Lancaster plans Gay Pride event as hundreds pay tribute to Orlando shooting victims

Nick Rawes is Deputy manager of the Toll House Inn, Lancaster
Nick Rawes is Deputy manager of the Toll House Inn, Lancaster

A pub boss said he is more determined than ever to put on a huge festival for gay people in Lancaster after America’s worst ever mass public shooting at a nightclub in Florida.

Nick Rawes, deputy manager at the Toll House Inn, is organising a Pride event for 2017 at Lancaster Castle and said it would “help Lancaster stand strong as a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) area” in the wake of the Orlando attacks.

There has been a huge wave of support and solidarity for the LGBT community after gunman Omar Mateen shot dead 49 people and injured 53 inside the gay nightclub Pulse in the early hours of Sunday.

Hundreds are expected to attend a vigil in memory of the victims at Lancaster Priory on Friday, including the mayor of Lancaster, organised by LGBT charity Out In The Bay and local community groups.

A service will be held by Rev Chris Newlands, vicar of Lancaster Priory, who is gay and has spoken out for LGBT rights in the past.

Lancaster and Morecambe Town Halls are also flying the rainbow flag, the symbol of the LGBT community, at half mast.

Mr Rawes said his thoughts were with the victims, families and friends of the people in Orlando.

He said: “It’s a great sadness that this kind of hatred leading to attacks of this nature still happens in the world.

“It’s made me more determined to make Lancaster Pride happen to celebrate the community that we have in the bay area and to help stand strong as a LGBT area.”

The event is due to be held at Lancaster Castle on May 20 2017 with live music, stalls, drag artists and a carnival atmosphere.

There have been previous Pride events in Lancaster around a decade ago but Nick said: “The harsh economic climate at that time and other external factors prevented it from taking off.

“Myself and a dedicated group of other local people feel that it’s about time to re-launch the event and celebrate the diverse LGBT community that we have here in the Lancaster, Morecambe and Bay area.

“If everything goes to plan this year this will be an annual pride event with fund raising events during the year and a website with helpful pages such as lgbt groups and gay friendly venues in the city among other things.”

Nick said he was now looking for sponsorship and pledges of support for the event.

The council said it does not have any funding opportunities available for events, adding: “But if organisers wished to contact us we will be happy to discuss if the council can assist in other ways.”

Pride events celebrate lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) culture and pride, and sometimes serve as demonstrations for legal rights such as same-sex marriage.

Coun Eileen Blamire, leader of Lancaster City Council, said: “We send our deepest condolences to those affected by the horrific shooting in Orlando.

“By flying the rainbow flag from both town halls the council is making a strong, supportive statement that we stand in solidarity with the people of Orlando and the LGBT community.”

The service at Lancaster Priory on Friday starts at 2pm.