'Exciting times ahead' as Weston-super-Mare Pride is the dubbed best one yet
PUBLISHED: 07:00 03 January 2017 | UPDATED: 10:42 09 January 2017
'The best ever' Weston Pride took over the town's street for 24 hours earlier this year - but the event was just the tip of the iceberg as the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community enjoyed a milestone 2016, with even bigger changes planned for 2017.
Not only will the town’s LGBT forum be recognised as a charity, but huge growth is anticipated in the number of partnerships the organisation enjoys within the community, all designed to ‘support equality and diversity’ in North Somerset. Reporter SHERIDAN ROBINS looks back at the steps Weston’s Pride event has taken to be bigger and better in 2016, and explores how the resources available to the LGBT community are growing year on year.
The highlight of 2016 for Weston’s LGBT community was undoubtedly Pride itself back in July. A sea of colour descended the town and a glittering parade took place from Knightstone Island to Grove Park.
The march was followed by an all-day party in the park and performances from nearly 20 acts thrilled a huge crowd.
Names such as X Factor star Lloyd Daniels and former Eurovision Song Contest contestant Nicki French featured among this year’s highlights, while former The Voice contestant Jordan Gray has already been confirmed for 2017.
Weston Pride organisers say the event’s growth is encouraging, and add they are targeting further improvements – within the limitations imposed by the town’s relatively small size compared to the cities behind some of the nation’s biggest Pride celebrations.
A spokesman for Weston Pride said: “We will never be the Manchester, Liverpool or Birmingham Pride but what we can be is the best Pride Weston can have.”
While this was the biggest event yet, perhaps the most significant change to the LGBT forum was the groundwork put in behind the scenes to help it become a charity.
The Mercury revealed that ambition back in September and the event’s spokesman says this change can be the catalyst which helps the group evolve that one step further.
They said: “The organisation has now nine trustees and the formation of the forum to charity status, will enable to plan and implement further resources to support and sustain equality and diversity in North Somerset.
“The recognition from the police crime commissioner (through a recent award) supports the overall ethos that the team has built the organisation with ongoing commitment and hope to continue its work with individuals and organisation.”
But while North Somerset Council has already pledged its ongoing support, the ‘exciting times ahead’ also include a new partnership with Weston College, more details of which will be revealed next year.
Other impending link-ups include work with North Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group and Alliance Homes, which which will be strengthened by additional funding through Pride’s impending charity status.
But the change has not been easy and organisers credit the remarkable growth to forward-thinking by members of the forum. The spokesman added: “The internal struggles significant in the development and protection of a new forward-thinking community project that held a strong message to bring about community cohesion.
“The compassion and understanding of the supporters of the forum enveloped themselves around the members to ensure a continuation of the network and nurtured it to a position that allowed for additional structure and careful planning allowing any negativity to be cushioned and focus upon its strengths.
“This is a community project for the community and your ongoing support for equality is how we will develop in the years that follow.”