We joined the Northumberland Pride celebrations

We joined the Northumberland Pride celebrations

On 2nd June 2018 we attended the inaugural Northumberland Pride in the historic rural market town Alnwick. It was a fantastic day and was one of the most inclusive Pride events we’ve attended – and we’ve attended almost 40. We’re still buzzing from being a part of what was an amazing day for LGBT+ people and inclusion allies in the county and beyond.

The small team of volunteers arranged the biggest, loudest and proudest LGBT+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) celebration the county has ever seen. The event closed the ambitious ‘7 Days of Pride’ that saw events including a ‘5K Fun Run’ with the Alnwick Harriers, the ‘Sing with Pride’ event at Amble Parish Hall, a sold-out quiz night and ‘A Service for Pride’ taking place in the run up to the main Pride day.

Northumberland Pride Founder and Chair Lorna Stewart-Hook said : “Back in July 2017 I attended Northern Pride representing Sodexo and HMP Northumberland. From that I made a comment saying Northumberland really could use a Pride event, or more LGBT visibility. Fast forward a few weeks and we had established a core committee and were making plans to hold the very first Northumberland Pride.”

“The community focussed event started with a vibrant march that snaked through the town centre and residential areas until it reached Alnwick Rugby Club where the main stage and stalls were located”

The community focussed event started with a vibrant march that snaked through the town centre and residential areas until it reached Alnwick Rugby Club where the main stage and stalls were located. Around 500 people were smiling with pride in the march with locals and visitors cheering and smiling back at those taking part. The grass roots march was a sea of colour and positivity.

Organisations and groups who joined in the march included The Co-op – who led the march with their colourful rainbow hearse, Sainsbury’s couldn’t be missed with their ‘Love Pride’ banner, the NHS, HMP Northumberland and Northumberland County Council were well represented, members of the Labour Party were proudly holding their local branch banners and many other organisations marched with pride too. Northumbria Police were a real standout with their #PolicingWithPride van and car that were wrapped in the Pride and transgender flags.

Photo : Northumberland Pride Chair Lorna Stewart-Hook, Sainsbury’s and The Co-op’s rainbow hearse

Once the march ended we were in need of some refreshments, it was a hot day, and there was plenty of choice at Alnwick Rugby Club. Whether you fancied a soft drink, mini (or full size) bottle of prosecco, a pink gin and tonic, beer or wine…you were well catered for. The food tent offered lots of mouth watering choices too.

The free to attend event offered something for all the family. We were impressed to see a fun-fair on the site – we were brave and took our seats on one of the more hair raising rides and we loved it. Often Pride events are focussed around bars and the main stage entertainment so this was positive to see. It’s important to remember that if you’re marketing an event as being family friendly that there are things to keep younger people occupied and interested once they get there. Northumberland Pride made a fantastic effort.

“We came away with a greater understanding of the wider challenges and barriers many LGBT+ people face, especially in more isolated areas where there are fewer support networks and opportunities”

There was a large selection of information stalls on the site, including Christians at Pride and Unison, a health and wellbeing zone and a family zone too. We came away with a greater understanding of the wider challenges and barriers many LGBT+ people face, especially in more isolated areas where there are fewer support networks and opportunities. We filled our tote bag with the freebies on offer too (we love a bag of Haribo). We won’t have trouble finding a pen anytime soon.

The afternoon was filled with diverse entertainment that got the crowds on their feet and singing along. Musical talent included Lorraine Crosby – who sang on Meat Loaf’s ‘I Would Do Anything For Love’, LGBT+ choir Northern Proud Voices, X Factor finalist Niki Evans, folk-rock duo Sound of the Sirens, Northumberland’s Matt Dunbar and up-and-coming singer-songwriter Jess Kemp. The atmosphere was electric. Local venue The Blue Bell hosted the official after-party and Niki Evans belted out a special version of ‘This Is Me’ from the block-buster movie The Greatest Showman. We were singing along!

Photo : The Bangshees female drumming group, Sainsbury’s and Northumbria Police

Taking to the stage, Northumberland Pride Chair Lorna Stewart-Hook was beaming with Pride and said : “The whole of Northumberland has come together for this and it really has been a bit of a whirlwind for the last ten months, but we’ve got there. Today has proved that we’re going in to the 21st century and we’re actually getting somewhere. I think Alnwick might have got a bit of a shock today, and I really hope it did. I’d like to thank everyone who has contributed to the first Northumberland Pride.”

Posting on the Northumberland Pride Facebook page, Susan Kirby said : “We had a great time. My 8 year old son was talking to his friends about it today and why it was important. I heard him questioning his friend because they called something gay – ‘That’s wrong because gay is about 2 people being in love, not a pencilcase!’” So true.

“The whole of Northumberland has come together for this and it really has been a bit of a whirlwind for the last ten months, but we’ve got there”

Inclusive Networks Founder Thomas Anderson is from Alnwick and joined in the Northumberland Pride celebrations. He said : “Lorna and her team did an amazing job making the first event the huge success it was. I never thought I’d see the day I’d be proudly walking through the streets where I grew up with my future husband and hundreds of other LGBT+ people and allies. The day was filled with joy and laughter (and a few tears – more about that in my upcoming blog) and it was awesome to be a part of the first Northumberland Pride – an event that celebrated diversity and inclusion. Well done to everyone involved.”

Photo : Christians at Pride at their stall and the Labour Party in the march

Photo : Businesses in Alnwick fly the Pride rainbow flag with pride

KEEP CONNECTED WITH NORTHUMBERLAND PRIDE :

About The Author

Thomas Anderson

Founder and MD of Inclusive Networks. Thomas was Chair of the award winning LGBT network for The Co-operative Group, ‘Respect’ (2011-14). Thomas named the network and designed and managed all of the branding, communications and engagement until he stepped down from the role of Chair in March 2014. He also created the branding, name, was Editor of the quarterly magazine and developed the launch of the UK’s first Inter-Retail LGBT network ‘CheckOUT’. He contributed to the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index 5 Year review. In recognition of his work in the diversity field he was shortlisted for ‘Diversity Champion of the Year’ at the 2013 European Diversity Awards, shortlisted for ‘Role Model of the Year’ at the 2012 Lesbian & Gay Foundation Homo Heroes Awards and shortlisted for the ‘Positive Action’ award at the 2013 Asian Fire Service Association Fair & Diverse Awards. He also won the 2012 ‘Pride of The Co-operative’ award. He was a judge for Scotland's biggest diversity awards, The Icon Awards in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

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