The sixth annual Preston Pride event hit the city on Saturday (9 September) with volunteer-led stalls and entertainment running from 11am – 4pm and official after parties continuing well into the night.Advertisement
The celebrations took place outside the Harris Museum in what is being hailed as Preston’s biggest Pride event yet.
Following a call to arms in 2011 from the LGBT community, a Pride Committee was set up with the intention of pitting Preston alongside the other 100+ cities across the county that hold annual Pride celebrations.
Preston had never hosted a Pride before this date and it was therefore decided that the very first event would take place in 2012, coinciding nicely with Preston’s Guild year.
Committee member and one of the event’s organisers, Andy Neale, said: “2012 was the first time in a Guild Year that there was an openly LGBT presence. It was brilliant and the reaction from the community was beautiful.
“We see Pride events in places such as Manchester as mainstream festivals rather than a Pride activity, so our idea was to create a free community event with opportunities for social and
“We target people just in the city centre, so the grannies with their trollies or the families who are out and about doing their shopping who don’t know it’s Pride. They see the stalls all set up so they come over and start talking to stall holders. With Preston [the acceptance] is a lot more positive than you’d imagine and year on year we’ve seen a bigger presence from the young people’s sector too which is really nice.”
Pride Committee Chairperson, Debs Bradshaw, commented: “For me, it’s a visibility thing. The LGBT community is still very much hidden, even though we’re in 2017, so it’s about showing support more than anything. We’re actually very well supported by the community and the Council have been fantastic in previous years, helping us with funding. Sadly though, this year, they were unable to provide us with any funding, although one councillor did give us some money out of his own personal pot so we were really pleased.
“All the stalls that you see here today are from organisations that use the event to show they’re inclusive of LGBT people, and they also want to promote their services. We have stalls from the Police, the Council, the NHS, Unison, Intact Community Centre, Disability Equality North West, the Women’s Sector, and Community Gateway who have been our main funders for the last three years. It’s great.”
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This year has been a particularly special year for all involved in Preston Pride, and none more so than the volunteers and organisers themselves.
Andy continued: “The significance of 2017 is it’s the 50th anniversary of the part-decriminalisation of homosexuality. It means significant steps started to be made this time 50 years ago for gay men. It was a start in acknowledging that there wasn’t any illegality, immorality or mental illness involved with homosexuality.”
Debs commented: “Earlier this year we got involved in a project regarding the men in Chechnya who’d been incarcerated because of their sexuality. And we’ve just found out that some of the work we’ve done has enabled 31 men to be released from prison, so we’re dead chuffed to have had a little part in that.”
Throughout the day, stall holders, volunteers, entertainment providers and drag acts were seen treating the city centre audiences to a plethora of free music, cakes, raffles, song and dance. Many of the stalls provided information, advice or support on a number of different issues, from housing to disability, and not just for the LGBT community but for everyone.
Steph Lees-Pinson from Intact Community Centre in Ingol said: “We’ve got a stall here today because we celebrate community. It’s great to see an event like this going on and so many young people getting involved. It’s been a really good turnout, it’s brilliant, and the atmosphere is electric.”
Ash Eastham, 16, from Preston, was one of the many young people who attended and took part in this year’s events. Identifying as gay and transgender, she first got involved in Pride through the LGBT Youth Group, POUT. POUT is an LCC funded group; it’s a place where young people can go and meet in a safe and confidential space and discuss and share experiences, celebrate diversity, and get support or advice regarding sexuality or sexual identity issues.
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Ash said: “Pride is a celebration of myself and other people and it makes me feel incredibly proud.
“The turnout is great and I hope that these events make a change for people. I hope that people come to them and learn more about the LGBT Community to fight homophobia and transphobia.”
The event on Saturday was a huge success with more than 1000 people expected to have attended throughout the day.
And with Roper Hall hosting the official Pride after party, and bars such as Yates, Hogarth’s and Switch getting involved, it can only pave the way for bigger and better things in the future.
Andy said: “My aim and I think I speak on behalf of others on the committee too, is to make this more for the young people – giving them an environment where they think, ‘you know what, this is ok’. If they’re struggling themselves, or if they’re struggling to come to terms with their sexuality it’s a day of the year where they can fit in.”
Debs ended with: “We’d love to have a parade for Pride but road closures are very expensive. Who knows though, money and funding permitting, hopefully next year…maybe.”