Organiser of first Stort Valley Pride event in Stortford pledges more services and support for LGBTQ+ community
The organiser of the first Stort Valley Pride festival made a pledge to the LGBTQ+ community on Saturday – they will have more local services and support.
Bishop's Wellbeing youth and community lead Annabelle Caley launched an awareness event at South Mill Arts with an emotional speech. The 10am-4pm event followed an entertaining evening on Friday featuring drag act Crayola, followed by karaoke.
"Why are we here today?" Annabelle asked those gathered at the arts centre in South Road. "We're here because Bishop's Stortford does not have representation for the LGBT community. We're here because we're queer and we deserve to be represented in our community."
Annabelle, who told the Indie she was still working out her sexuality, added that Bishop's Wellbeing would work to bring more local services to the LGBTQ+ community.
She was followed by Bishop's Wellbeing founder Zara Skidmore, who also gave an emotionally charged speech about her journey towards recognition of the issues the LGBTQ+ community faces.
"I'm a 44-year-old heterosexual woman and I couldn't imagine what it's like to be in the LGBT community," said Zara.
She said she had been in denial that it was possible to have homophobic views and after becoming angry she had accepted that she was being passive and was part of the problem.
"I needed to become an ally," said Zara, who added that the challenge was to make hateful behaviour unacceptable. "Join me and pledge to become an ally in our community," she said.
The event featured stalls from groups providing advice and support, including the Terrence Higgins Trust, Red Kite, Hertfordshire police, a social prescriber from the Stort Valley and Villages Primary Care Network and Bishop's Wellbeing.
Visitors had the chance to try out the transgender clothes swap shop and there was a closet people could go inside and then "come out".
Clive Duffey, from the Terrence Higgins Trust, spoke to the Indie about the Ask For Clive scheme, which took his name and which aims to promote inclusion and anti-discrimination in bars and restaurants. He said 3,000 venues, including 120 pubs, had taken part in the scheme nationwide.
Cllr Chris Wilson, a Stortford member of East Herts Council, said he was keen to get the scheme off the ground in the town as he felt it was a "badge of honour" for venues to say they were friendly to the LGBTQ+ community.
Besides the groups offering information and advice, Bishop's Stortford Musical Theatre Company members provided musical interludes and there were stalls offering rainbow "tattoos" and ceramic gifts.