LGBTQ+ campaigner calls for Chesterfield Pride to be moved to a Saturday - despite homophobia and safety concerns
An LGBTQ+ campaigner has called for Chesterfield Pride to take place on a Saturday - but the event's organiser has cited homophobia and safety concerns as some of the reasons against changing the day.
Chesterfield Pride asked supporters for suggestions to improve the annual event – which is being held on Sunday, July 18 at Stand Road Park.
Calum McDermott 24, who was born and raised in the town, was one of many who urged the town’s pride to be moved from a Sunday to a Saturday to increase support but also make the event feel more ‘of a celebration’.
In response, Chesterfield Pride organiser Dan Walker said ‘in an ideal world’ the event would be ‘better’ on a Saturday, but following recent homophobia, thousands attending the town’s bars and clubs afterwards could face ‘hostility’ and risk their own safety.
He also mentioned that it would be difficult to find a venue big enough to host the after party on the most popular night of the week and is keen to ensure the event remains a safe space, after running pride successfully for six years ‘without issue’.
It comes after Chesterfield Pride shared a picture of Chesterfield Parish Church with a rainbow Crooked Spire last week and were met with several homophobic comments online labelling the image ‘disgusting’ and ‘offensive’.
Calum, who is an openly gay man, was bullied for his sexuality at school, but is now campaigning to challenge discrimination and help make LGBTQ+ people feel safer.
The 24-year-old film and media graduate lives in Hasland but also has a residence in Manchester – which he says has greater acceptance of gay people.
Calum said: "It has always been on a Sunday but people have reasons like having work on a Monday. My friends and family are less likely to come on a Sunday rather than a Saturday. It would increase accessibility, it would increase the number of people going.
"I think it's upsetting because I've grown up and been to these great clubs with friends, who are straight, who are allies and who love me.
"Then to have Chesterfield Pride backing down in the space of fear, I think it is quite upsetting because I want the best for everyone.
"I want for the young people in Chesterfield who may have been like me, growing up bullied to be more open about themselves. I want them to know that they can go to a great event like Chesterfield Pride, they can be safe, regardless of the day it may take place.”
The University of Manchester graduate praised the annual pride event for increasing LGBTQ+ visibility in Chesterfield but believes more needs to be done to challenge homophobia in the town.
Calum added: “There is still a fight that needs to be pushed and it is sad for me to see the fear that exists and the homophobia that takes place.
"I love Chesterfield, I love the pride event, I love the clubs and I am wanting to increase this awareness and make it more of a safer place for everyone.
"By my straight friends or family speaking up, posting it to their social media, speaking to their friends, their family, it helps to challenge this negative mindset and negative beliefs so that more generations in the future can grow up happier and accepted.
"I know growing up if I had seen more greater visibility and I had conversations more with my family and seen more support, without even necessarily knowing that I am gay, it would have meant a lot as it would have meant I would have come out of my shell and been able to come out easier and quicker."
In a statement, Chesterfield Pride said: “Homophobia is still unfortunately prevalent in society and this is one of the reasons why the event is not held currently on a Saturday.
"We have created a welcoming and safe event that has had zero issues in six years.
"The event is a safe space for all sections of society.
"Keeping people safe and minimising risk is our priority.
"However, there are other reasons why the event takes place on a Sunday.”
Organiser Dan, who has been going out in the town for 20 years, explained that by holding the celebration on a Sunday, it prevents clashing with other pride events in Hull and the North East which are historically held over the same weekend.
He also shared how he has experienced homophobia while on nights out and when leafleting in the town.
Dan also pointed out that Chesterfield does not have a designated LGBT venue, meaning on a Sunday they can get premises to open up exclusively for the community.
"It is really sad but this is the society that we live in, you cannot force people to not be homophobic”, he added.
"The last thing I want is an incident to mark what has been a successfully run event for six years, where we have had no incidents.
"It's not a case of living in fear, I don't live in fear but I don't run the event just from my point of view.
"I look at it from trying to protect all the people in society, whether that is a shy 18-year-old who has come out for the first time to an event which is safe and secure, then has decided to go out afterwards and could face abuse.
"It is about minimising risks.”