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Whitehaven Pride 2023

Last Saturday Proud and Diverse Cumbria, a brand new CIC set up by Glenn Anderson and his team of volunteers, hosted Whitehaven’s first ever pride event down at the harbourside. The event was hosted by the ever outgoing Marc Allen, who previously hosted Carlisle pride.

There was a star studded line up of both local and national acts such as Angie Brown one of the founding mothers of house, Katherine Ellis 90s electronica vocalist and local lad Liam Moorhouse.

A dance act performing on the mainstage alongside one of the performers.

The event’s mainstage wasn’t the only area where you could hear some talented musicians - there was also a youth pride tent.

Funded by Arts Council England there was a host of young and mainly local performers and we saw the likes of Emily Rodgers, Meg Narongchai, Bird Seed and the Spectrum.

Meg Narongchai performing some of their original songs on the loud and queer stage inside the youth pride tent.

Not only did the tent offer up some seriously skilled singers but it was a place where young people could go to get creative with Tullie House and do some mindful painting as well as a self discovery zine workshop space for young people to express their identity.

Tullie houses painting area.

On top of all this there was a clothes swap where you could bag yourself some vintage garbs. A couple of young local artists such as Leon Thompson better known as Redbucketart on Instagram were selling their artwork, jewellery and more.

Amongst all this inside the youth tent was professional photographer Casey Orr, an artist on a mission to capture photographs that encapsulate the identity of northern youth.

One of Casey’s photograph books capturing the youth of the north.

We chatted with Casey about her work and why she was at Whitehaven Pride:

“I’m a portrait photographer and I’ve come here to pride today to photograph all the young and just celebratory faces up here for this first ever pride”.

Casey chatting with us about why she was at Pride photographing the youth.

Besides the brilliant youth tent and acts on the mainstage there were also several local Cumbrian businesses showing their support for Whitehavens first ever pride event.

Local theatre Rosehill were offering badge making for people to decorate however they’d like whether that be with their pronouns, sexuality or just something fun to take away and even had some plants you could decorate with messages of hope for people to read.

The plants on display for people to decorate with the people at Rosehill’s stall.

Hannah Kelser the creative producer for Rosehill explained us what being at pride meant to them and their plans to support diverse individuals at the theatre:

“It’s really really good to have the opportunity to have these queer spaces especially when many spaces around here are hetero dominated, so I think it’s really great to be able to come and celebrate all that is queer and diverse and different.

“I am really looking forward to bringing a creative programme that is focused around kindness and inclusion”.

Hannah Kelser telling us about what pride means to them.

Next door to Rosehill was Cumbria CVS and one of their wonderful project leads Shelley Studholme who works on their Step Forward Project.

Step Forward Project is a service commissioned under the mental health transformation fund which improves opportunities for those living alongside severe and enduring mental health: “If your mental health is debilitating, impacting your opportunities and preventing you from just moving forward then were here for you”.

“So how we work, we are strength based, holistic, we see the person not just their mental health experience and help them in a time unlimited manner at the pace of the individual to help them get into employment by helping them overcome obstacles, barriers and misconceptions to mental of which there are many”.

Shelly told us that whether it’s CV writing, interviewing skills or building confidence Cumbria CVS aims to support service users either in house or through signposting.

Shelly explaining to us what the Step Forward Project offers for young people in the county.

At the stall itself there were happiness jars on offer where people could write and put notes in the Jar that would make others smile.

Echoing the same type of work when it comes to supporting individuals with their mental health and neurodivergence was ADHD Cumbria.

ADHD Cumbria was set up in October last year to help support and advise people who are either in the process of a diagnose or already have one.

The service is open to anyone needing guidance for ADHD and Nick Hewitt, the secretary for ADHD Cumbria, told us a bit more about the only ADHD charity based in the county:

“We offer people advice on how to get diagnosed quicker and we are a big family that just support each other and get each other”.

When we asked Nick about what pride meant to her, she gave us a very powerful response:

“When I first saw that it was pride and diversity I was wondering how are they gonna mix together but at the end of the day for me, we’re all minorities and being in minority we all get ignored, we all get abused and we all face similar issues so to put us all in one place, why not?

“We can all make friends and meet other people that are in the same boat. There’s music, there's people and CIC’s I didn’t know existed in Cumbria, its communication, its making friends and getting involved. So far I’ve had the best day and I can’t wait for next year”.

Nick telling us what being at pride means to them and what ADHD Cumbria

do to support the neurodiverse community in Cumbria.

Not only is Nick an amazing charity worker but she also runs West Lakes Hemp coffee shop out in Cleator Moor.

It offers some seriously good CBD infused coffee cakes and more as well as the West Lakes Hemp company that sells a variety of CBD health products such as soap, face, body and beard oils, drinks and best of all their one of a kind CBD bubble bath.

Some of the beautifully smelling CBD products on sale from West Lakes Hemp.

Moving on from one brilliant West Cumbrian company to another we had the fantastic Gemma, who is the director of finances for BEC, a social enterprise based in West Lakes science park in Whitehaven who told us why they were at Pride this year:

“One of the reasons we’re down here is to support the event and secondly to have the opportunity to talk to people about our business, find out what they know about our business and tell them a bit more about us”.

Gemma telling us the exciting plans BEC have for young creatives in Cumbria.

Whitehaven’s first ever Pride was a massive success between the wonderful local organisations and the brilliant youth pride tent showcasing talented young people in our county.

The fact they even had a quiet area for neurodivergent people on top of some seriously amazing acts, it proved to be an inclusive and diverse event for all which is what Proud and Diverse Cumbria set out to do in the first place and they smashed it.

We know from an inside source that next year will certainly be bigger and better with plans for it to be two days long, following in a similar steps to Kendal’s first pride that took place this summer.

We look forward to it!

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