The UK Pride Organisers Network (UKPON) held their 2018 conference in Glasgow at the weekend, with almost 100 delegates from Prides across the UK and Ireland represented.
Welcomed to the city by a local piper, delegates were treated to some traditional Scottish shortbread and Irn Bru while conference host, Chris Laing (Chair of Pride Glasgow), toasted visitors with a whisky quaich.
The event was held at The Studio in the heart of the city centre, with a series of workshops, panel discussions and presentations to help Pride organisers improve their events. This included sessions on working with the media, running a successful volunteering programme and dealing with emergencies.
A number of special votes were also held over the weekend to award the host cities of the coveted UK Pride events for 2019 and 2020 and future conference host cities, with bids pitched from Plymouth, Newcastle, Cardiff and Newry to host UK Pride.
In a statement to Pink Saltire, the newly elected Co-Chair, Gianpiero Molinu, from Pride Cymru, said:
“I think the weekend was a great success given the lead up. Pride Glasgow did a fantastic job in putting on the conference. We had the biggest attendance for an UKPON conference that there has ever been and it’s a clear sign of the support and desire for the network to succeed. Huge congratulations to Newry for such a fantastic bid and I am really looking forward to experiencing UK Pride in Northern Ireland. It shows that the network as a whole is committed to encouraging and supporting prides that have to develop in such challenging environments. The board has already started working on developing the framework to strengthen and develop the network and as new co-chair I’m looking forward to getting stuck in to the task ahead.”
Warwickshire and Doncaster were awarded host cities for the next conferences, with Newry successful in their bid for UK Pride 2019 and Northern Pride in Newcastle taking the title for 2020.
There was also an emotional plea for solidarity and action from Pride organisers in Northern Ireland, the only remaining part of the UK where LGBT people are not treated equally under the law.
Conference passed a motion unanimously supporting the campaign for marriage equality in Northern Ireland and vowed to take direct action from every corner of the UK to press all politicians for urgent action in the province.
Phill Dexter is part of the newly created steering group for Oban Pride, a new event launching in 2019, and was attending the conference for the first time. He told us:
“When we heard the UKPON conference was in Glasgow we thought it was an ideal opportunity to go and meet up with people from other prides to get help and advice. As our representative, I enjoyed the conference and made some really good connections with other prides throughout the UK who have offered us a lot of support, help and resources. I am looking forward to using the connections as we plan Oban Pride 2019 and I look forward to hopefully attending more UKPON conferences and building on the friendships and contacts I have made over the weekend.”
Ofcourse, it wouldn’t have been a traditional Glasgow welcome without some evening entertainment and the cities venues certainly had open arms for their Pride visitors, with special events held in Arta and The Gallery Bar over the weekend. There was also a tour of local bars and clubs such as Katie’s, Speakeasy, Underground, AXM and Polo Lounge, as well as a chance for the visitors to take in some of the cultural highlights such as the GoMA and grabbing a picture with the Duke of Wellington statue!
The conference was also a chance for host city organisers to talk openly about the challenges they’ve faced in recent months, with delegates bussed around the city between Pride venues at Glasgow Green and Kelvingrove Park to share learning amongst the network, supported by conference sponsors Arnold Clark.
Delegates also heard about the Pride Life volunteering programme, which has operated in Glasgow for the past 3 years and supports more than 200 people volunteer with Pride. The programme recently attracted funding from the Scottish Government’s Volunteering Support Fund and was seen as an example of the positive impact of Pride by fellow organisers.
Chair of Pride Glasgow, Chris Laing, said he was proud to introduce many of the delegates to Scotland and Glasgow for the first time:
“The UKPON conference was a great opportunity to showcase the Pride Glasgow volunteers and give a bit of good old fashioned Glaswegian hospitality. Building stronger relationships with pride organisers across the UK will only strengthen/improve the Pride movement in Glasgow.”
Over 1.6 million people attended a Pride march or festival in the UK in 2018, with more than 150 Pride events held in towns and cities all over the country, from the Hebrides in the north to the Isle of Wight in the south.
Here in Scotland, the number of Pride events has grown from just 3 in 2016 to 13 in 2018, with more planned for the coming year.
You can find out more about UKPON by visiting their website here https://ukpon.lgbt