Excitement building for second annual Newcastle Pride Festival

PROUD OF PRIDE: Newcastle Pride Festival committee members Jay Bellamy, Hellen Richards, Lee-Anne McDougall and Ed Abbott. Picture: Ellie-Marie Watts
PROUD OF PRIDE: Newcastle Pride Festival committee members Jay Bellamy, Hellen Richards, Lee-Anne McDougall and Ed Abbott. Picture: Ellie-Marie Watts

Excitement is building for the second annual Newcastle Pride Festival, particularly among its organising committee.

Having been overwhelmed with the success of last year's inaugural celebration, even more events have been added to the 2019 schedule which begins on Saturday with the Hunter versus Central Coast AFL Pride Cup then ramps up across August 22-26.

"Newcastle Pride Festival has grown so much in just one year," Newcastle Pride president Lee-Anne McDougall said.

"We have an amazing committee who have all given up so much of their own time to bring the community an amazing festival.

"The 2019 festival is gearing up to be something special with some awesome events that everyone can enjoy."

Ms McDougall and fellow Newcastle Pride committee members Jay Bellamy, Hellen Richards and Ed Abbott said they were all excited to see how this year's festival would unfold.

"It was so cool to be a part of," Mr Bellamy said of the first festival. "The community was just so ready for it.

"You shouldn't have to go to Sydney or Melbourne to find belonging, you should be able to find it here in Newcastle and now you can."

Mr Abbott said the eight-person committee was "really excited" to see the result of "all the work and time we've put in".

"You can travel all around the world and go to so many different pride events, to Sydney for Mardi Gras, then to actually see it in your hometown, it's something special," he said.

"It's crazy to see Newcastle come alive with rainbows."

Newcastle Pride was established March 2018 following the same-sex marriage postal survey, held in September-November 2017.

Seeing the results, with Newcastle charting one of the highest 'yes' responses across NSW at 75 per cent, Ms McDougall saw the need to create a safe space for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual (LGBTQIA) community, which she did by founding Newcastle Pride.

Newcastle Pride Festival organisers Ed Abbott, Lee-Anne McDougall, Jay Bellamy and Hellen Richards at Newcastle City Hall. Picture: Ellie-Marie Watts

Newcastle Pride Festival organisers Ed Abbott, Lee-Anne McDougall, Jay Bellamy and Hellen Richards at Newcastle City Hall. Picture: Ellie-Marie Watts

"It became clear to me that it was time to launch Newcastle Pride," she said. "There was a few events happening around, but no place the community had to call home or a space we could provide diversity and inclusion, for a place for people to gather."

She could not have imagined the response Newcastle Pride received during the August 2018 festival.

Content to see 1000 people attend its fair day last year, Ms McDougall said she was "overwhelmed" when 7000 people attended.

"I remember standing back at one stage looking at everyone and getting teary thinking 'look at all these people'. It was amazing," she said.

"It was obviously something needed in the community. We're all excited to see the festival come alive and create that sense of community again in Newcastle."

Newcastle drag queen Timberlina will host a drag dance and story event at Newcastle Library on August 22, which will kick off five days of festivities.

The same day, the library will launch the Serving in Silence exhibition, showcasing the history of LGBTI military service in Australia since World War II.

The festival will be launched at Twisted Cabaret in Newcastle City Hall on August 23.

Newcastle Pride Fair Day will he held at Foreshore Park on August 24 between 11am and 6pm.

The free and family-friendly event is the biggest of the event program and includes children's activities, meetup tents four youths and adults, drag shows, live music and Doggywood parade.

This year there will also be a circus tent for children, even more stalls, a bigger stage and more live entertainment.

Newcastle Pride Festival committee members Jay Bellamy, Hellen Richards, Lee-Anne McDougall and Ed Abbott at Newcastle City Hall. Picture: Ellie-Marie Watts

Newcastle Pride Festival committee members Jay Bellamy, Hellen Richards, Lee-Anne McDougall and Ed Abbott at Newcastle City Hall. Picture: Ellie-Marie Watts

Another highlight of the festival program is the two dance parties at The Cambridge on August 24 called Heaven and Hell and Return to Pipers.

The Return to Pipers dance party is a throw back to the popular 70's and 80's Newcastle nightclub, Pipers, which Ms Richards used to manage.

"We'll have some of the original performers and DJs from those days," she said. "It's creating a lot of excitement."

The full festival program and ticketing information can be found at newcastlepride.com.au.

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