This year Exeter Pride will be different. This has been – and remains - an unprecedented time for our community.
The impact of Covid-19 has been felt at every level. Exeter Pride trustees mourn with all those who have lost loved ones during this pandemic, and stand with those who have been ill and now suffer the symptoms of long Covid.
Even for those who have not had Covid, we recognise that this pandemic has had a significant impact on our community in terms of mental health, relationships, and wellbeing.
An already unequal society has been further divided by those who are clinically vulnerably, and those who are not; or those furloughed and supported, and those who were not; those living with others, and those living alone.
This year, Exeter Pride acknowledges how hard these times have been, and we are adapting Pride as result:
1. There will be no Pride march
Our usual march requires a lot of commitment from local councils, the police, and emergency medical staff. We do not feel it would be responsible of us in these times to place additional unnecessary burdens on services that are already under strain. While we have considered ways to try to make a march safe and socially distanced, the community of Exeter always lines the route to watch and support the march, and as that is outside of our control, we do not feel we could guarantee the safety of spectators and well-wishers.
2. There will be no festival site, main stage, or market place
Exeter Pride regulars will know that the event in recent years has attracted up to 15,000 people in Northernhay and Rougemont Gardens for our festival site. There are high-volume pinch-points in the site management of the area, including the entrance points where there are security searches, in front of the main stage, and the bars and toilets. We do not believe it is safe or responsible this year to push our communities into crowded spaces. It also remains important that the residents of central Exeter have open green spaces to go to for their own physical and mental wellbeing while restrictions remain in place, so we do not want to monopolise the Gardens until the pandemic is over.
So many members of the LGBTQ+ community have been affected negatively by the pandemic and, although we have been unable to meet up physically, we can still continue to connect with each other through virtual events and, together, look forward to the better times ahead.
We will now be contacting all of our supporting businesses, sponsors, community organisations, artists and stakeholders to make them aware of plans.
Simon Bowkett, co-chair of Exeter Pride said: “We have been following government and health advice closely and we cannot justify risking any compromise to the health of our community.
“Even if the government and health authorities were content for Exeter Pride physical events to go ahead as planned, we are first and foremost about inclusion – and the fact that many of our disabled, older and immuno-compromised people may feel safest to stay away would mean an event would have been poorer.
"We are sorry if this disappoints people who were looking forward to our usual 10,000 to 15,000+ people get-togethers but look out for what we have in-store in the near and distant future.
"Remember to take care of yourselves physically and mentally and remain connected and seek support if you need it.
“The Exeter Pride family is a strong, supportive community and safe space, and until it is possible to resume normal activities, we, the Committee and trustees, will do everything we can to keep it that way.”
Exeter Pride became a registered charity in 2015 and is one of the South West’s biggest celebrations of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and questioning plus (LGBTQ+) communities, and traditionally runs one of the biggest free Pride events in the country.
Exeter Pride is a key annual event in Exeter’s calendar and for the LGBTQ+ community across the South West.
In 2019 Exeter Pride won the prestigious Event of the Year at the Exeter Living awards for its 2018 10th Anniversary event.