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Oxford gears up for Pride Festival

“While the Queer movement has accomplished so much, there is so much left to be done."

As Oxford gears up for it’s sixteenth Pride parade on June 1st , a wide range of events to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community are running both within the University and across the city.

The festival this year has the theme HoldTight, in response to a government survey in 2018 which showed that over 2/3 of LGBT+ people have avoided holding hands with others for fear of backlash from others. The Pride Festival is running between May 17 and June 2.

It is described by Oxford Pride as “a fabulous festival celebrating queer life in Oxfordshire and our unique city of Oxford.” The festival is focused partly on showcasing the cultural output of Oxford’s queer community.

Oxford Pride describes their goal as curating “an open group show and also promoting exhibitions arranged by other associated artists, galleries and venues around Oxford during the annual Oxford Pride Festival”. Events have included a Queer Arts Exhibition in the University Church, exploring the HoldTight theme.

There will also be a comedy night, involving performances from the Oxford Imps and several of Oxfords stand-ups. The Pride march itself will culminate in a wide range of LGBT+ musical acts and other performers playing at Leiden square in Westgate.

Oxford Brookes also hosted the Oxford Pride Symposium on Thursday, inspired by 2019 being 50 years since the Stonewall riots. The symposium involved performance and debate from a lot of different groups. Ashanti, a poet, writer and actor, gave a spoken word performance at the event.

Other speakers participating included Hannah Boschen, a Stonewall Role model at the University of Oxford. The event also involved two panels, including a Queer Panel considering how to move forward into a new era. Oxford Labour Councillor Tom Hayes participated in the panel, alongside Valentino Vechietti and Charlotte Stacey.

Debbie Brixey, chair of Oxford Pride, said: “Our Festival and events aim to encourage everyone to hold tight to those that they love and celebrate the good things we have accomplished so far. This year we are pleased to form new partnerships with a number of Faith groups. The affirmation service on Pride Day at Bonn Square has been created to celebrate all relationships in whatever form they take.

“We are also thrilled to be working with Westgate to create our first Community Area in Leiden Square. This will be complete with a community stage featuring local acts that will also include a few well-known faces.

“#HoldTight is also to remind people that we should be holding onto our values and the fight for equal rights. Even in some parts of the UK equality still has a long way to go; in Northern Ireland same sex marriage has been vetoed five times by politicians there despite it being part of British law, and gender recognition, discrimination and conversion therapy all fail to match laws in the rest of the UK.”

Henna Khanom, Co-Chair of the OUSU LGBTQ+ campaign, told Cherwell: “This years’ Pride offers a chance for the city and student communities to come together to celebrate queer histories, movements and legacies. Particular highlights are the Alain Locke Memorial Lectures, the Beyond Brideshead: Queer Oxford talk at the Ashmolean, and of course the day itself, which thousands of people are expected to attend.”

“The LGBTQ+ Campaign will be marching as while the Queer movement has accomplished so much, there is so much left to be done; something especially important given that this year is the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots.”

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