This time last year, myself and a whole team of equally enthusiastic and exhausted volunteers were frantically making preparations for our first ever Free Pride event. We’d only known each other a few months, none of us had ever organised such a large scale event, and none of us had any idea what Free Pride might actually look like on the day. Would anyone actually come? Would we be able to pull off a full day and night of activities? How many rainbow flags is too many rainbow flags?
But we needn’t have worried, because when the day finally rolled round we were overwhelmed by the crowds that showed up to support us and to share in our vision of a free, accessible and radical pride. From 2pm-3am, the Art School was filled with love, defiance and a whole lot of fun.
In all of the chaos of planning and organising, I almost forgot to stop and appreciate what we had created. It was only as the event ended and I stood surrounded by people I could now call my friends, covered in glitter and sweat and ready to sleep for a solid 48 hours, that the enormity of what we had created sunk in.
Throughout the day, and for months after the event, strangers came up to us to tell us this was the first pride event they felt welcome at, the first pride event where they felt heard and supported and included. People spoke of the importance of having their identities validated, their accessibility needs cared for, and the necessity of a Pride event that was completely free to attend.
Free Pride grew out of dissatisfaction with the mainstream ‘gay rights’ movement and the increasingly commercial Pride Glasgow. As a community, we felt we could do more, be more. We wanted to provide an alternative and show that a free, inclusive and radical Pride was possible- and we did just that! But for me, and for many others, Free Pride has become more than just a one-off event. In Free Pride I’ve found a community that I truly feel part of, a supportive place from which to challenge the mainstream and build something better.
Throughout the year we’ve gone to protests, held club nights and film screenings and community events, brought people together and campaigned for change. Free Pride is only at the very beginning of what will hopefully be a long and productive journey, and that’s exciting! We want Free Pride to keep growing, to make real tangible change, and to provide an inclusive and supportive community for everyone who feels alienated or excluded from pink-washed and commercial LGBT rights movements.
This year, we’ve made Free Pride even bigger and better- we have more stalls, more space, a new and improved quiet area and a whole host of exciting workshops, performance and activities for you all. We can’t wait for Free Pride 2016, and we hope you’ll join us there to be part of what we hope will be a truly radical, inclusive and special Pride celebration.
Ciara Maguire, Free Pride Chair