Anti-homophobia event is back in Tonbridge on a bigger scale
By Tonbridge Courier | Friday, January 18, 2013, 08:01
A PARADE celebrating and supporting Tonbridge's gay community will be making a comeback this summer.
Colourful: Steffany Mortlock, Reece Heron and Simon Bennett at last year's Tonbridge anti-homophobia march
Proud: Steffany Mortlock is organising an anti-homophobia event
A date of August 17 has been set for the now annual Tonbridge Pride event.
Following complaints by two gay men that they suffered homophobic jeering and threats on the town's streets last year, a protest was staged in the Racecourse Sportsground with just eight days' organisation.
"I'm not mad enough to do that again," co-ordinator Steffany Mortlock told the Courier. She is in the early stages of planning this year's parade, although a location has not yet been decided.
"The positive response from last year was overwhelming," she said.
"We're progressing from it not being a march anymore but more of a Pride event based on models like Brighton Pride.
"It's a chance to show you're proud to be from Tonbridge, not just the fact you're homosexual."
Miss Mortlock, who lives in Hildenborough and is an apprentice youth worker, said the event could be the only one of its kind in this part of the county.
"In every major city there is a Pride event. Canterbury had one but it was cancelled. We're the only one in West Kent.
"In Kent there isn't such a visible gay community. There are events and club nights in Tunbridge Wells, but not everyone really knows about them. People who are just coming out can completely miss them."
Last year about 180 protesters held hands and walked around Tonbridge Racecourse Sportsground and a short stretch of the High Street in a colourful hour-long parade.
But this year's event is set to be on an even bigger scale, with bands performing and stalls from local businesses.
Miss Mortlock said: "Hopefully we're going to be using lots of local bands, local artists, lots of stalls selling different things from the area. We want to encourage local businesses who support LGBT or are run by LGBT people to take part."
But to make it a success, the event needs fundraisers and volunteers.
"Last year I organised it on a whim," Miss Mortlock said. "This year we need people with expertise or experience in organising big events.
"We are looking for a host team to do something for their community. We had a fantastic team last year and nearly all have applied to be part of it again this year."
Miss Mortlock added she also wanted young people to take the opportunity to get some volunteering experience.
If you would like to get involved e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org