Rugby council raised the rainbow flag above the Town Hall today, August 16, to support the LGBT+ community as organisers prepare to hold the Pride festival in Leamington tomorrow.
At a short ceremony Cllr Derek Poole, chair of Rugby Borough Council's Equality and Diversity Steering Group, joined Clara Wicks, a trustee of Warwickshire Pride, to raise the flag together.
Cllr Poole said: "After flying the rainbow flag over Rugby for the first time in February, for LGBT+ history month, we are pleased to fly the flag again to commemorate the Pride festival taking place this weekend."
The Pride festival comes as Warwickshire Pride report the worst year so far for the number of thefts and abuse they have received.
On August 13 a spokesperson for Warwickshire Pride wrote on Twitter: "Another day and more of our banners ripped down. Someone clearly doesn't like that Warwickshire Pride is happening.
"It's our 7th year and this year we've had more hate and thefts than ever before. It doesn't get us down. It only fires us up. Pride is a protest. Join us."
And Daniel Browne, Warwickshire Pride’s Chair of Trustees, said: "This year’s theme is Golden Pride. We’ll be remembering those who paved the way for our rights and also highlighting why Pride is still needed.
"Only this week someone has commented on our Facebook page that gay people should be killed. It’s why Pride always was, and still is, a protest.”
Rugby council's ceremony to raise the rainbow flag comes after it helped to make a plan of action earlier this year when a survey revealed that almost 50 per cent of LGBT+ people in the borough had experienced some kind of hatred for their identity - a level of abuse that is double the national average.
Rugby Borough Council, Warwickshire Pride and EQuIP (a Rugby-based charity which promotes equality) adopted the joint action plan - aimed at making sure LGBT+ communities in Rugby feel safe and supported.
Flying the rainbow flag on key dates was one action, while others included providing training for council staff and other public sector agencies, and providing support services and safe places for LGBT+ communities.
Clara Wicks said: "The Warwickshire Pride festival is the highlight of the year for LGBT+ communities in Warwickshire, and as a Rugby resident I'm thrilled to see Rugby Borough Council give this clear expression of support.
"Warwickshire Pride is pleased to be working with the council and would encourage other councils to consider working with us in a similar way."
What's on at Warwickshire Pride tomorrow?
Warwickshire Pride takes place in the Pump Room Gardens, Leamington Spa, from 11am to 6pm on Saturday August 17.
This year’s free festival has a Golden Pride theme to mark the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York that gave birth to the Pride movement and to highlight why Pride still needed in 2019.
There will be stalls, fairground rides, refreshments, a transgender chill out zone, a women’s tent, a bi zone, youth tent and live entertainment.
Headlining the festival is dance music icon Baby D. Other acts include X Factor finalists 2 Shoes and the UK’s first Muslim drag queen, Asifa Lahore.
Local performers include Samuel Turner, Rosa Francesca and Kirsty Wright . The stage will be hosted by Leamington’s drag queen Sassi Afrika and star of Gogglebox, Sandra Martin.
Daniel Browne, Warwickshire Pride’s Chair of Trustees, said: “The festival is now in its seventh year and continues to be recognised as one of the most welcoming and inclusive Pride events in the country.
“We aim to represent the whole LGBT+ spectrum at the festival, but of course anyone is welcome come and join in with the celebrations. There is something for everyone to enjoy, regardless of age, gender identity or sexuality."
For more information see www.warwickshirepride.co.uk.