Mayo Pride takes it outside

Living

WITH PRIDE A colourful scene from Mayo Pride 2017, which took place in Castlebar.  Pic: Ger Duffy


Mayo Pride 2021 to be celebrated inWestport with lots of fresh-air fun and a parade

Ciara Moynihan

Time to roll out the rainbow carpet! This year’s Mayo Pride Parade is taking place in Westport on Saturday, July 10, with several days of fun LGBT+ events planned for the lead-up to the big day.
This year’s theme is ‘Pride Outside’ and includes a host of exciting al fresco events that safely brings the LGBT+ community together for the first in-person Pride in Ireland since the pandemic started.
The organisers have spent many months carefully considering the programme and consulting with local authorities. They are delighted with the support they have received from everyone – from the Westport Gardaí (who are bringing An Garda Síochána’s rainbow squad car to Mayo for the occasion) to Mayo County Council.  
The events will kick off on Thursday, July 8, and run through to Sunday, July 11. Watch out for Ride With Pride, a gay jaunt along the Great Western Greenway; The Big Gay Hike up Croagh Patrick; Queer Yoga, hosted by the Yoga Root studio at Westport Quay; and Sea Pride swims at The Point bathing area, complete with a Pride soundtrack supplied by Mr Whippy Soundsystem. Family events include Drag Storytime in Tertulia Bookshop and a Pride Cruise on the bay with Clew Bay Cruises.
The Mayo Pride Parade itself will take place on the Saturday, lead by the Westport Town Band, who will spice up the parade with some queer classics. (Did someone say YMCA?)
The highlight of the weekend is set to be the Drag Dinner Party at The Towers beer garden at Westport Quay, featuring jaw-dropping gender-bending lipsyncs from drag queens Candy Warhol, Liam Bee and Annie Queries, along with cabaret by the hilarious duo Floozy & Boozy. ‘Stay In Your Seat’ tunes will be supplied by DJs Glamo and Aoife McElwaine, Irish Times food columnist and Sing Along Social creator. In order to accommodate as many people as possible, there will be four dinner sittings – 2.30pm, 4.30pm, 6.30pm and 8.30pm. (Please note that the 6.30pm and 8.30pm shows are more suitable for adults.)
All events will take place in line with public health guidelines and will embrace whatever the west of Ireland weather brings, be that sunshine or showers – or any other meteorological display. “We’re expecting all rainbows!” jokes Festival ‘Chairqueen’ Conor Wilson.
“We are so lucky here in Westport and Mayo that we have such incredible outdoor spaces and activities right here on our doorstep. This year Mayo Pride aim to put the OUT firmly in the outdoors and embrace outdoor activities like hikes, cycles and swims.
While these events might not normally be associated with traditional dance-floor-filled Pride festival, they are a great way of getting us safely back together again.”

Showing support
Last week, BeLonG To (the support service for LGBTI+ youth) launched its annual report. It revealed the ‘devastating impact’ that Covid and the resulting restrictions have disporportionately had on the mental health of young LGBT+ people.
A full 93 percent of young LGBT+ people reported struggling with anxiety, stress, or depression, compared to 53 percent of the general youth population. This was often due to feeling trapped at home with homophobic family members, being separated from support structures, such as friends, and the inability to access safe spaces to gather.
“This year’s pride parade is possibly more important than ever,” Conor explains. “The visibility of our rainbow community in rural Ireland goes largely unseen. Taking to the streets with our LGBT+ friends and allies sends out a strong message to those in our community who are struggling with their home situation or identity. We are here, our solidarity is in our visibility.”
This is the first year that Mayo Pride will be held in Westport. It marks a coming of age in Westport’s openness to diversity, promoting the town as a colourful and accepting community.
“The response to Mayo Pride being hosted in Westport by the Gardaí, Mayo County Council and business owners has been overwhelmingly positive,” says Conor. “There is a great sense of acceptance and equality here in the town that LGBT+ visitors from all over Ireland to Westport are going to love. We encourage every business to fly flags (available from Westport Town Hall), make whatever donations they can or even approach us to host an event.”
Meanwhile, Ciara Joyce of tourism marketing group Destination Westport is thrilled the parade has come to Westport this year. “People often choose their travel destinations based on how culturally diverse and accepting a destination is. Five years after marriage equality, hosting Mayo Pride is a timely move towards encouraging a more inclusive and diverse tourism offering here in Westport and a great opportunity to show how warm Westport’s welcome really is,” she said.

How you can take part
There are lots of ways you can be part of Mayo Pride and show your support.

Fly the flag
Visibility for Pride is one of the most important aspects. Businesses and residents are encouraged to purchase rainbow flags or Pride bunting from Westport Town Hall and fly them proudly on your business or home for the week from July 5 to 12.

March in the parade
One of the best-known aspects of any Pride, the parade is always a colourful, good-natured spectacle for everyone, no matter what their orientation.
The origins of the annual parade are more political than party. Pride started off as a response to a police raid on a pub that was popular with members of the LGBT+ community in New York in June 1969. By marching in the parade, whether you are part of the LGBT+ community or not, you are walking in solidarity – and an important marker of affirmation and validation for the community.
The Mayo Pride Parade kicks off at 1.30pm from The Fairgreen, Westport (feel free to come along from 1pm). The parade route will take in The Fairgreen, South Mall, Bridge St, Quay Hill, and the Greenway to Westport Quay. Please wear your mask and ensure social distancing.

Donate
This year has been more difficult than ever to raise funds, so if you would like to donate please click the donate button on www.MayoPride.com, or buy a flag or donate at Westport Town Hall.

Spread the word
Follow Mayo Pride on social media. Tell your friends and encourage anyone you know who is LGBT+ to come to Westport to take part in the Pride festivities. Encourage friends who are not in the LGBT+ community to come along and show their support.
All events and tickets are available from www.mayopride.com. This year everything is subject to change. Please keep an eye on Mayo Pride socials for all event updates – Instagram, @mayopride; Facebook, @MayoPride; Twitter, @Mayo_Pride; hashtag, #MayoPride.

Win a Pride Pack

Want to get parade ready? The Mayo News has two Pride Packs to give away. Each pack contains a Pride flag, a Pride T-shirt, a Pride tote and few other surprise goodies!  
To be in with a chance to win, send your name, address and contact details on postcard to Pride Competition, The Mayo News, The Fairgreen, Westport, Co Mayo, or to competitions@mayonews.ie.
Entries must be received by 2pm on Tuesday, July 6.