A WAVE of support is being made for Wokingham’s first-ever Pride celebration later this month.
Although not a fully-fledged event as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, there will be virtual events running over social media.
Pride is an event that celebrates lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, non-binary and queer (LGBTQ+) social and self-acceptance, and usually includes a parade and a one-day outdoor festival featuring singers, stalls and celebrations.
Wokingham councils are planning to fly a flag in support and organisers have create a print-out flag for people to display in their windows.
They have also been visiting shops, churches and businesses to share flags.
“I’ve been giving out pride flags in the town centre”, says Rachel Bishop-Firth. “They’ve been very well received, and a lot of businesses are putting them out already.
“Those who want to buy a larger flag should be able to pick up a huge 5×3 flag online for under £5 with free postage.”
Anna Box, who set up the Wokingham Pride Facebook group two weeks ago, says: “We already have 145 members who are sharing messages supporting the event. There’s a free poster on the page which people can print off and put in their windows.”
And Wokingham resident Lizzie Bishops said that she has changed her plans for Pride this year, because of Covid-19.
“I usually go to a big event such as Pride in London,” she said. “That won’t be possible this year, but I’m getting ready for a Pride in the back garden celebration with my housemates.”
Organisers said that the lockdown means that there is to be a more sombre side to the Pride event this year.
Many young people have found the lockdown difficult and young LGBT+ people who feel cut off from a supportive community have found it particularly hard.
The Reading and Wokingham community is also mourning the loss of the three local men who lost their lives in Forbury Garden on Saturday, June 21, who were all LGBTQ+ supporters.
“We’re gathering and publishing sources of help and support on the Wokingham Pride Facebook Page,” said Anna Box.
There is support from across the spectrum. Lib Dem councillor Prue Bray has printed out a Pride poster to display in her window, and Labour is also backing the event.
Wokingham Labour’s Cllr Abby Tebboth said: “The Labour Party has a proud tradition of supporting LGBT+ issues and Wokingham Pride is a wonderful way of demonstrating the town’s inclusivity and welcoming nature in these difficult times.
“All local Labour Councillors join with me in supporting Wokingham Pride”
Last month, Cllr Halsall told Wokingham.Today that the borough council will continue to offer its support to the initiative.
“A Pride event would be quite fun,” he said, expressing sadness that the event can’t go ahead this year.
“Equality and diversity has to be in our DNA, it has to be part of who we are and what we do.”
And there is support from organisations too.
Jake Morrison, chief executive of Citizens Advice Wokingham, said: “I’m really delighted to support Wokingham LGBT+ Pride on behalf of Citizens Advice Wokingham, but also as a gay man working to support our communities.
“The Citizens Advice service champions equality, LGBT+ pride is one way to support that in our communities. But we must also remember that pride is much more than just a celebration, our LGBT+ communities still disproportionately experience mental health problems and experience hate crime.
“Standing together, supporting each other and valuing others is important, as well as recognising the efforts of those in the movement before us.”
And Thames Valley Positive Support, a charity that works with people who are affected by HIV, is also getting behind the event.
It aims to build awareness for preventive interventions, and uses advocacy services for people with positive status as well as empowering individuals who have been impacted by the disease.
CEO Sarah Macadam, CEO of TVPS, said “We are delighted to be supporting Wokingham’s first pride event to show support to, and to celebrate, our LGBTQ+ community. We urge as many people as possible to support this event – it would be great to see Wokingham covered in rainbows.”
For more details, search Facebook for “Wokingham LGBT+ Pride – 11th July 2020”.