Speeches highlight 30 years of progress made towards LGBT equality
Auction lots include a signed copy of Stonewall’s founding document and bespoke badge pins by Grayson Perry
Guests include Little Mix’s Jade Thirlwall, Dr Ranj Singh and TV presenter Clare Balding
Stonewall, Britain’s leading lesbian, gay, bi and trans equality charity, marked the start of its 30th birthday celebrations with its annual Equality Dinner. Hosted by the BBC’s LGBT correspondent Ben Hunte, the event was held at the Sheraton Grand Park Lane on 14 March and was kindly supported by Aviva.
Guests heard from the charity’s founders and leaders in the LGBT community on the fight for equality and Stonewall’s 30-year history.
Stonewall founder Lord Michael Cashman opened the night’s proceedings by talking about what life was like for LGBT people in the late 1980s and how the introduction of Section 28 triggered the founding of Stonewall on 24 May 1989.
He said: ‘When we lost the campaign against Section 28, a small group of us decided we had to make certain that another Section 28 would never happen again. Over the months that followed the founders of Stonewall came together to form an organisation to campaign for equality.
‘Despite becoming law, Section 28 singularly failed to stop public discussion about same-sex relationships. In May 1989, Stonewall was launched to work across parliament, the courts and the media, to make the case for equality, and we never looked back.’
Guests then heard from acclaimed writer Jeanette Winterson, who gave a moving speech on the changing attitudes toward LGBT people and the power of diversity.
She said: ‘When we’re accepted, we can better contribute to the world, fight for others and take pride in ourselves. What Stonewall has proved over the last 30 years is that inclusivity and acceptance hasn’t made the world a scarier place. Instead, celebrating diversity makes the world a richer and more beautiful place for all.’
In another rousing speech, Oscar winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black reflected on global progress towards equality in the 2000s and the campaign for same-sex marriage equality in the US. He also spoke from the heart about the progress made toward LGBT equality in Britain and building a family here.
He said: ‘When we marched on Washington for same-sex marriage equality in the US, we built a coalition of difference. Marginalised communities stood arm in arm to demand our rights in front of the White House.
‘Now, more than ever, we must come together with other social justice movements and stand side-by-side to keep the pendulum of progress swinging.’
Executive Director of UK Black Pride Phyll Opoku-Gyimah and Chair of Stonewall’s Trans Advisory Group Ayla Holdom came together to discuss the state of equality through the 2010s and the need to raise up and amplify the voices of groups who continue to exist at the margins of the LGBT community and society.
Ruth Hunt, Stonewall’s Chief Executive, closed the night’s proceedings by reflecting on the future of the movement and the work that still needs to be done to achieve LGBT equality.
She said: ‘This evening we celebrate the enormous achievements of the last three decades and Stonewall’s journey from a gathering around Sir Ian McKellen’s dining table to becoming Europe’s largest LGBT rights charity.
‘It’s been almost 14 years since I first stepped foot into Stonewall’s offices and I’m so proud of all the progress we’ve made together since then. Our community is made up of people from all different backgrounds, walks of life and we come from every corner of the UK. What we share is a desire to create a world where we can be free to be ourselves.
‘If the past 30 years have taught us anything, it’s that we are at our strongest when we stand united. It’s no secret that the journey towards full equality for all LGBT people is far from over. We also need to be vigilant in protecting the rights we have fought so hard for. All of us in this room and beyond have a crucial role to play in transforming the lives of LGBT people both here and abroad. Our work will not be finished until every lesbian, gay, bi and trans person is accepted without exception.’
A number of high-profile guests attended the dinner, including Little Mix’s Jade Thirlwall, broadcaster Clare Balding, doctor and TV presenter Ranj Singh, London’s Night Czar and DJ Amy Lamé, journalist Alice Arnold and The Feeling’s Dan Gillespie Sells. The evening also featured a live performance from singer songwriter Grace Petrie.
Money raised at the Equality Dinner supports Stonewall’s work to ensure every lesbian, gay, bi and trans person in Britain and abroad is accepted without exception.
Aviva, who have generously supported Stonewall’s Equality Dinner for the last 10 years, had their Group Chief Risk Officer Angela Darlington, confirm on the night the company’s continued support for the next two years.
A live and silent auction, raffle and ticket sales all contributed towards the key fundraising event which is the largest of its kind in the charity’s calendar.
Top auction prizes on the night included an original signed copy of Stonewall’s founding document, the Limehouse Declaration, as well as an original artwork from acclaimed artist Maggi Hambling, VIP Little Mix tickets and a bespoke 30th anniversary Stonewall star pin designed by artist Grayson Perry.