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No rain on the Congleton Pride Parade

The rain stopped on the morning of 22 July just in time for the first ever Congleton Pride Parade to march through the town and launch the 2023 Congleton Pride event.

For the remainder of the day, while the rest of North West England was being drenched, Congleton continued to be dry and full of colour as people of all ages flocked to the town centre adorned in rainbow clothes, flags, sequins, glitter and face paint to celebrate diversity and inclusion.

Waiting for them was a full day of free entertainment and activities, with something for everyone.

The Maker’s Market organised the street stalls with traders trimmed up in rainbow colours for the day, matching many local shops who had been joining in the fun all week. The market also included community stalls offering information and support to the LGBTQIA+ community.

The main stage opened with Princess Impersonations, who did a fine job of engaging the children in spite of the inclement early weather. Beartown Stompers then led the Pride Parade all the way along Lawton St and High St to the town centre, with businesses, churches, clubs, schools and charities joining in and waving their rainbow banners.

Congleton Pride legend Andy Hofton then led a sing-along set of 70s and 80s belters followed by the Gay Gordons dancers, LB Dance, Street Dance Academy and Sandbach Bands Frantic Fridays and Bored Adventures. Rounding off the day was the headliner, ‘Absolute Britney’ by Lucy Rose.

Chair of Congleton Pride, Ronan Clayton, hosted the event as his drag alter-ego Fonda D, and welcomed Town Mayor Rob Moreton who formally opened the event, with the mayoress, his wife Helen and Cadet Amelia Downing, saying: “Two things that I hold dear are equality and diversity. That is why it is such an honour for me as Congleton Mayor to be here today to open Congleton Pride.”

The second, Community Stage, featured children’s favourite magician Nick Barnes followed by Mossley Primary School Choir and a number of local acts, interspersed with members of the LGBTQIA+ community and allies making short speeches about “What Pride Means to Me”.

One speaker who described his letter of the LGBTQIA+ community as ‘G’ said: “Pride for me is about being visible and also educating and being educated. For the people that are straight here…We don’t seek to criticize the way you live your lives!  And most certainly we don’t intend to convert who you are, who you live with, or what you do in the privacy of your own home. We simply want you to have a full and happy life being who you are. Being loved and respected. Pride is about simply being given the space to exist, to live and to love. It never seeks to take this away from anyone else.”

Another speaker Maxine said: “I personally find the whole day of our local Pride to be very empowering…I realise we aren’t so alone in Congleton. Being part of the LGBTQ+ community can be very lonely place, especially when you feel have to hold yourself back in every day to day life. Today gives me so much strength and hope. Today will give strength and hope to people who aren’t out, who watching from the closet right now. Today is also for those who aren’t ready to be here, and we’ll be here every year for you.”

Richard Walton, Trustee & Founder Member of Congleton Pride said a few words on the history of Congleton Pride and how the group came into being. He concluded: “There were members of the LGBTQIA+ community living in Congleton before we formed in 2018. Perhaps now they have more of a voice.”

Another first this year was the Pride Guide, a booklet explaining the event, the sponsors and some of the other activities of Congleton Pride, including informal social events, support for hate crime reporting and its survey to evaluate LGBTQIA+ life in Congleton.

This year’s event was sponsored by Millie’s Vets as Event Partner, with other local sponsors including Pear Hospitality Group, Kanga Health, Loguru, The Congleton Chronicle and more than 20 other local businesses.  Also supporting the event were Cheshire Police, Congleton Town Council, Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service and Congleton Community Projects.

James Ede, owner of Millie’s vets, judged the shop window competition, awarding First Prize to No. 1 Health Kitchen for “a simple but effective display, which really framed their window and their customers beautifully”.

The day ended with a sold-out ‘After Hours’ evening event at the Town Hall, where entertainment was provided by Stella Black, Marie La Rae and Laura King as Madonna.

Cllr Kay Wesley, Pride Trustee, said: “Thanks so much the whole team for a great event once more. It was a fantastic day and night, and sends a clear message that Congleton is a welcoming, inclusive and happy place to be. Our recent survey showed that LGBTQIA+ people are now more comfortable living in Congleton than they were two years ago, and this event, together with the other work of the Congleton Pride team, is helping to make this positive change.”

Pride Chair Ronan Clayton added: “We have had a wonderful Pride day once again. It is great to see so many people from all walks of life, and especially so many families, come to Congleton to celebrate inclusivity and the importance of being kind to each other. Thank you so much to our committee, volunteers, stall-holders, entertainers, sponsors and everyone else who has helped to make our day so special. See you next year!.”

Photos courtesy of: Churnet Sound, Jules Hill, PridePicsUK, Kit Perren and Congleton Pride