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BASILDON Pride is to become a charity and start carrying out educational events across the borough following the success of this year’s event, its chairman has told the Yellow Advertiser.
The town centre hosted its second annual Pride celebration on Saturday, September 14.
An estimated 2,000 people participated in the march, which began outside the former Toys R Us store and ended in Gloucester Park.
In the park, almost 5,000 people are estimated to have attended the town’s first ever Pride festival, which included 60 stalls and a programme of live entertainment.
Professional photographer David Bird, who attended the event, said he had been impressed by its organisation.
He said the festival had a “really lovely atmosphere, and a remarkable level of production, acts and support for such a new event.”
Basildon mayor David Burton-Sampson, who founded Basildon Pride and chairs its organising committee, said he and his team had been ‘bowled over’ by the attendance on the day.
He said: “I was at the front of the march and I couldn’t even see the back.”
Mr Burton-Sampson said the event had turned a profit, leaving money in the bank towards next year’s Pride festivities.
Basildon’s first Pride march was organised at short notice last year, in response to several homophobic incidents in the town, including anti-LGBT leaflets being posted through doors in Laindon and a preacher hectoring people outside the town’s LGBT club Colors to ‘repent’.
Mr Burton-Sampson said the Pride Committee’s intention was to continue to ‘grow’ the event and that efforts were already underway to register Basildon Pride as a charity.
He said the group planned to expand their work into running education and awareness events under the banner of ‘Basildon Pride Every Day’.
He said: “The LGBT+ community in Basildon, for a day, was given an environment where they could openly, in public, be themselves without feeling any sort of discrimination.
“That’s what was so beautiful on the day – seeing same-sex couples walking through Gloucester Park hand-in-hand and seeing drag queens walking through the park. It was just absolutely wonderful to see.
“That’s why I think Basildon Pride Every Day is important – to encourage that to become the norm, and not just for one day a year. I don’t want it to be just a festival once a year. I want it to be about community support and education throughout the whole year. We are planning a range of different activities.”
This year’s Basildon Pride was supported by the Eastgate shopping centre, Everyone Active, Basildon Council, Unite, Unison, Elle Media Group, the National Lottery and others.
Cllr Burton-Sampson said: “The organisation from the committee and the volunteers has been just outstanding and I am so incredibly grateful for everybody’s hard work over the last nine months. Without them, it would never have happened.
“We are absolutely bowled over by the positive response. We can’t believe that so many people came. The volunteers have stretched themselves beyond what they ever thought they would be able to do.
“They organised a festival with top quality entertainment – and it was an event that changed so many people’s lives, even if only for a day.”