I don’t remember exactly when it was, some time in April 2006, but I do distinctly remember the call. It went a little like this: “Erm, I’ve been told you might be the person to help us. We’re organising a Pride event in Doncaster and need your help.” And with that call, my life changed.
Riddled with doubt and trepidation, I attended the first meeting of a small group who had been given £1,500 and tasked with staging not only the first Pride in Doncaster, but the first in South Yorkshire, before Sheffield, Barnsley or Rotherham. Doncaster led the way.
We pulled it off in just eight weeks, a drizzly but great day. No ‘gawping at the gays’, as I’d feared, but enough to make us feel this was a platform to build on and a reason to carry on.
So we grew. 2008 and 2009 were magnificent years in the Market Place with great line-ups and a growing audience – so great that after ‘09 we had to take the tough decision, for the sake of crowd safety, to vacate our beloved home.
Then came a year at the racecourse, thanks to a massive grant from the National Lottery and head-liner Toyah, and the ill-fated fireworks display.
A further three years at the Keepmoat saw great Pride events, including the disastrous abandonment of the 2012 Pride due to flooding. Sir Nigel Gresley Square gave us the chance to come back into the town centre and we are now firmly established as the single biggest community event of the year, completely free of charge and with a growing crowd predicted to top 10,000 this year.
So what have we achieved? Well, in ten years the world has changed, but more importantly Doncaster has changed. Legislation is one thing, but everyday acceptance is so very, very different now to back in 2007. Gone is the trepidation. Just look at us now, with our huge parade through the town, flanked by communities and, in 2015, the Yorkshire Main Commerorative Trust ex-miners, banners and bagpipes.
We like to think Doncaster Pride has played its part and we will continue to celebrate everything LGBT, as well as being hugely thankful for the changes that now make our town home to one of the best regional Pride events around.
This article was written by Jenny Dewsnap Chair and founding member of Doncaster Pride.