After Australia voted yes to marriage equality and the Sydney Mardi Gras marked its 40th anniversary, members of the local LGBTI community decided it was time for a celebration of their own.
The inaugural Newcastle Pride festival has been announced for August and will encompass the city as well as events in the wider Hunter Region.
The event is the brainchild of organisers Lee-Anne McDougall and Ivan Skaines, previously of Rainbow Visions Hunter Inc.
In February the Gateway Hotel at Islington closed its doors as a lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and/or intersex venue and rebranded as an all-inclusive hotel.
The news made Ms McDougall realise that the local LGBTI community was fast running out of options to meet up, network and celebrate, sparking the idea for Newcastle Pride.
“Newcastle LGBTI community has not held any major events for several years,” Ms McDougall said.
“Pride Festivals are now celebrated all over the world so why hasn’t Newcastle ever celebrated? We are the second biggest city in NSW. We need to get our community back on the map.”
Newcastle Pride will focus on celebrating solidarity in gender and sexuality diversity. There will be a launch party, pride fair day, dance event, wine tour and an evening of short films.
The organisers said the aim was to make the Newcastle and Hunter Region a safe, happier, healthier and more culturally rich place for all of the LGBTI community, while having a bit of fun.
“Everyone is welcome, sexuality is not a prerequisite, just a good attitude and the will to be social and accepting,” she said.
“I believe in acceptance, just accept people for who they are, for our uniqueness and differences.
“Pride festivals aim to bring us together with the mainstream community, other community groups and supportive businesses, friends and allies.”
News of the event has been warmly welcomed, with hundreds of people joining the Newcastle Pride event page on social media
The big question everyone wanted to know – will there be a parade?
“No parade this year as we have a short lead time,” she said.
“We plan to hold a pride march next year. We wanted to give the community lots of notice so they have time to build floats and whip up fabulous costumes.
“I am really excited about this festival and to date the support and interest from the community has been overwhelming.
“This is just the beginning for Newcastle Pride.”