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PRIDE IN BELPER – the move to online and this year’s plans!

By Abby Hills

Did you know that June was Pride Month? And did you also know that we have our very own Belper Pride event happening very soon? Well, if you weren’t aware of this, then you have to read this article – the plans sound incredible, especially for the younger people in Belper.

I was lucky enough to have a zoom meeting with the Chair of Pride in Belper, Sarah Barley – McMullen, and Diversity and Inclusion Advocate (and amazing children’s author), Fliss Goldsmith, to talk about this year’s Pride in Belper plans, and how they have made sure the celebrations, this year, are covid safe. I hope you enjoy!

Q: Can you tell me what the Pride Celebrations are in Belper this year?

Sarah: So, this year, we are currently making as we speak, a Community Progress Rainbow where we ask people via social media to send in different colours of items they see or own. It’s a Pride Progress flag because it includes black and brown for Black and Asian minority ethnic communities as well as the Trans colours, which is really important to us in Belper. The finished result will be on banners around the town. We are also sending letters to all the shops, all the pubs, all the bars, all the churches, Medical Practices and all the schools in the town, encouraging them to get involved! This is because Pride in Belper is a celebration of everyone; it is about normalising sexuality and gender self-identity, because we need to reflect the world we live in so younger people, and older people, feel as though they belong here and feel safe. We need to learn to live together so let’s start by doing it in a celebratory way!

Fliss: Of course it’s about everybody, it’s about all ages and we wanted to create some things for the children, to get them involved. It’s a little bit tricky with it being online but we love a challenge so we have a lovely program of events happening especially for the kids! We have some local authors Nancy and Sophie (and myself included), who are going to be reading their books; Nancy will be reading her book, Pride Cat, and Sophie will be reading her book, Mary. They are also going to hold a craft session where you can join in online and I am going to do a reading of my book, Erin and Roderick Discover Families. I am also holding a fabulous family workshop after that as well, where you can create a positivity poster about you, who you are and your family!

A lovely young man called Kieron Palmer, who is Belper’s answer to Joe Wicks, will be doing a Fitness session for the kids and he’s going to make sure the activities can be adapted so he’ll be focusing on accessibility to make everyone can join in.

We also have Maya Scott Mitchell from Selenite Wellbeing who will be doing a mindfulness and breathwork session for the kids to help with their mental health and Jacqui Davis from Twistin’ Tots will be doing three sessions, so there will be a lot of singing along, lots of music and lots of fun and energy!

We have a piece of drama from Captive Audience which will be reflecting on the values of Pride which will be great and, out in the town, in Morrisons and at the Co-op, there will be displays throughout the month of August which will be created by local nurseries and local primary schools. The children are going to be reflecting Pride in Belper, so, on these display’s, there will be things on there that they’re proud of, and this could be about themselves, about their family, or about their town. Also, especially this last year with the pandemic, we want them to take a step back and realise how strong and incredible, how resilient, how passionate and how understanding they have been so the display will be really bright, filled with pictures and crafts, to show the people of the town, what the children are really proud of.

Q: Why is it important to include kids in events like this?

Fliss: So, I believe it’s essential to include kids within Pride. You can either spend a small amount of time talking about diversity, inclusion, and accessibility when they’re young or not spending that time educating them and having them struggle because of a lack of access and exposure to understand this when they’re older.

In my opinion, kids are born inherently kind and curious and if you answer their questions with kindness and allow curiosity to be explored and expressed, then the kids will grow up to be the generation who understand that love is love and love is limitless.

If you acknowledge and explore with them the things they say early on, and explain why an alternative is better, then this is the best way forward and Pride celebrations will give you the confidence to do this, and even ask questions yourself.

Sarah: Well, the pragmatic view is that it’ll save a fortune on therapy when you’re older haha!

It can take so much courage to be the person you know you really are. If you enable children to explore who they are when they start thinking about their identity and what they enjoy and what they don’t enjoy, then this will give them some of the skills and confidence to grow up feeling as though they belong and know they are being listened to and heard.

The thing is, we don’t need to give children a voice – they already have a voice, but as adults what we need to do is to listen to that voice and we have a lot of learning to do around listening. Passion and listening is the game changer.

Q: How is Pride in Belper different to other Pride festivities?

Fliss: So my point of view is that there is a similarity in the fact that it is still a Pride festival which looks at LGBTQ+ elements of celebrations, of how far people have come and the struggles people have had to face to get to where they are and be open about their sexuality. But Pride in Belper isn’t just about that, it’s about Pride in every single person in the town.

It’s like there’s an invisible rainbow thread that goes around and connects people in Belper and allows them to say this is me and this why I’m proud of myself. But it also allows them to see other people, to have the visibility of them and to see the value in them and say, “Hey this is great about you” and then that person goes, “Hey yeah that is great about me” and so passes it on. And as the years go on, in ten years’ time, I’m sure Pride in Belper will be even more enormous. The difference is, the ability to connect every single person in the town and to make them all feel included.

Sarah: Pride in Belper is bringing together all the wonderful things that already exist in Belper. What difference does it make who you self-identify as? As long as you are kind, you listen passionately and have the courage to be the person who you know you really are, then you are likely to grow up as compassionate and value driven adult.

But we can’t forget that Pride is also a protest – we must talk about things like banning conversion therapy, hate crime, mental health rates in young LGBTQ+ adults and the high suicide rates in our communities and around the world.

Other Pride events can put people in boxes. Where in Belper, it’s different; it’s about taking away those labels because Pride in Belper celebrates everyone, but there is still a lot of levelling up that has to happen and visibility that has to be created, not just in Belper, but all round the world. Labelling people can segregate them, but by levelling up, everyone feels a part of the process; if you celebrate something, generally you want to learn more.

Q. Has the pandemic affected the Pride celebrations in the town?

Sarah: Last year we had planned road closures as the ‘Strutt’ (Parade) was going to be much longer. We had planned Samba bands, Trent Barton buses were getting involved and the town Council were behind it again. There was going to be more music, and entertainment with the top half of King Street cordoned off. The same message was planned – we are here to be inclusive and not to identify difference, but to celebrate diversity.

We had planned a film festival (which is still happening this year) and even though it’s online again this year, we are pushing the message that you can still celebrate, but in smaller groups. You can send us pictures which we will put on our website to show what the town of Belper is proud of!

Q: What are the key dates we should pop in our diary?

Sarah: So the month of June is Pride month, but here in Belper, we don’t just celebrate Pride in June. The main event is happening on the weekend of the 21-22 August, and we are going to encourage shops to decorate windows and encourage cafés and restaurants to celebrate too. The online events will be happening from 11am – 4pm on the Saturday and Sunday but on the 23rd August, there is no reason to stop celebrating and showing your support. It’s our responsibility and it’s the kind thing to do. Love should always win.

Pride in Belper has been nominated for a National Diversity Award and you can vote for them here at: https://nationaldiversityawards.co.uk/nominate/36415/?fbclid=IwAR2i_Vp6LV0snOFFrfiZcwbkPX9my1S56Q7B7Ba7v-I-RTFbd5W8leVLeYs

To keep up to date with their plans and announcements, their Facebook page can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/prideinbelper

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