By Chloe Kerfoot

To mark the 41st anniversary of the UK’s first national Pride march in Huddersfield, a newly-commissioned portrait exhibition opens on Saturday July 9.

The exhibition at the Lawrence Batley Theatre is by Huddersfield-born and internationally-acclaimed photographer Ajamu X.

On July 4 1981, Huddersfield hosted the first-ever national Pride celebration. The exhibition – entitled: ‘The Day the World Came to Huddersfield’ – will feature 20 original portraits of people who marched on that special day as well as people who are part of the LGBTQ+ community in Huddersfield today.

Ajamu X saw the Pride march through Huddersfield town centre in 1981 and hopes the exhibition will bring the past into dialogue with the present.

In response to police raids on Huddersfield gay bar The Gemini, London Pride organisers decided to relocate the march to Huddersfield in a show of solidarity. The Gemini was the most popular gay bar in the North of England, with people travelling from miles around.

Huddersfield was the place to be before there was much of a nightlife for the LGBTQ+ community in nearby cities Leeds and Manchester.

The exhibition is free to the public and will run at the Lawrence Batley Theatre from July 9 to September 9 2022. After that, the portraits will become a part of the permanent collection at Huddersfield Art Gallery.

The exhibition has been made possible by funding from the Arts Council of England, Kirklees Council and LGBT+ History Month UK.

Ajamu X said: “It’s very special to me to be able to take these portraits celebrating the hidden queer history of my hometown.

“As a 17-year-old, stood on street corner watching the Pride 1981 march go by, I had no idea of the life that lay ahead of me. To return now to celebrate that moment is a unique opportunity to show and celebrate the true diversity of communities in Huddersfield.”

Prof Sue Sanders, chair LGBT+ History Month and Schools OUT UK, said: “This is an extraordinary exhibition. The first national Pride in Huddersfield in 1981 is a wonderful piece of forgotten history that needs to be known across the UK.

“These astonishing portraits are not just creating some wonderful new art, they are leaving a legacy for Huddersfield, a lasting memory of its own past.”