The Queensland Council for LGBTI Health – QC and 2Spirits teams recently experienced the joy of Gladstone’s first Pride celebration. The Rainbow on the Reef group, formed last year, organised the inaugural event.
And what a Pride it was!
Rainbow on the Reef hosted the celebrations across the weekend of June 10-12. All of us from QC and 2Spirits are left with a beautiful afterglow. We got chatting with Rainbow on the Reef President, Heather Richards and Secretary Lee Griffiths.
Heather said “It was amazing that on Saturday in particular, at Gladstone’s Marina Parklands, to see all the teenagers express themselves with a multitude of flags, obviously feeling safe to express themselves in a multitude of ways, from what they were wearing and saying, to the obvious show of support from parents and friends. That was really huge for me. If that was the only thing that had occurred on the weekend it had already been a success… But to see everything else on top of it just made it so beautiful and happy.”
SURPRISES AND REFLECTIONS
Secretary Lee Griffiths said he was both surprised and delighted following the first Gladstone Pride.
“A number of young people actually thanked the people from the Council store for enabling it to happen. So, that leaves me thinking where will these young people go for the same space to be able to express themselves after this? That’s where my thoughts go now….”
This Pride Festival success didn’t just happen overnight. Heather points out that Rainbow on the Reef have been pretty visible with everything that they’ve done. They don’t shy away from the colours and flags of our communities. And they also held smaller events in the lead-up to Pride.
“Two Pride BBQs, six monthly coffees, and a big thing in September last year called Rainbow in the Gardens. 400 people attended the Botanical Gardens. We got a small grant from Brisbane Pride and support from Stronger Communities. Then we asked a lot of small businesses in town who chipped in small prizes and it was a lovely day with very public stalls. We also have a collection of flags to make sure people feel represented. There’s been a few smaller publicly visible things like occasionally going into bars and just putting little flags on the table while we just eat, so we’ve done those little things which are visible along with a lot of media and social media.”
It also helped that every Director had a different network of people to tap into.
DJ Dolly Llama
Fair Day also featured live entertainment from several performing artists including Brisbane-based DJ Dolly Llama. We spoke to Dolly to find out what the allure of this new Pride Festival in Gladstone meant to her and why she committed it.
“I moved to Australia in 2009 from NYC and definitely have a real soft spot in my heart for smaller regional towns. You know, we watched The Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert on the opening night which I thought was very apropos just because the drag queens in the movie go through some pretty small towns.”
“I had never been to Gladstone before but had lived in the nearby town of Agnes Water as a backpacker for a month at a gay bush retreat/animal rehabilitation centre back in 2009 and then seeing the beauty of it thought I’d try to get back up there and explore another part of the region. Whenever any regional Pride-style organisation reaches out to me, I’m always excited at any opportunity to play outside my usual Brisbane venues and travel a bit, see a new part of the country, build my fanbase and ultimately, I really just wanted to help out this organisation in their first year of hosting a Pride event.”
Dolly’s day job is in market research so she also offered to run their first-ever attendees’ satisfaction survey.
“I wrote and programmed that for them which is now live and we’re getting responses coming in as they promote that survey so we find out what was good about the five events across the weekend. I’m doing all that pro bono because I really want to see it succeed. I grew up in the suburbs myself, although closer to a big city than Gladstone is, so am happy to bring my music, bring a bit of joy and expression to smaller more regional areas.”
In spite of the many photos taken with Dolly, the stand-out moment was the young person who came up to her and said “I don’t want a photo, just a hug!” along with the emo and goth kids who she danced and spoke with as well. There was no hate or nastiness from anyone.
Lee Griffith’s expectations were already exceeded on Friday night in the cinema with the fantastic reaction to the award-winning short film Sparkles followed by The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert. Sparkles deals with intersectionality where a woman with Down Syndrome leaves behind her small country town for the city. On the way, she strikes up an unlikely friendship with an outback drag queen.
“It was a beautiful thing and so great for Sparkles (Tina Fielding) to be there in person to feel that.”
Yep. The star of Sparkles was there in person at the screening!
Here’s to more #RainbowOnTheReef next year!
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