History will be made next year when Luton – a town once slurred as “a hotbed of extremism” – hosts its first ever gay pride event.
For Jake Turner-Coombs, 21, and Joanne McNally, 22, the idea of a gay pride in Luton seemed a distant dream, talked about on nights out with friends.
But that all changed when Jake, who works at Brook health clinic, submitted an application to the council for the event to go ahead in 2016.
Against his own expectations, the licence was approved with one objection.
Jake said: “To get to where we are now, it feels like a massive achievement. We’ve got backing off so many people, our list of sponsors is growing all the time.
“Seven years ago, a pride application was thrown out and it was something I was scared about. It went to consultation with only one objection, from someone using a faith argument.”
Luton Pride is now scheduled to take place in St George’s Square on July 23, 2016.
Student Joanne added: “Everyone we have spoken to has been really supportive. I know a lot of students and they all wanted to help.
“It’s attracting people of all ages. It’s why we’re getting as many people involved as possible.”
Already, the pair have secured thousands in sponsorship, as well as endorsements from local branches of political parties, including Labour, the Conservatives, even UKIP.
In spite of the corporate thumbs up, Jake and Joanne are keen to keep the grassroots supporters at the heart of their plans.
Joanne added: “We want it to be a community kind of event. We do have a drag queen and we’re working with the gay bars California Inn and Flame.”
The pair are also working closely with UK Centre For Carnival Arts (UKCCA) and are contributing £25,000 of funding to Luton’s annual carnival, who will in turn promote Luton Gay Pride.
A public meeting will be held on September 25 at the Red Lion pub from 6pm to 8pm, for members of the LGBT community and the wider public to have their say on Pride. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for details or visit their Facebook page here.