Town’s pride at the first festival event

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The countdown to Wigan’s first ever Pride festival is on with just three days to go until the much-anticipated event arrives in town.

Pride will take place this Saturday with events happening across the town centre over the weekend.

It’s the first event to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community in the borough and has been organised by BYOU (Wigan Council’s LGBTQ+ voice and engagement group) and BYOU+ (a newly formed support and engagement group for 18+ in the borough) who have worked hard to get support from local organisations and businesses to make the event happen. One of those supporters is Wigan Council who has sponsored the event as part of its #BelieveImOnlyHuman campaign. The campaign, which will launch formally this month, aims to bring everyone in the borough together through celebrating difference and sharing what we all have in common.

Wigan Athletic are also backing the event, with the Wigan Athletic Community Trust. Latics host Blackburn Rovers in the first home Sky Bet Championship fixture of the season at the DW Stadium on Saturday, and the Trust have organised a multi-project tournament at the Youth Zone.

Blackburn Kickz, Premier League 4 Sport, Premier League Girls and Blackburn Youth Zone will all be involved.

The matches will be focused around LGBT and will include young people wearing multi-coloured kits and following the event, all the participants will attend the match at the DW Stadium.

“Wigan pride is a milestone for this town and really brings the community together in the name of equality and inclusion.”

Dan Bonney

Jonathan Jackson, Wigan Athletic Chief Executive, said: “Wigan Athletic are delighted to support Wigan Pride, which will be a wonderful celebration of diversity in our town.

“The club have also worked with Football Against Homophobia in recent seasons, while we recently launched TOGETHER, our equality and diversity initiative, which spans Wigan Athletic, the Community Trust and the DW Stadium, and we feel it’s crucial that we have an active presence in

this inaugural event.”

The family friendly day will boast a variety of live entertainment, music and comedy, including local talent as well as the opportunity to promote local services provided by local partners and employers.

The journey follows an inspirational visit from Sir Ian McKellen, an openly gay and hugely successful actor, activist and founder of LGBT charity Stonewall last summer. Members of BYOU had the opportunity to meet Sir Ian McKellen, famous for his portrayal as Gandalf in Lord of The Rings and Magneto in X-men. The actor, who grew up in Wigan, spoke profoundly about being proud to be from Wigan and being part of the LGBT community.

BYOU raised the question: “why don’t we have a Wigan Pride?” This was a question many people have been asking for some time. Without taking “no” for an answer, the determination of the young people at BYOU inspired professionals, council and public to get involved with Wigan Pride, which has heavily involved the community.

Zak Bretherton, Chair & Co-Founder of BYOU+ and a member of the Wigan Pride Committee said: “Growing up, I remember watching a documentary on TV, in which a social experiment was conducted in Wigan town centre. The experiment showed two male actors holding hands with hidden cameras and the response from the public was disappointing and rather uncomfortable to me.

“Since then I’ve been very proactive and determined to change people’s views and perception of the LGBT community and bring the Wigan community closer together.

“Educating others and finally being part of Wigan Pride is a real celebration of the journey and progress of the town and the amazing response and difference made from everyone involved. I’m so grateful for the opportunities that have been given to me through BYOU, Wigan Council and all the partners involved. I’m proud of Wigan and it’s not the Wigan that I saw back in the documentary. That’s not to say we’ve still got a long journey ahead of us but I truly believe in the borough of Wigan.”

Pride committee member. Dan Bonney, said: “Wigan pride is a milestone for this town and really brings the community together in the name of equality and inclusion.”

Scott Williams, Wigan Council Youth Worker and member of the committee on supporting young people at BYOU, said: “To see the ideas, dreams and visions of young people come true in this amazing event has been one of the highlights of my career. The young people have brought so many people together with passion and determination to enable the LGBTQ community of Wigan to have a pride but also showing a Pride in Wigan celebrating local talent and acts on the Orlando stage.”

Ms Eloise, Age UK who will be performing the official Wigan Pride song ‘Loving the Skin you’re in” said: “I’m really looking forward to singing at a wonderful event that will bring Pride for everyone, regardless of gender or identity, to the borough. I’m really proud of the young people who are brave enough to take this opportunity on and start it all off.”

Coun Jo Platt, Portfolio holder for children and young people for Wigan Council said: “I am so proud of our young people who have come forward and used their voice to engage with the authority and a wide range of partners to hold Wigan’s very first event to celebrate LGBTQ culture and Pride! I can only see this event going from strength to strength.”