This year, Newry Rainbow Community’s PRIDE festival was bigger and better than ever, thanks to a £10,000 grant from big Lottery Fund’s Awards for All programme. It’s a different picture than the situation for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in Newry several years ago. (see full list of recent Awards for all grants across Northern Ireland)
“The support was amazing. The atmosphere was so positive and welcoming,” said Damian McKevitt, Secretary of the group. “When I was a teenager growing up in Newry LGBT people got a lot of verbal abuse and mistreatment. I wouldn’t have believed then that this parade could ever happen in Newry, but the change in the past ten years has been monumental.”
The festival included a parade, street performers, an arts and crafts fair, children’s arts, family entertainment and music. There were about 500 participants and over 6,000 people came along to watch and get involved in the activities.
Damian said Newry has lately become one of the most accepting and inclusive towns in Northern Ireland. Before their first Pride Parade four years ago, they were nervous, not knowing what the reception would be, and whether they might encounter hostility.
“But we were surprised and delighted on the day. It was incredible, the number of people that came out to tell us they support and welcome us. And it has just gotten bigger and better since then.
“These days many young people in the area are happy to be out and visible. But that didn’t just happen by fluke. It is the result of many years of work raising awareness and visibility for our community.”
That work was kick-started by a grant from Big Lottery Fund in 2006 for workshops and events. In 2009, they received an Awards for All grant to set up an LGBT Drop-in Information and Advice centre in Newry. Since then, the group has received Awards for All funding nearly every year to support their good work.