It’s Proud Out West!

We speak to Glenn Anderson, co-founder of Proud & Diverse Cumbria CIC about celebrating diversity out West

Whitehaven now has its first ever Pride thanks to a brand new CIC, Proud and Diverse Cumbria (PADC). We chatted with Glenn Anderson the director of PADC about what plans they have for their Pride events and what PADC are looking to achieve with their newly formed organisation. Glenn is a recognised pillar of the queer community in Cumbria having been one of the co-establishers of Cumbria Pride almost 15 years ago as well as having opened the first LGBT+ centre and even the first full time LGBT+ bar in Carlisle: “I was in a very fortunate position to be the person who solely funded the very first Pride event because nobody else was willing to take the risk.”

Pride has been well established in the north of the county for quite some time now (thanks to Glenn) and only in recent times have other places followed suit with places in the south such as Furness Pride which was only established four years ago and Kendal Pride which has just taken place this year. Glenn believes that the West coast is an area that has been hugely neglected when it comes to Pride and LGBTQ+ communities: “Proud and Diverse Cumbria is a new arm to serve the west coast and hopefully we’ll be able to establish some services and a regular new social scene and perhaps even an annual very large Pride event, the kind you can be proud of, let alone just the West.”

Glenn added: “It was important for us to establish ourselves this year though because Silloth Pride was cancelled and we considered it a disservice to the county to not do something in our region.”

One of the aims Glenn and his team of volunteers wish to achieve is to be a supportive voice to those from diverse communities, something which Glenn has been doing for a long time before the CIC was established: “I heavily believed in my own rights, because I was born with a voice, a voice which I feel I’ve been able to use and I’ve been lucky enough to be able to use it on behalf of people who don’t have the ability to speak up when they’re being downtrodden.”

PADC are committed to not just being a supportive voice to marginalised communities and the group seek to counter discrimination against people from diverse backgrounds. Glenn and his volunteers are looking at to do this by working with young people: “Already as a brand new CIC we have established incredible work with Pride In North Cumbria youth group and If we educate the young in our society it’ll be like the trickle down economic policy where you know people will be able to not grow up with the intrinsic hatred that older generations have had to endure.”

For PADC youth is a focus but they also want to work in partnership with other diverse organisations and in Glen’s words they intend to challenge things openly with a very clear voice: “We won’t just sit by and say we’re very much against that but we would like to organise demonstrations the high street because I’m not fearful and neither are my team standing up for our rights and at the end of the day, that’s why we’re there, that’s why we’re giving our time, so we can be the voice of others and everything that we’ve been doing is planned to the point where people can be engaged.”

PADC have already identified Anti Racist Cumbria as a partner organisation to increase the number of voices speaking out against racism in our county and actively promoting their campaigns as they arise. Glenn expanded: “It is impossible to be a lone voice and we recognise this.”

Within their own organisation when it comes to diversity Glenn told us that their offices are open to all: “We aim for our offices to be a welcoming social space for minority communities and by actively promoting and advertising this we will be able to respond directly to any criticism or hate directed at us.”

For Glenn, he acknowledges that there are still barriers to an inclusive intersectional community even when the LGBTQ+ community hasn’t been receptive to such issues: “Not everyone is going to get along, providing safe spaces does not mean arguments won’t occur or hate speech for that matter and our communities have perpetrated hate especially on trans issues, age and sexuality.”

Despite this Glenn believes that mixing communities regularly in safe spaces can help people understand each other better and in Glenn’s words: “Hopefully form bonds because they may have differences but they’re still part of an isolated region where there’s minimal chances to interact safely.”

Plans for PADC to reach their goals to support marginalised communities include speaking at schools and workplaces to educate people in terms of their EDI policies:

“We reached out to local employers and said it’s okay to box tick but why not actually do something which is actually beneficial and can promote your EDI policies and can, you know, show people in the region that you’re an active employer of minority groups and that you’re an active employer of anybody who celebrates their life differently to the norm.”

For PADC Whitehaven Pride will be working in conjunction with local charities and groups and give them stalls free of charge so they can work in partnership with them. As well as this PADC plans to have a Pride that is inclusive of marginalised people by having safe spaces for autistic people, young people and sober spaces. PADC are looking to reflect this in their performers as well and are set to have trans, autistic and drag performers.

When we asked Glenn about what he expects of Whitehaven Pride he concluded with this:
“In terms of the event I’m hoping that it’s fun. I’m hoping that it’s vibrant. I’m hoping that it’s colourful and I pray that it’s safe. I want it to be as expressive as it can be and I don’t want people to have any fear of being themselves”.

We can confirm that since the time of writing this piece, Whitehaven Pride was a huge success!

Word Chim Chirwa

Images Stephen Benson