In the last two years, Birmingham Pride Trust has contributed more than £85,000 to 22 Midlands-based charities. Midlands Zone spoke to Birmingham Pride Trust board member, Steve Ball, to find out more...
How did you first get involved in Birmingham Pride Trust?
I’m something of a Pride veteran, having been part of the Birmingham Pride organising committee back in the late 1990s. Bill Gavan, who ran Subway City, was Chair, and we had great fun creating something new and exciting for the city.
And how did you get involved in awarding the grants?
A couple of years ago, Lawrence Barton approached myself, Steve Bedser and Karen Creavin and asked us to form a panel and develop a mechanism for allocating the surplus from Birmingham Pride to community groups. We were keen to establish a ‘light touch’ application process that was accessible to everyone. We established four priorities for support; young LGBT people, elders within the LGBT community, LGBT families and LGBT people with specific health conditions.
That’s quite a diverse group. What made you prioritise them?
We wanted to make sure that funds went to the sections of our community that are not always visible at Pride or in the Gay Village but are in need of additional support and resources.
Were there any projects that particularly stood out?
Too many to mention. We weren’t able to fund all of the projects that applied, but we were struck by the dedication and commitment of the people we met when we interviewed the shortlisted applicants. Some of the projects we funded are ‘performing arts’-based; Dan Hagley led a developmental workshop for his play, Beautiful Boy, which explores the impact of homophobia on a young gay lad and the people who love him.
Rainbow Voices LGBT choir's grant enabled them to commission a professional composer and lyricist to create a new anthem, Diversity And Harmony, and a professionally designed exhibition celebrating their first 20 years, featuring quotes, photos, memories and memorabilia provided by members past and present.
A grant to Birmingham Open Media enabled a major collaboration with queer artist Gemma Marmalade, complemented by an off-site performance at last year’s Birmingham Pride, during which Ms Marmalade performed 'queer pheromone testing' on thousands of willing participants, engaging the public in lively conversations about the relevance of science research and LGBTQ culture.
The grant to Pink Sou'westers social network enabled them to continue to provide a variety of affordable, inclusive events for LGBTs across a wide age range who’re looking for social activities outside the bars and clubs. Events have included everything from Laser Quest to mini-golf, curry nights and visits to museums and heritage sites.
Other grants were awarded to groups of people who are particularly vulnerable, including SIFA Fireside, an organisation based in Digbeth that works with homeless people and those in alcohol recovery. The award enabled them to establish a counselling service targeted at people in the LGBT community.
Funding also enabled the X2Y youth group in Wolverhampton to continue for a full year helping young people to feel less isolated and gain improved self-esteem, confidence and increased knowledge of LGBT issues.
A grant enabled the LGBT Network in Wolverhampton to support over 100 LGBT people with mental health issues. Their service, Empower, has literally been a lifeline for some.
The Journey LGBT Asylum Seekers Group were also supported. They provide a refuge of safety where LGBT people can be honest about their sexuality, talk about their ordeals and find friendship and mutual support. They’ve stopped six people from being deported, preventing them from having to return to their home countries, where they would be imprisoned or killed.
What of the future?
I hope that people will continue to support Birmingham Pride, not just to celebrate and have a good time over the festival weekend, but to enable the proceeds of the event to benefit the region’s diverse LGBT communities all year round. It’s something we should all take Pride in.
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