August 18th sees the arrival of the 12th Doncaster Pride event.
Words: Jenny Dewsnap
Photography: John Fuller
As Doncaster’s biggest town centre event, it’s predicted that Doncaster Pride will draw over 10,000 people into the town centre. Coordinating a free cultural event is no easy endeavour. We asked the Chair of Doncaster Pride how it’s possible to host such a big event, and what role local businesses play in the event’s success.
August 2007, the budget for the first ever Pride was in the region of £1.5k, given by South Yorkshire Police to improve integration and visibility. This year, the 12th Pride, we’ll turn over close to £25k. We’re still a free event too. So yes, the last 12 years have seen lots of changes. In the early days, we had little or no business involvement, sponsorship or visibility in the town other than the event site for just one day a year. We were dependent on a mix of grant funding and fundraising but even in the early days we were committed to growing the event, even if at times we were unsure how.
We’ve seen gay venues come and go. Many fundraised year-round, but in the last 6 years this has been virtually nothing, so where does this money and growth come from?
It’s really been a case of more visibility and more acceptance that has led to more awareness and more realisation that the event, although rooted in LGBT+ rights, is these days more a mix of remembrance and celebration, and this then gives the business community, the brand managers and the marketers, the opportunity to get a message to our audience of around 15,000 people.
In Doncaster we have a great relationship with our sponsors, and a growing number of businesses ever year who want to advertise themselves with us. This can be hotels, restaurants, taxi firms, or even distribution and manufacturing businesses. What’s more is we give them a great deal, an opportunity to support a local charity, a ‘feel good’ event that brings money and people into Doncaster and one that uses funds not only to deliver the event but, 12 years on, they can now invest in helping us deliver, 365 days a year, support to the LGBT+ community.
Whichever way you look at it, business funding supports the community and provides commercial exposure of a product or service at the same time, and we’re happy with that. We never hide behind what the money does and how it helps us to scale up, so our new commercial model isn’t a tick box exercise for businesses to demonstrate equality and diversity, but also valued exposure to the extremely diverse crowd, many thousands of website visitors and also investment in our year-round efforts at the same time.
We value our sponsors’ and advertisers’ financial support, but also the exposure their involvement gives us as a positive affirmation that our work, which remains to be visible to promote education, celebrate pour sexuality and our rights to love whom we choose, and this is something they want to support and be affiliated with.
As pride continues to evolve, it may be that the commercialisation proves, to a large extent, to be a generational one. If you take our older audience, who lived in times of activism and grew up in a different society to those who grew up in the reality of same-sex marriage and belief that the AIDS epidemic was over, their opinions will be vastly different. Millenials have grown up in a commercialised culture and absolutely accept that every aspect of life, both on- and offline, is colonised by marketers.
So, Pride has become a commercial success, but have we lost sight of our political roots?
Pride-goers last year will recall the now ‘famous’ intro section was given over to a series of images of protesters in countries still opressed. This spurred on our solidarity with those less fortunate than ourselves and showed that we remain grounded in the history of protest and still believe this is relevant today as much as it ever was.
Today, some within the LGBT+ community still struggle with identity, acceptance, and coming to terms with who they are. We’ve been told that who we are is wrong and unnatural and homosexuality was, and still is, frowned upon. So, the commercial world, whatever your opinion of it, helps normalise homosexuality and helps promote the positive message that being gay is normal and okay.
So, for us that’s how Pride succeeds with its new business-related model for funding, it’s how it gets more inclusive and welcoming every year and, as the community becomes more integrated, more straight people come, and more minds are opened to the possibility that we gays might just be regular people after all. (Albeit with better decorating sense and the sass to pull off more outrageous outfits.)
There’s a burgeoning new drag haus in town. Doncopolitan take pride in supporting both Zehaus and Fluid/ity, Doncaster’s exciting new drag collective, and monthly live drag show. Hosted by Doncaster’s legendary Warehouse, Fluid/ity continues the tradition of collaboration between drag and dance music, which stretches back to the New York ballroom scene in the eighties and nineties, not to mention the mutual influence Chicago house and voguing have had on each other. Doncopolitan is committed to supporting art in all its wondrous forms and when Donny does summat, it does it well. There are all sorts of behind the scenes happenings that contribute towards a full monthly live drag show, and Doncopolitan are proud to support Fluid/ity and Zehaus in any way we can.
The third in a series discussing art and identity within the LGBTQ+ community
Words: Bipolar Abdul
With Pride fast approaching, I decided it was time to speak to some Doncaster LGBTQ+ artists. Doncaster is home to a huge queer community, many of whom are beautifully creative and conceptual. This is the third in a series where I reach out to three fellow artists. We spoke about art and creative outlets but also discussed sexuality and gender identity, and how that can affect lives.
Nathan Watson AKA Eboni Whyte is a founding member of Doncasters only drag family – ZEHAUS – visual artist and all round beautiful entertainer. Oh, and my sister.
Tell me about Eboni, what’s your artistic process?
Eboni is sassy not classy, fierce, tall, and the friendliest intimidating creature you will ever meet. I like to take my inspiration for Eboni from black women that I admire, so there are influences from big stars such as Beyoncé, Nicki Minaj and Scary Spice. Growing up I had major issues with the colour of my skin, always feeling very out of place in a white community and spent many years hating the skin I was born into. Eventually though I learnt to love my melanin magic and wanted to show this in my drag.
My artistic process is fairly simple, I just do what I feel, when I feel like doing it. Eboni is a chameleon and has been known to go from being a beautiful 7-foot glamazon to running around with a beard and hairy chest.
When I’m choosing songs that I want to perform to on stage, I have to be able to envision myself in my mind performing to it. I mainly listen to music in my car, driving to and from work, and this is when I come up with my ideas. I like to tell a story in my numbers and in the past I’ve performed to all different genres of music.
How has drag helped you? Has it affected your day to day life?
Drag has definitely helped me to learn how to love myself. I’m not always a confident person, but the second those talons are on the ends of my fingers and the eye liner is perfectly flicked, there is no holding me back. When I’m not in drag I can get into my own head, worrying about things and what people may think and I have to tell myself to stop whining. If I can step out on a stage and throw myself around to music for 4 minutes with everyone’s eyes on me, then I can do anything!
What’s Eboni’s greatest achievement?
Eboni’s greatest achievement is not breaking her neck running around in heels all the time… just kidding, but it’s probably having people I can class as fans! It’s an amazing feeling to know that somebody loves, appreciates and actually gets you and what you’re trying to do. So far, she hasn’t been in any drag competitions or performed on any big stages just yet, but hopefully they will be ticked off the list sometime soon!
Have you ever been judged for being gay?
I have, when presenting as both male and as female. I was bullied a lot during school for a number of reasons, but my sexuality was one of the main reasons, and I even experienced this as far through my education into my uni years. The only times as an adult I’ve really had any issues has been on nights out, which is why I’ve eventually got to a point where I mainly only go to gay bars/clubs, because I feel safer in that kind of environment and don’t have to worry about my sexuality being a problem to others. I’ve even had some very aggressive men come up and threaten me whilst I was stood outside a gay bar in drag, talking to my friends, all for absolutely no reason at all.
What’s your favourite thing about Doncaster Pride?
My favourite part about Doncaster Pride is the many different types of people that all gather in one space, all for one reason. And as always, Pride is about celebrating being proud of who we are. Remembering that many people gave so much, to ensure that we are able to live in this period of time where it is much easier for us to live how we want to than it was for them, just decades ago.
Join Eboni on the last Friday of every month at FLUID/ITY Doncaster Warehouse with the rest of ZEHAUS.
The second in a series discussing art and identity within the LGBTQ+ community
Words: Bipolar Abdul
With Pride fast approaching, I decided it was time to speak to some Doncaster LGBTQ+ artists. Doncaster is home to a huge queer community, many of whom are beautifully creative and conceptual. This is the second in a series where I reach out to three fellow artists. We spoke about art and creative outlets but also discussed sexuality and gender identity, and how that can affect lives.
Alexis Lily Denman is a dancer from Doncaster, now living in Leeds. As well as being a trained dancer, she is an incredibly inspirational trans woman.
Tell me all about your dance, what’s your greatest achievement?
My own personal style of dance, while rooted within the realm of Contemporary, borders more on lyrical, emotional performance as well as taking influence from a number of different styles such as Jazz, Burlesque, Vogue and Latin American. Dance and performance has always made me feel more than myself, allowing me to explore my own feelings and emotions on a deeper, more profound level. Performing has been an escape for me ever since childhood, fighting my way through life and its difficulties, and helping me to make sense of myself through the cathartic experience of letting myself go and being free.
One of my biggest achievements came quite recently towards the end of my first year of university, as I was exploring myself as a trans woman and as a performer, something which up to that point in time I hadn’t really had the opportunity to do. I created a short dance documentary based on my life as a dancer and a trans woman. Although I had always been happy to discuss my life, and difficulties when coming out and traversing through life as trans, when people had asked (I have always been an open book when it came to this) I had never opened up as much through any form of performance or media, or bared my soul as it were. It was a difficult thing for me to achieve in the sense that I had never truly considered how it felt being a pre-transition dancer before that point. Again, with dance, pushing myself into this project gave me a huge feeling of catharsis and allowed me to open myself up to exploring different art forms within the world of queer art performance, as opposed to placing myself in more generic styles of dance and choreography that I had done before. If anyone wants to watch the documentary it can be found on YouTube ‘Alexis Lilly: Woman’.
What are your artistic goals for the future?
I hope to further explore myself as a queer artist by developing live artwork pertaining to my life within the LGBTQ+ community through and after my years at university and helping others along their own paths with my work, and creating a dialogue for those who are struggling to come to terms with their own difficulties, by shedding a little light on the situations I have dealt with and proving that it gets better and it somehow, eventually, gets easier even though there are often times where there doesn’t seem to be a light at the end.
Were there any times you found it difficult being a trans woman in the dance world?
More so when I began university, in terms of being a trans dancer I have found difficulties, not for any reason other than my own personal issues I put on myself. I placed doubts in my mind that are still there and that I fight every day and, more often than not, succeed. I have always had issues in dealing with my own femininity, I have looked in a mirror so often and seen myself as a boy amongst the petite girls in and around my dance life, the ones who can move better than me, the ones who are naturally pretty without the 10 layers of make-up I place on myself, to feel somewhat more female. Although I am becoming stronger in myself and believing more and more each day that I am the girl I know, it is still an uphill climb, the fight doesn’t stop; you just find the strength to fight harder and it gets better in time.
What impact has Pride had on your life as a member of the LGBTQ+ community?
Pride has always held a massive place in my heart, even though its only one day, it is such an incredible experience being able to spend it forgetting about your worries about how you look and feel. Being able to spend some time with like minded people, letting loose and celebrating each other, whilst remembering those who had come before us and fought for the rights that we all have today. I have made some incredible and lifelong friends whilst attending Pride every year and have found a greater sense of acceptance within the community, all from just a single day, which I know is exactly what Pride is about.
What is your favourite thing about Doncaster Pride?
Doncaster isn’t exactly one of the most LBGTQ+ friendly places, as we all know, but the support network created by this event is truly admirable. The atmosphere is always one of love and acceptance, even though around the rest of town there may not be as much hospitality; we know that the people who have fought every year to create these events for us are doing so for us to share the love of each other and help us all be a little prouder of ourselves each day, and for that I couldn’t be more thankful. Doncaster Pride has helped me be a little more myself and has always helped me to understand how to love myself, take pride in what I do, and who I am.
The first in a series discussing art and identity within the LGBTQ+ community
Words: Bipolar Abdul
With Pride fast approaching, I decided it was time to speak to some Doncaster LGBTQ+ artists. Doncaster is home to a huge queer community, many of whom are beautifully creative and conceptual. I reached out to three fellow artists. We spoke about art and creative outlets but also discussed sexuality and gender identity, and how that can affect lives.
Jack, founder of Offend My Eyes and a trans man. A Doncaster based clothing store offering alternative, art based graphic design in unisex garments and accessories.
What inspired you to start up Offend My Eyes?
I’ve always been a bit weird, I remember growing up before everything was so accessible on the internet (I didn’t even have the internet as a child!) and finding clothing I liked was so difficult. I had to find the one alternative shop in my whole city, and even then, everything was marketed towards the goth culture and I loved bright colours. That never changed, and eventually as an adult I just decided to make the designs myself. I really didn’t think there would be many other people who would have the same aesthetic, but it turned out there was a niche in the market for the style.
Have there been any bumps in the road or barriers you’ve had to smash?
Oh, definitely. The biggest hurdle was finding a way to print our colourful designs all over a T-shirt without the pattern becoming skewed or having white streaks in it. Even the big high street shops like TopShop couldn’t do this, so it took us a lot of trial and error. We got there in the end, but only after making many mistakes and trying out lots of different angles. Not only that, but being a small, independent company means a lot of printers won’t take you seriously, and most of them won’t work with you unless you’re making minimum orders of 1000 T-shirts. It was worth it though, now we pride ourselves on having beautiful, all over prints that are perfectly printed and never fade!
What are your goals for the future?
We try not to be unrealistic, we know that our style is a bit too strange to ever become main stream, but we’d like to become the leading brand for colourful, crazy fashion. Each year is another success to us, and we’re grateful to still be here, even after 4 years. We just hope we can continue building the brand and make it synonymous with bold, daring prints.
Have you ever been judged for your sexual orientation or gender identity?
Unfortunately, we still get judged for being ourselves every day. Sometimes I try to understand that they just need educating, and sometimes it’s blatant hate, which hurts so much more. I’m transgender, and our company is run by people who identify as trans, lesbian, gay and straight, so we try to be as open and supportive as possible, not just in our designs which are often LGBTQ+ themed, but also by supporting local gay prides and festivals, like Sparkle in Manchester.
The hardest part to deal with, is when we aren’t taken seriously as a company because we’re transgender or gay. Sometimes people assume that’s all there is to you, when really, we’re not defined by our identity or sexuality and it’s actually a very small part of who we are as people. We’re proud of it, but we’d like to also be known for our talents in the fashion industry.
What’s your favourite thing about Doncaster Pride?
I’ve lived in Doncaster since I was 3 years old. I grew up here, my family lives here and I honestly can’t explain to outsiders what living here is really like. It’s down to earth, honest, raw and has so much going for it. With big cities like Leeds around the corner, I think Doncaster gets missed off the map, but it really does have a lot going for it.
Doncaster Pride is just one part of that. I love that it is free for everyone to attend. I love that it is not too big that the personal touches get left out, but it’s still big enough to create a buzzing crowd of people all enjoying themselves. I love the vibe as you walk around, how friendly everyone is and how everybody comes together to be part of one big family. But, I think my favourite part of the whole event is that its proximity to town means people who don’t necessarily know about pride can wander in from the street, and they’re just as welcome as everybody else, regardless of their orientation or identity. They can see what it means to be part of the LGBTQ+ community and perhaps that will make them a bit more understanding in the future.
Catch Offend My Eyes at Doncaster Pride
The fight against fracking continues in South Yorkshire
Words: The Naughty Pixies
After long campaigns by the community to keep them out, villainous chemical and plastics company, INEOS has sadly received planning permission to explore for shale gas at a site in the village of Harthill, South Yorkshire. Rotherham Borough Council had voted unanimously in January to oppose the application after INEOS announced it was appealing over non-determination. The company’s appeal has been allowed following a seven-day public inquiry in April and May; the decision was made by the Planning Inspectorate regardless of local and national opposition.
The site at Common Road, Harthill, had been opposed by the residents, local MPs and many community groups including, Harthill Against Fracking and Frack Free South Yorkshire. MP for Rotherham Sir Kevin Barron said he was “Very disappointed that INEOS have been granted planning permission for fracking in Harthill. I will continue to fight this decision as I still believe there are too many unanswered questions around fracking.”
Pro frackers will tell you we’ve been fracking on this isle for decades, but the truth is the only fracking work to have taken place in the UK was 7 years ago over in Lancashire by the company Cuadrilla. Work was suspended in June of that year after the Flyde coast experienced earthquakes that were also felt here in South Yorkshire. One tremor of magnitude 2.3 on 1 April, followed by a second of magnitude 1.4 on 27 May. A study by the British Geological Survey placed the epicenter for each quake about 500metres away from the Preese Hall-1 well at Weeton near Blackpool. Cuadrilla admitted that their fracking attempts had caused the quakes and there was no more fracking the Flyde until now.
It’s no coincidence that Cuadrilla sounds just like Godzilla because fracking companies are monsters invading our towns and villages. In 2017 Cuadrilla were back to frack Lancashire, and despite massive campaigns by locals and a no vote from Lancashire Council, the decision was taken out of the hands of local democracy, just like the INEOS application in Rotherham, Westminister gave it the go ahead. So Cuadrilla have commenced work at Preston New Road, Little Plumpton. There are successful daily blockades by protestors from all over the country and a protection camp established to monitor every move and mistake Cuadrilla makes. Fracking companies constantly breach planning permission and have to be watched very closely so their wrong behaviour doesn’t go unchecked.
These companies go to great lengths to silence the communities that they prey on, for example, INEOS and Cuadrilla have taken out injunctions against ‘persons unknown’, which means all of us. The injunctions prohibit any unlawful obstruction of INEOS/Cuadrilla business, people or suppliers – basically anyone attempting to protest their activities by attending the site or slow walking lorries etc. may be subject to their injunction. But, their underhand scare tactics have only highlighted their contempt for the local community and thousands of people continue to oppose them. That is what we must do oppose them!
Protectors include nans and grandads, mothers and fathers, teachers and nurses, MP’s and Mayors, students and graduates, carers and construction workers, people just like us. There are protection camps at Misson near Bawtry and at Tinker Lane near Ranskill/Blyth where exploratory wells are under construction. These are temporary camps set up to oppose the fracking activities, people visit from other communities to help the locals take action and the camps serve as a place for protestors to eat and rest, so they can be present to monitor the sites. Last month a solidarity day was held at the Misson camp and people attended from all over the country to visit the gates at the IGAS site, share cake, play music and show their opposition to this invasion of the community. This year the company, Third Energy, pulled out of their site in North Yorkshire after a long campaign by locals and protectors, their accounts are under scrutiny and they abandoned their operations.
The fracking industry is a total scam, they know it’s not viable, they know it won’t last, the UK’s no good for fracking they just want to make money fast! Cowboy billionaires like Jim Ratcliffe of INEOS need to back off, frack off, and try investing in repairing the earth instead of filling it full of plastics and chemicals. The rest of the world is busy embracing green solutions to our energy needs and working to eradicate the pollution caused by plastics and fossil fuels so let’s not allow them to fill our lovely land with poison there is a reason this practice has been banned in other countries. Help stop fracking here, folks 🙂
P.S. Lord Brown, this is not the ‘desolate north’ we are the many and we say no!
If you are unsure what fracking is or want to help stop it please visit http://www.frackfreesouthyorkshire.co.uk/fracking-facts.html or visit one of the local camps to find out what’s occurring and share a cup of tea.