Last weekend marked the fifth North Wales Pride at Hendre Hall in Bangor and it is currently the only welsh pride event north of Swansea and Cardiff. In the north, we are a world away from Cardiff and it is quicker and easier to get to London than it is our own capital. This separation is reflected in the the lack of services on offer to the LGBT community in rural North Walian towns and villages.
Like all other pride events, North Wales Pride is primarily a celebration but it also provides a place for people to network with and get advice from a range of LGBT service providers such as Stonewall Cymru, The Terrence Higgins Trust, VIVA LGBT youth group, Wipe Out Transphobia, MESMAC and North Wales Police Diversity Unit. For LGBT people living in rural North Wales, physical access to these services is extremely limited and the event allows people the opportunity to access them all in one place.
Rural communities in Wales still have relatively high levels of discrimination towards the LGBT community. By their very nature, small villages can be cliquey and it can be difficult for LGBT people to be open in these kinds of settings. This is why in many ways, pride events in rural locations are more important than their bigger counterparts. They provide essential environments for LGBT people to have the freedom and safety to be themselves. Have you ever thought how much guts it must take for a trans person to go out in public as themselves for the first time? Well now imagine doing that in a small Welsh town.
Despite their importance, small pride events can struggle to get the essential funding that is needed to make them happen. Large companies like to support large prides and it seems that it’s more a case of wanting to be seen to help, rather than wanting to help. Tesco for example sponsored London Pride. I don’t know the actual figure but I would imagine that it was hundreds of thousands of pounds. The Bangor branch of Tesco kindly donated £40 out of their tiny community budget and it’s a shame that Out at Tesco didn’t respond to the store’s request for greater support. Because it’s not that the local stores don’t want to help, it’s the larger organisation as a whole that doesn’t give them the funds required to make a difference at the grass roots level.
Tesco is in the top 5 largest companies in the world. If they really wanted to help I’m certain that they can dig a bit deeper and give local stores bigger community budgets. But then why would they? The media don’t care about small community groups, so no one would get know what a great LGBT friendly company they are. Well, I say no one, but the people who rely on small pride events would know and they would be a hell of a lot more appreciative than most of the people who go to London Pride – you know, the people who have a whole gay area in the city and all the services they could ever want.
I don’t want to be seen to be singling out Tesco because other large companies like M&S refused to offer any help at all, citing reasons along the lines of ‘there is no store near to the event’ (even though there is and it’s about 2 miles away). This has to be translated as ‘your event is too small for us to bother helping because we won’t get a huge footfall in our store when people think we are really nice’. That’s not to say that all large companies are disinclined to help however. In previous years, ASDA Bangor and ASDA Pwllheli have both sent staff to volunteer at North Wales Pride and have provided prizes for fundraising.
Now, that leads me on to the media. Local papers like to report relevant local news right? Wrong. I don’t know what it is with local papers in North Wales, but they are a magnet for poor journalism and repeatedly ignore requests for some sort of media coverage of North Wales Pride. They get sent press releases and high quality photos but an article never materialises. It would be nice for the local media to let their LGBT readers know about local events that are relevant to them, but instead they prefer to report on the pressing matters of UFO sightings and vampires.
Thankfully, North Wales Pride has other professional and dedicated media partners like Blazing Minds and The Gay UK. Both of whom not only let the world know that North Wales Pride exists, but come and join in with all aspects of the event.
This year’s North Wales Pride was perhaps the most well received one to date. Messages of compliments have been flooding in from attendees, thanking the (volunteer) organisers for holding the event. Here’s what a few people had to say about the weekend:
It’s such a comfortable, friendly, considerate and kind crowd. I loved every minute of it. The atmosphere was amazing!
I’ve been to many prides across the world and I have never felt such a sense of community and comradery
Last night was brilliant. I had a lovely time and never felt so comfortable in a large crowd. It’s such an important event.
A vigil was held for Orlando.I held my friend next to me as we watched the projection and saw the faces of those that were killed. I cried. And two people came and stood with me. They held me. I didn’t know them at the time and they didn’t know me but they held me because of how sad I was. I won’t forget that moment for the rest of my life.
The committee behind North Wales Pride is looking to grow, so if you would like to join or become a volunteer and be part of an incredibly important LGBT event in the area, please email them at Northwalespride@hotmail.co.uk or visit their website and Facebook for more details.
And if you missed the event, I guess I’ll look forward to seeing you there next year!
Photo credit: Kris Humphreys Photography