Samantha Burton, West Sussex Chaplain, writes about her experience volunteering at the very first Crawley Pride Festival.
On the weekend of 28-29 August, Crawley hosted it’s very first Pride festival, a weekend of fun, colour, funfair rides, music and entertainment, but most importantly of celebrating diversity and recognising the progress that has been made by members of the LGBTQU+ community since the historic Stonewall event – and the progress that continues to be made even now for acceptance, inclusion, and safety of our fellow humans who identify as part of this community in Crawley and beyond.
It was an absolute privilege to be included onto the volunteer team for this event, specifically to be a part of the Sanctuary Team, set up by one of the event organisers to provide a safe and restful place for those who felt overwhelmed, lost, or just needed a break. A first for any festival I’ve ever attended! Made up of a group of people from Crawley’s Churches and faith communities, and myself, it was a small space with sofas, cushions, a hot urn for teas and coffees, colouring and healthy and less healthy snacks (read sweets) – much like our Chaplaincy nights are, so it was home away from home! It definitely became a space of rest for the weary and overburdened over the weekend.
On the Sunday, we also had Eli Adie and Elle Snodgrass from our LGBTQU+ Haven team right next door! Including some of the young people from our services, who volunteered their time at the stall to talk about what the Haven team offers for young LGBTQU+ community members at the YAC (Youth Advice Centre) at Crawley Foyer. It was great to be alongside other members of our organisation at this historic event.
Eli Adie, West Sussex Youth Hub Development Manager said:
“It was amazing to be a part of Crawley’s first ever Pride event – and it was an especially proud moment for me knowing that young people’s voices made it all happen in the first place – a true example of how listening to young people can make a massive impact! I think my favourite moment of the day was actually on my way home, watching countless young people flowing out of Goffs Park, with their Pride flags still draped round their shoulders, feeling safe to be out and proud in central Crawley!”