Over the summer, Stonewall will platform LGBT groups and Pride organisers to share what Pride means to them. Here is Nikolas Jovcic-Sas of Midsomer Norton Pride.
Previously in this series: Bi Pride.
Not all views are necessarily Stonewall's. To learn more about the project e-mail email@example.com.
For someone who doesn't know very much about Midsomer Norton Pride, how would you explain what you do?
Midsomer Norton Pride is probably the most bizarre Pride in the UK. You would be forgiven if you hand't heard of the place where this festival takes happens: Midsomer Norton is a small, working-class, former mining town in rural Somerset with a population of approximately 11,000 people. It’s the last place you’d expect to see a Pride festival, but that’s exactly why it’s so important it happens.
We're the first ever Pride to take place in rural Somerset.'
We're the first ever Pride to take place in rural Somerset, and we run a variety of events, from film nights, art contests, to big our queer Saturday night drag extravaganza - but we’re most famous for our annual bake-off.
It’s attended by people from ages eight to 80 who come and see individuals put forward their most audacious cake creations to be judged by the mayor, two guest drag queens and me. It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen. It’s fabulous.
What does Pride mean to you personally?
To me, Pride is a radical celebration of identity.
I grew up in Midsomer Norton, and coming out as gay was extremely difficult. Back then it was very much the sort of small town which demanded homogeneity, and I had been led to believe that not only was it not OK to be LGBT, but it was shameful and something to be hidden. I ended up hating myself, and struggling very badly with my mental health as a teenager. Even after I came out at age 15, it wasn’t till much later in my life, when I was living in London, that I learned my sexuality was something to be celebrated.
Although there’s been a lot of controversies surrounding Prides in the last few years, I think it’s always important to remember that at any given Pride event there will be at least one person attending who will have never truly celebrated their sexuality or gender identity – and for that person, a Pride can be utterly revolutionary. We feel extremely lucky to have seen that first hand in our town.
What have you learned along the way?
The most important thing I’ve learned from this experience is that Prides come in all shapes and sizes and, in fact, they’re at their best when they’re unusual and tailor made to communities they serve.
When we first started, we racked our brains about how we’d manage to pull off a march down our (rather short) high street, or how we’d do some of the things we’d seen other Prides do. Our limitations ended up becoming our greatest asset – and that is because we took things that we knew worked well in our community, and gave them a fabulous queer twist. I attribute our success in such a small, rural, conservative area to the fact that we decided to throw out the rulebook on what a pride should be.
What are your top tips?
The most important tool I’d recommend to any Pride organiser is train yourself to have a mind that sees oppression intersectionally.
Though there’s seen great leaps forward in LGBT rights – we all know that we are still so far from equality, and in my opinion, that is because we overlook the ways other forms of oppression feed into homophobia, transphobia and biphobia.
Our movement will only succeed if we can keep evolving to include everyone.'
Our movement will only succeed if we can keep evolving to include everyone – bi, trans, gender non-conforming, POC, disabled, and even people from Devon.
What’s your closing single message for pride organisers?
I know there’s a good chance that you, dear reader, are from a small rural town where you suffered for your sexuality or gender identity, and that you could never possibly imagine a Pride festival taking place there.
Let me tell you that now is your chance: go out and be the LGBT superhero you needed when you were young – let’s make this country a bit more queer, one small rural town at a time.