The Historic Market Town of Totnes in rural Devon, saw its fourth Pride event at the weekend, with over 1000 people coming together to celebrate the LGBT+ community.
Organisers of the event, Devon-based social enterprise Proud2Be, laid on a whole host of events in the town in what is now regarded as the UK’s largest rural Pride event.
Mat Price, co-founder of Proud2Be, described Saturday’s pride event as being “our biggest yet”.
Mat said: “A small team of committed volunteers work tirelessly to ensure that Totnes Pride is an event the whole community can be proud of. This year we had twice the number of people marching with us in the procession. Throughout the day, many commented upon how the atmosphere was so welcoming and inclusive – which is our mark of success. It is brilliant to see it grow every year.”
The day began with speeches from Totnes’ Mayor Eleanor Cohen, Helen Belcher and Proud2Be founders Jon & Mat Price.
During their moving speech Jon and Mat said: “We started Proud2Be just over 5 years ago, in our Mum’s spare bedroom with nothing but a message that being different is more than okay, it’s better than okay- it’s perfect. This year has been difficult for so many, particularly those who are often marginalized and now more than ever it is crucial that we stick together, because together we are stronger”.
Speeches were followed by a minute’s silence “for those who can’t be with us anymore”.
A ten-foot tall phoenix puppet led this year’s Procession through the town, with an estimated 400 hundred people marching with flags, banners and placards.
The puppet was the result of a collaboration between Proud2Be and local charity ROC Creative, a dedicated Art project which supports adults with learning disabilities.
ROC Creative Learning Guide Support Worker, Debbie Perry said: “We see Proud2Be as having a similar ethos to ours – to celebrate diversity, promote equality and be proud of all our contributions to the wider community.”
This year’s theme ‘Together We Are Stronger’ struck a chord with many, with one attendee commenting “the march up town was the biggest ever, and for some an emotional experience, the ‘Together We Are Stronger’ message is timely and spot on.”
During the procession, Totnes Methodist Church once again showed their support by standing alongside two large banners in front of the church, with the message: “Christians for an inclusive world! God loves us all just as we are”.
It was at Totnes Civic Hall that attendees enjoyed a whole host of activities including workshops and talks, community stands, Dot’s Cafe, a youth space and a variety of family friendly activities including art and craft, scrap modelling, face painting and much more.
Throughout the day, the rainbow flag could be seen flying above the Civic Hall after a moving ceremony at the beginning of the week to launch the event.
The afternoon saw a panel discussion at Totnes Cinema, where Helen was joined by local activists Saif Ali (Integr8 UK) and Charlie Hindley, to discuss how divisions can be broken down within the LGBT+ community.
Proud2Be co-founder Jon said: “For us Totnes Pride is both a protest and a celebration. It is important that we acknowledge that although we have come so far, there is still a long way to go. All over the world, people are still being victimized for simply being who they are. Pride will be relevant until this is no longer the case. The success of the event has also sent a clear message to the rest of the country, that LGBTQIA+ people do exist outside of large cities like London and Manchester and that Totnes embraces us and celebrates our difference. We are so proud to be living here in Totnes.
“We would like to thank all of our guests, amazing volunteers, the Pride Action Group, and all of our generous funders, sponsors and supporters who helped make the event possible.”