Photo: The 2019 Northumberland Pride march through Alnwick | Credit: Steve Miller

The second Northumberland Pride took place in Alnwick on Saturday 1st June and we were there to join the celebration of LGBT+ life within Northumberland. IT WAS A FANTASTIC DAY AND WAS ONE OF THE MOST INCLUSIVE AND FAMILY FRIENDLY PRIDE EVENTS WE’VE ATTENDED – AND WE’VE ATTENDED ALMOST 50. 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.

We had an awesome time at the inaugural Northumberland Pride in 2018. We attended lots of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT+) Pride events last year and this was definitely a standout. We loved it so much we were proud to throw our support behind helping make the 2019 event even louder and prouder as an official partner of the event. Inclusive Networks’ Founder Thomas Anderson-Thatcher comes from Alnwick in Northumberland and joined the Northumberland Pride 2019 Committee – supporting with branding and marketing.

Northumberland Pride is a lot more than a one day event. The charity has quickly established itself as being a real champion and catalyst for inclusion across one of the UK’s biggest and most isolated counties. Their tagline is ‘Helping make Northumberland a more inclusive place to live, work and visit’, and with the support of their volunteers, sponsors and partners, they’re absolutely doing that with their grass roots and community focussed initiatives and year-round events.

“Northumberland Pride is a lot more than a one day event. The charity has quickly established itself as being a real champion and catalyst for inclusion across one of the UK’s biggest and most isolated counties.”

The 2019 Northumberland Pride celebrations kicked off with a fabulous launch event attended by key supporters, friends and sponsors. Hosted at the famous White Swan hotel in Alnwick, guests gathered to hear about the ‘7 Days of Pride’, the inspiring Northumberland Pride journey and get a sneak peek of the new Northumberland Pride role model videos – supported by the National Lottery Community Fund. Local musicians Matt Dunbar and Melissa Rose performed live and went down a storm, as did the delicious rainbow cupcakes and the special Northumberland Pride ‘Alnwick Gin’. This event was kindly sponsored by Northumberland County Council.

Photo: Bigger, louder and prouder | Credit: Steve Miller & Thomas Anderson-Thatcher

Something different for a Pride event, on Tuesday 28th May Northumberland Pride delivered an event for prisoners at HMP Northumberland in Acklington. Supported by Sodexo Justice Services, the day was filled with talks and presentations, music, team-building games, a craft workshop and information stalls. We hadn’t attended an event in a prison before, and we didn’t really know what to expect. Once we’d passed through security, handed over our phone (a full day without our phone…can you imagine), we quickly relaxed and enjoyed the day. It was great to see the positive impact the event had on the 70 inmates who attended and how the LGBT+ network in the prison helps and supports the rehabilitation of so many people. A former inmate attended the event as a guest and spoke about his new business producing LGBT+ greetings cards – there is life after prison.

‘A Service for Pride’ at St George’s URC in Morpeth followed on Wednesday 29th May. Now an annual service, the inclusive event saw people travel from all over Northumberland to sing uplifting songs and listen to local role models share their own stories of how being LGBT+ affected their personal relationship with their family, religion and the church. We had tears in our eyes on more than one occasion. The event was a real standout for us and the team who delivered the service did a wonderful job creating an event where everyone felt welcome. Thank you for the cake too. We may have sneaked more than one slice (naughty us)! A collection at the event raised £145 for charity Rainbow Home to support their important work with LGBT+ asylum seekers.

“The event was a real standout for us and the team who delivered the service did a wonderful job creating an event where everyone felt welcome.”

Next up was the ‘Northumberland Pride LGBT 5K’ run on Friday 31st May – sponsored by Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and Ability Events. Now in it’s second year, over 120 people took part in the run at Alnwick Rugby Club. Ok, we didn’t take part in the run (we needed to sample the Northumberland Pride gin) but it was wonderful seeing people from all walks of life running with pride – some competitively and some just for fun. The run was a sea of rainbows and colourful costumes. Every participant was rewarded with an amazing medal and goody bag filled with goodies.

Photo: Smiling with Pride | Credit: Steve Miller & Thomas Anderson-Thatcher

After a week of very different, but equally awesome, events it was time for the big one. The main Northumberland Pride event took place on Saturday 1st June – the first day of Pride Month. Over 500 people walked with pride through the streets of Alnwick in the Northumberland Pride march to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York. Cheered on by locals and tourists, the march was big, loud and very proud with organisations including Barnardo’s, National Trust, The Co-op, Sainsbury’s, Sodexo, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, Northumbria Police and LGBT+ Northern Social Group…taking part. Local musical group Rhythm Stix drummed up lots of energy with their renditions of classic pop songs and pride classics. We couldn’t get enough of them.

The local Costa store showed their pride by giving away free drinks to anyone dressed in rainbow colours. We really needed that coffee, thanks Costa! So many local businesses got behind the event and it made us feel proud seeing pride flags flying all over the historic rural market town.

The march ended at Alnwick Rugby Club where over 2,500 people enjoyed a full afternoon of free entertainment, activities and more. There really was something for everyone and the smiles on the faces of pride goers really said it all. There was a fantastic selection of foods stalls catering for all tastes and lots of well stocked bars to keep us all hydrated.

“Over 500 people walked with pride through the streets of Alnwick in the Northumberland Pride march to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York.”

To get things started Northumberland Pride Founder Lorna Stewart-Hook took to the stage to share the importance of events like Northumberland Pride and to encourage everyone to use their voice and speak up for equality and inclusion in all parts of our lives. She was followed by Inclusive Networks Founder and Northumberland Pride Committee Member Thomas Anderson-Thatcher who thanked the event sponsors, supporters and partners for their fantastic and much valued support.

The Northumberland Pride Pop-Up Choir, made up of people who attended special workshops in Hexham, Amble and Bedlington, then filled the stage to sing the now iconic ‘This Is Me’ from the movie The Greatest Showman and ‘Freedom’ by Wham. We were singing along and smiling with pride.

Hosted by Anna Foster, presenter at BBC Newcastle Radio for the North East, the main stage entertainment lineup was impressive, with over five hours of non-stop music. Headlined by X Factor winner Sam Bailey, other performers included Lorraine Crosby (the female singer on Meat Loaf’s ‘I’d Do Anything For Love’ mega-hit), Summerland, Melissa Rose, Khalysis, Matt Dunbar & The Autonomous Collective and Diggin’ the Dancing Queen – The ABBA Show. The majority of the acts were from the North East of England. Our highlight was joining Lorraine Crosby’s ‘Love Train’ that snaked around the festival site and had everyone joining in. The atmosphere was euphoric.

Photo: Amazing entertainment. Local acts & chart-topping stars | Credit: Thomas Anderson-Thatcher

New for 2019 was a Trans Hub which was a safe space offering support and a friendly ear to anyone who needed it. Coordinated by Committee Member and local author Caspar Baldwin, this space was only made possible by the support of Karbon Homes. We heard so many great things about this much needed space, especially in times where hate crimes and hostility against trans people are on the rise. We must support and stand by our trans friends.

Returning was the popular Family and Youth Zone that proved to be a huge success. Highlights included a circus skills workshop, LGBT+ flag making workshop, a rainbow dressing up box, glitter art face painting and rainbow rock painting. This area was really buzzing and it was amazing seeing young people smiling, laughing and enjoying the day. All the activities were free thanks to the support of Sir James Knott Trust.

The Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust Health & Wellbeing Zone was full of organisations and groups doing life changing and important work supporting people across Northumberland. Those sharing and talking about their services included Mind & Soul, Hospice Care Northumberland, Integrated Sexual Health Service, Active Northumberland and LGBT Fed.

“We heard so many great things about this much needed space, especially in times where hate crimes and hostility against trans people are on the rise. We must support and stand by our trans friends”

Over thirty organisations, groups and businesses exhibited at the event, including Stonewall Scotland, Bi Pride UK, Alzheimers Society, National Trust, Guide Dogs and Bee Proud. We came away with a bag full of freebies and amazing locally produced goods. The rainbow cake made by Sweet Surprise was a delight…Wow, we really ate a lot of cake this week.

The event was sponsored by the National Lottery Community Fund, Northumberland County Council, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, Alnwick Town Council, Sodexo Justice Services, Sir James Knott Trust, Karbon Homes and Amble Town Council. Pride Radio aired the event live from their funky new Pride Bus.

Photo: Coming out for LGBT | Credit: Thomas Anderson-Thatcher & Rexie Akwei-Fraser

Well done to the inspiring 2019 Northumberland Pride volunteer committee who worked hard to deliver a fantastic week of inclusive events, and thank you to the many volunteers who supported the event. We can’t wait for the 2020 event!

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT NORTHUMBERLAND PRIDE:

Visit their website at northumberlandpride.org.uk