

    • Marc Ambercrombie & Marc Allridge – Selwyn Jones Award
    • Chris Brookes – Alice Driver Award


  • We gave out the following awards:

    • Jamie Wake – Selwyn Jones Award
    • Jamie Dewson & Oliwia Budzinska, Support U – Alice Driver Award
    • Family Liaison Team – Love Unites Local Heroes Award
    • Kerry Kelis & Sophie Sheehan – Exceptional Service to Reading Pride
    • Martin Cooper – Long Service & Commitment to Reading Pride

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