Organisers refused to call off pride event following homophobic legal threats and criminal damage to venue

BY ELLA PORTEOUS, IMAGE VIA FACEBOOK (@DEWSBURYPRIDE)

This was the first year that the town in West Yorkshire has ever put on a pride event, and after receiving threats throughout the week leading up to Dewsbury Pride, they found that vandals had slashed the marquees with knives, causing at least £4,000 worth of damage.  

Hosted at the Leggers Inn on 15 July, the event was advertised across social media as a day to celebrate Pride in the local community, with a whole host of entertainment including drag bingo, cabaret acts, live music, DJ sets, fairground games and more.  

DIVA spoke to Chloe Mitchell, the event’s organiser, about the distressing events that took place in the lead-up to the Dewsbury Pride.  

About a week before the event, the organisers began to receive emails containing letters from the newly-formed Dewsbury Action Group Against Paedophilia, threatening an injunction and to take them to court for £60,000 — accusing the event of being “not only objectionable” but also posing “significant risks to the safety and well-being of children and vulnerable young people in the neighbourhood”. The Action Group threatened the organisers, and the licensee of the pub that was hosting the event, saying it would include “lude and explicit acts and performances, many of which have been deliberately targeted at children”, putting them in breach of their licence. “It was as if someone had googled why an event might be illegal and then added every single thing into these documents,” Chloe told me. The organisers had to take urgent legal advice in order to satisfy themselves that they should continue.

On top of this, the pub began to receive emails stating that they hoped they would consider cancelling the event due to the upset it would cause loyal customers. This subsequently caused a lot of distress and worry from the organisers and the pub alike.  

“The owner was really good and he, if anything, was just as adamant as we were that it was going to go ahead, and we weren’t going to bow to the pressure of people saying things like this.”

Two days before the Pride event was due to begin, a Twitter group was created called Dewsbury Against Paedophiles. Rightfully upset and disgusted, Chloe said “The group had been set up specifically to stop Dewsbury Pride, and they said they were going to come and protest the event and obviously that was more worrying if anything.”

The organisers were forced to call the police to report the intimidation and to raise concerns about the security of the event. Thankfully no protesters showed up on the day, but this is when the destroyed marquee was discovered.  

“It wasn’t just a little bit that was damaged, it’s every single panel of the marquee; the roof, the sides, everything.”

Chloe and the rest of the organisers refused to back down, and the day went ahead as planned; a wonderful celebration of Pride and a safe space for LGBTQIA locals and allies. The GoFundMe page for the marquee has surpassed its target of £4,000, with all extra donations going to LGBTQIA charities. 

On the future of Dewsbury Pride and in light of the harassment they faced, Chloe said “This is the first time it has really hit home for me that this was still a problem in 2023. Maybe before this, it would have been a one-off event, but now it feels like we have an obligation to make sure that we provide that space again.”

This incident is sadly a perfect example of why we need Pride, particularly in smaller areas. Huge pride events in cities such as London, Brighton, and Manchester aren’t always accessible, and so for LGBTQIA people to see pride events and other people like themselves in their smaller towns can be life changing. LGBTQIA people deserve to have a community and grassroots events such as these are just as important as citywide pride parades. 

We commend Chloe and the rest of the Dewsbury Pride organisers for putting on a fabulous event and refusing to submit to such horrendous bigotry.  

DIVA magazine celebrates 29 years in print in 2023. If you like what we do, then get behind LGBTQIA media and keep us going for another generation. Your support is invaluable. 

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