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Community / Pride ‘on track’ for summer festival, chairperson says

Hundreds of people participated in 2022's Pride parade. Photo: Vaila Irvine

PREPARATIONS for the Shetland Pride festival this year are said to be well underway, despite some suggestion to the contrary – whilst the night-time event at Islesburgh is set to be larger this time around.

Chairperson Gary Mouat said the committee is “well within the time limits of doing everything” ahead of the summer event.

It comes after Pride founder Kerrie Meyer accused the organisers of a “lack of action” after recently stepping down from her committee position.

She also said that “without any proper consultation he [Mouat] decided to take Shetland Pride in a very different and radical direction”.

But Mouat said this week that things were on track for the second Pride festival.

“The parade and all that is kind of done, everything has been booked,” he said. “The public entertainment licence is the next thing that needs done now.”

Meyer founded the Shetland Pride festival – the first of its kind in the isles – and oversaw a busy inaugural event in 2022.

It featured a parade through the streets of Lerwick, a ‘village’ event at the Gilbertson Park and an evening party with music and drag acts in Islesburgh. It is due to return this year on Saturday 1 July.

Shetland Pride: a celebration of identity but ‘first and foremost a protest’

In an online post Meyer said she stepped down from the chair position in January due to stress and medical reasons, before leaving the committee altogether earlier this month in “exasperation”.

When asked about the “very different and radical direction”, Mouat – who joined the committee last year – said one element was an idea being worked on to create an avenue for “support and advice for LGBT folk up here”.

He said this would be “purely general support or advice” and would enable the charity to do something year-round.

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There is another idea which needs “legwork” before being able to be mentioned publicly, Mouat added.

One thing that will be different in 2023 is making the evening event in Islesburgh larger.

“We sold out last year and there weren’t nearly enough tickets for folk that wanted to come,” Mouat said.

“The two ideas that we came up with to expand things was to get another couple of rooms upstairs.

“There’s to be two stages, possibly three, in Islesburgh this year. This basically doubles the amount of people that we can invite to the evening thing.

“The other thing is that we’ve got the games hall at the Gilbertson Park this year, because it’s not a Covid vaccination centre.”

Mouat conceded there was a bit of a “hoo-hah” about tongue-in-cheek comments made by one of the drag acts last year on local radio which concerned some listeners, given Islesburgh is a council-run venue.

But looking to the future, he said “we’re a lot further ahead than what we were last year”.

An online statement from Shetland Pride this week thanked Meyer, and treasurer Matthew Lawrence and trustee Robin Beckett, who also resigned, for their work.

It added: “In gaining charitable status, Shetland Pride (SCIO) became something that is much bigger than any group, party, or person.

“It is the express belief of the current board that the charity will always, first and foremost, be there to help, support, and encourage the LGBTQIA+ community throughout our beautiful islands, and work to make Shetland the inclusive, open, and diverse place that we all know it can be.

“We welcome any business, organisation, or group that supports the LGBTQIA+ community, and look forward to working with them to make Shetland a safe and accepting place for everyone.”

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