CITY DWELLER MAGAZINE SPEAK TO THE DIRECTOR OF LEEDS PRIDE, ALEXANDRA MCEWAN-HANNANT
Can you tell us about your current job and what your job entails?
I have worked at Leeds Council in a number of roles including regeneration and equality. I am currently a Policy Manager at Leeds City Council where I lead the policy and projects team within the Chief Executive’s Office. We support the Chief Executive and other senior leaders on key policy areas such as a devolution for Yorkshire, the Northern Powerhouse and working with other core cities across the UK to lobby on key policy agendas that impact on cities. We also deliver projects such as the Yorkshire Olympians homecoming that took place in 2016. It is interesting really!!
Please can you tell us about your involvement with Leeds Pride?
I have been involved with Leeds Pride since the beginning, nearly 12 years ago now. For the first few years I organised the council’s attendance at Leeds Pride. On the first year there were around 15 of us walking behind a banner in tee shirts that didn’t quite fit, not really sure what to expect but we all knew that we just had to be there. With my wife Heather and our friend Mike we even made it on to the front page of the YEP! We still have our first whistle.
I have been a Director of Leeds Pride for the last 7 years and over that time Leeds Pride has grown to an event that brings in over 40,000 people into the centre of Leeds to celebrate the diversity and contribution of LGBT+ people to our city. The best moment for me every year is watching the Parade leave Millenium Square and seeing the thousands of LGBT+ people, their friends, families and allies very loudly and with so much joy celebrate the diversity of the LGBT+ community. But Pride events are also a reminder that not everyone has the same freedom to be themselves and in many places around the world people are persecuted for who they are. In the UK, Homophobic and Transphobic attacks are on the rise and the Leeds Pride Parade is an important sign of solidarity for the LGBT+ community in Leeds and worldwide.
What would you say to anyone reading this who would like to follow in your footsteps?
Don’t feel you have to do everything right the first time, learn from your mistakes. Spend time with people who you love and love you back, volunteer or do a job that challenges you and where you can make a difference. Be true to who you are and follow your own instincts. And finally don’t live your life through social media. It isn’t real life,there are too many egos out there wanting attention and they will just distract you!
What do you do to relax?
Try to turn my phone off – this doesn’t happen enough! But when I do get a chance – my ideal weekend is to go off with my wife in our camper van somewhere remote and watch the stars.
If you could have two guests dead or alive to a dinner party who would they be and why?
Billie Holiday – my dad is a great fan of hers so I was brought up on her music. Her back catalogue is amazing. It exposed the racial and gender inequalities of the time and they still exist. She worked with some wonderful musicians but so much negativity has been written about her life that I would want to hear her side of her story. And maybe a bit of a sing along! My Grandfather Noah Gwynn Butcher – who instilled in me a love of Wales, Welsh Rugby Union and also ‘proper’ beer.
I had my first pint with him! He didn’t mind me sharing a bedroom with my girlfriend (now my wife) when other members of my family were still getting their heads around it and he wrote me wonderful letters every year on my birthday. I really miss those! I would like to tell him that I am ok and
to spend the night watching Wales thrash England with him shouting at the referee.