Ah, go on, go on, go on… to Craggy Island Pride!
Ireland’s Pride season is well underway, with Dublin and Dundalk done and dusted! Next on the calendar is Northwest Pride, and one of the organisers, Izzy Kamikaze, dropped us a line to tell us all about the smallest Pride city in the world!
Northwest Pride – Craggy Island Pride to its many friends – has always been a miracle. Happening in an area with no gay bars and only very infrequent events for LGBT people, Northwest Pride sprang to life in 2006 and managed, from a standing start, to bring hundreds of cheering LGBT people and our families and friends to the streets of Sligo, a town of about 20,000 people!
According to Wikipedia, that unquestionable bible of all that may possibly be kinda true, Sligo is “the smallest Pride city” in the world! How the hell did that happen?
In the beginning…
Really, it comes down to the unshakeable belief of one woman, the one woman I have been lucky enough to spend many years with, Hayley Fox Roberts.
Both of us had previously been involved with Dublin Pride – in fact I had been one of the founders of Dublin Pride, back in the dim and distant days when “everybody” thought a Dublin Pride Parade was a crazy idea! The two of us had moved to rural county Leitrim in 2002, part of the tidal wave of Celtic Tiger refugees, priced out of Dublin.
Being from Liverpool, Hayley did not suffer from the Irish conviction that she would be skinned alive if she stuck her head above the parapet. Being from Carlow, I was not so sure. But my basic position is that, if Hayley Fox Roberts is ever going to get skinned alive on the streets, I will be right next to her, getting slowly roasted on a spit. That’s just the way it is!
And then there was NW Pride – with its own Pride Village – and it was good
So, we gathered a few friends around us and started to spread the word. Northwest Pride was going to happen! It was going to bring together isolated LGBT people from all the under-populated counties in the top left-hand corner of the map, it was definitely going to take to the streets, it was going to be friendly, welcoming and open to all, and it was going to be bloody brilliant!
And it was. Hayley and I were both involved with Sapphic Ireland, the online dyke network of the time. Some of the SI gals were among the first to come on board. One of them checked out self-catering accommodation in the area. Pretty soon, we had negotiated a group discount and Northwest Pride became the first residential Pride weekend in Ireland, with its very own “Pride Village”.
This absolutely made sense. The number one obstacle to doing anything up here in the sticks is the distances people have to travel. For most of us, any night out at all involves an overnight stay. The Pride Village, with its midnight party-hopping and pre-parade fry-ups quickly became an indispensable part of the vibe of Northwest Pride.
A community Pride for proud communities
For me, Northwest Pride is about our right to be a community, not just a consumer group. With no commercial sponsorship and only very limited funding of any kind, Northwest Pride has worked hard to be inclusive.
It was the first Pride in Ireland to have a dedicated programme of age-appropriate youth events. We were also the first to have an Access and Inclusion Officer available to help people with disabilities to participate fully. It has been organised by a diverse group of people from teenagers to senior citizens and including trans* people, people with disabilities, gay asylum seekers, the whole nine yards of LGBT life.
So, here’s the kind of madness you can expect at this year’s NW Pride!
It’s also been fun. From our Silly Sports Day (with welly throwing and beach bowling) to our mass singing of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” outside city hall, to the carnival costumes in our parade (first pride parade to get an Arts Council grant!) and the informal shenanigans of the Pride Village. Northwest Pride has been the Crazy Pride that brought you a barn dance in a shed (out the back of a pub) in county Leitrim, and Easkey (a tiny county Sligo village) going “Gay for the Day”.
We have plenty more craziness in the pipeline. Times are hard, but Northwest Pride has fought back with new events, price reductions and accommodation from as little as €20 per night. It’s Make, Do and Mend Pride; it’s the Little Pride that Could; it’s the People’s Pride; the Crazy Pride; it’s our Pride and your Pride too. And it needs your support. And yes, it is Craggy Island Pride too.
So come on now, ya will, ya will, ya will, ya will..!
Northwest Pride runs from 2-12 August 2012.
And many thanks to Northwest Pride for allowing us to use their images!