Pride in Surrey returns to Woking with bigger and better format

WHEATSHEAF Common will be turned into Pride Park in the summer, as Pride in Surrey returns to Woking for an expanded celebration.

Last year, the inaugural event took place in Woking Park after a parade through the town centre.

The Surrey Music rainbow choir taking part in the Pride in Surrey 2019 parade

In August, the ticketed, free-to-attend LGBTQ+ event will take place on the sports fields in Horsell, allowing for greater integration with linked activities in the town centre.

Pride in Surrey has also secured performer Hazell Dean, Eurovision star and “Queen of Hi-NRG”, as patron. The Surrey resident will perform on the main stage in Pride Park.

The main sponsor is Surrey County Council with a programme of events throughout the year known as #morePride, including an LGBTQ+ Youth Prom, a Big Pride Picnic in Surrey Heath, a Pride Month involving The Lightbox gallery and museum in Woking and a Winter Pride in Surrey.

The focus will be on Saturday 8 August, when 15,000 people are expected to be involved in a parade in the town centre – where there will also be stalls and other attractions – and the Pride Park event.

Pride in Surrey co-chairman Stephen Ireland with new patron Hazell Dean

Organiser Stephen Ireland put the 2019 celebration together with one or two friends and expected a few hundred people to attend.

Instead, 7,700 people converged on Woking and a survey by the organisers showed that they wanted more things to do and more facilities, so the focus this year is on expansion.

As well as being closer to the town centre, Wheatsheaf Common is also larger than the space available in Woking Park, allowing for the expected doubling in attendance.

Maz Harding, a trustee of the event, said: “We identified from last year the need to have the parade running directly to the park and of course that we needed more things for people to do whilst they were there.

“Wheatsheaf Common is a fantastic venue which will allow us to welcome more people. With a funfair, more bars, more toilets and even more community stalls, the main Pride event will allow local businesses to have a platform while also addressing the need for the recognition and celebration of more local talent.

There will also be music in the park with performers from the Academy of Contemporary Music in Guildford and other acts, with veteran singer Hazell Dean likely to be a highlight.

As well as being a celebration by and for the LGBTQ+ community, Pride in Surrey will also cover important subjects such as hate crime and safe sex.

Farnham musician and singer Ashleigh Hennessy – who has released a charity single #We Are Pride – entertains at the launch event at the HG Wells Centre in Woking on Tuesday last week

Stephen, who is now co-chairman of Pride in Surrey, said the group will continue to challenge the Government to recognise that hate crime towards the LGBTQ+ community is still a significant problem. Harder sanctions should be in place to deter people from being bigoted and hateful.

“Pride in Surrey will continue to push the Spread Pride Not Hate campaign and encourage more downloads/users of the Stop Hate UK Surrey app where people can quickly and effectively report hate crime,” Stephen said.

The NHS is another sponsor, focusing on the Youth Pride Zone, which will include education aimed at fighting the spread of HIV.

“Safe sex education is something that is so important and, done right in a setting that is relaxed and informal, will no doubt have a positive impact on young people in Surrey,” said Stephen.

“We love Surrey, it’s a fantastic place to live, work and visit and it’s time we stood shoulder to shoulder as people of a fantastic county to say be whoever you want to be and know with a majority you are supported through any difficulty you may find.”

For more information or to book tickets, visit www.prideinsurrey.org or call the Woking-based Pride in Surrey office on 01483 663700.

For the full story get the 20 February edition of the News & Mail

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