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Community / Pride celebrations declared a huge success

Organisers ‘blown away’ by the response

Drag queens Ru Jazzle, Skinny Minnie, Lily Minogue and Roxy Stardust. All photos: Malcolm Younger/ Millgaet Media

SHETLAND’s first ever pride celebrations saw the streets filled with people wearing rainbow flags and outfits celebrating their identities as a well attended parade kicked off at the Market Cross, featuring vehicles from the emergency services and a flyover from Oscar Charlie.

The parade reached over 700 people, and this afternoon’s Pride village at the Gilbertson Park had up to 2,000 attendees.

Kerrie Meyer, founder of Shetland Pride, said she was ‘blown away and humbled’ by the positive response in the community.

Shetland Pride organiser Kerrie Meyer: ‘Blown away and humbled’.

She said: “It’s amazing for such a small island to have this massive turnout. I never envisaged this in my life.”

Meyer added she hoped next year more local businesses would get involved in the event, and Pride could be even bigger.

Gilbertson Park had stalls set up from local craft-makers, and corporate sponsors handing out Pride related merchandise. There was also a marquee set up for bands and performances throughout the day.

Isles MP Alistair Carmichael delivered a passionate speech to the crowd at the pride village.

He said: “For Shetland this is a great exercise in LGBTQ+ visibility so anyone of any age, but especially young people, who are questioning their own sexuality or gender know they’re part of a community where they will be supported and valued for what they are.”

Isles MP Alistair Carmichael also participated in the parade through the streets of Lerwick on Saturday morning.

Carmichael also drew attention to pride being important for ‘solidarity,’ to the trans community.

He said: “The question of a conversion therapy ban is right at the front of my thoughts. Any move to exclude transgender people from a conversion therapy ban renders the entire exercise of having a ban virtually meaningless. The importance of Pride is that it’s an opportunity for all people in the LGBTQ+ community to stand shoulder to shoulder with their allies and say we will not be divided.”

Attendees highlighted the changing attitudes in rural communities that make Pride such a success. Nicola Fleck attended the event with her friend Torana Bland.

She said: “Pride has been a long time coming. When I was in high school, I couldn’t have ever imagined having something like this.”

Bland added: “In this day and age, everyone should be able to live, be who they want to be, without being chastised or made fun of.”

Marjolein Robertson and Roseanne Watt dressed up for the occasion, wearing rainbow flags and Pride colours. Watt said Pride commented it was a ‘good moment’ for Pride after also getting the news about women no longer being excluded from Lerwick Up Helly Aa.

She said: “Thinking back over the decades, this seemed unimaginable at some point, so now that we’re here in this beautiful moment, it’s great.”

Robertson added: “Shetland’s an amazing place for putting on community events and celebrations. Pride is such a beacon for folk in Shetland who might be feeling left out. It’s so lovely to see people here of all ages in support of the LGBTQ+ community.”

Sharon Winters travelled from Orkney for Shetland Pride. She said: “The day has been brilliant. We had a Pride in Orkney last year, which was nowhere near as good as this one. It’s my first time up to Shetland and it’s great.”

Drag queens Ru Jazzle, Skinny Minnie, and Lily Minogue had arrived from Glasgow for the event and were ‘overwhelmed’ by the welcoming response they’ve received.

Former council convener Canon Lewis Smith was also seen participating in the Shetland Pride parade.

Lily Minogue said: “We didn’t expect it to be as big as it is, and it’s so heart-warming to have such an excellent turnout across all ages. We’ve been really welcomed.”

Ru Jazzle added: “Whenever I said I was coming to perform at Shetland Pride, people were surprised it was even happening. But I think today proves how amazing and important a Pride event is.

“Across Lerwick, there are rainbows everywhere. I think everyone, no matter their identity, is enjoying it and being who they are.”

Health board chief executive Michael Dickson said he was proud of the NHS’s support of Shetland Pride.

 “Pride is about visibility,” he said. “We still know that LGBTQ+ youth are really affected by mental health concerns and coming out. Shetland is such an open and welcoming place and that’s been demonstrated today.”

The Pride event finishes with an evening celebration in Islesburgh Community Centre, featuring performances from drag queens, local bands, and a burlesque dancer.