Planning underway for first Hitchin Pride
Hitchin will host its first official LGBQT+ Pride this summer, with music acts, a fashion show and a parade all promised for the big day.
Although still at the planning stage, a date has been confirmed and preparations for the inaugural Hitchin Pride have well and truly begun.
Visitors can expect to see live music, browse market stalls, enjoy a fashion show and, of course, take part in a celebratory parade through the town centre.
The family-friendly event, which will be held on Saturday, July 25, is being organised by the Hitchin Business Improvement District - in collaboration with members of the LGBQT+ community and businesses at the heart of the town.
Two Hitchin pubs, the Rose and Crown and The George, had customers that were discussing the possibility of hosting a Pride event in Hitchin, which led their managers to float the idea with the BID.
Tom Hardy, Hitchin town centre manager, was delighted to hear both residents and businesses express a widespread interest in a pride event and knew now was the time for Hitchin to get its own.
He said: "We have been thinking about doing one [a Pride event] for a while. It's 2020 - now is the time.
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"This event will be all about raising awareness for the LGBTQ+ community, educating people and understanding diversity and our differences."
But Jane Fae, a Letchworth-based LGBQT and women's rights campaigner, sounds a note of caution.
She said: "Pride provides place and opportunity for people to celebrate their queerness, as well as remind people that we exist. At the same time, there has been growing controversy as to who 'owns' Pride.
"Pride was born out of a sense of outrage: it's the direct descendant of the Stonewall riots in which LGBT people, fed up with being harassed, rose up and fought back against police. It's great that Pride should have evolved into a community event: but also concerning that in some quarters it has become 'family-friendly' and commercialised to the point that the initial reasons for it have all but vanished."
"I am very much looking forward to Hitchin Pride. But it must be led by the LGBQT community and not just put on 'for us' like some charity benefit!"
Judi Billing, NHDC's executive member for community engagement, will be in attendance on the day and said: "I'm absolutely delighted that Pride is coming to Hitchin and I hope that it will be brilliantly supported by the whole community."
Earlier this year, Hitchin's Rose and Crown became the town's first licensed premises to support the 'Ask for Clive' LGBQT inclusivity initiative.
Every year, Stonewall - the national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights charity - publishes its Education Equality Index, which ranks local authorities on their LGBT inclusivity.
In the latest report by the charity, Herts County Council was tied for third place in the national rankings for celebrating differences, tackling homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in schools and supporting LGBT young people in their community.