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Jack Gilbert, Chief Executive and one of the founders of Rainbow Hamlets, reviews a breathtaking weekend.

For a flavour of the magic, take a look at the Facebook album Rainbow Hamlets Pride 2015.

This was my thirtieth Pride, and Rainbow Hamlets’s second,  and it was one of the most powerful of my life.

Even today there are people in our local community, across the UK and overseas who make some LGBT+ people’s lives hell. LGBT+ Pride may just seem to be a chance for a party but in fact at its heart it is about Liberation.

Personal liberation: to live a life free of fear, shame, self-loathing, guilt or control and without needing to hide.

Political liberation: to be equal under the law and receive the services LGBT+ people need.

Cultural liberation; to be free to create our own identity, to integrate our faith and ethnic backgrounds, to choose to both transgress and belong.

International liberation: to remember those places where the state or the religious authorities systematically persecute LGBT+ people.

This year, thanks to LGBT+ culture funding from Tower Hamlets Council we ran our very own Pride Bus service – the first one ever – with a classic Routemaster replete with specially-designed Rainbow Hamlets advertising promoting hate crime reporting, support for DV, smoking cessation and volunteering. A posse of volunteers helped engage the public as we went, handing out leaflets at every stop and getting attention with infectious good spirits as we travelled.

So it was that The Rainbow Hamlets Pride Bus brought LGBT+ pride to the east end, and then onwards with characteristic chutzpah through the City, Islington and Camden. And what a response! Excited leaps by LGBT+ people on their way to the parade; parents encouraging infants to wave, cheers from Crossrail engineers and security guards; smiles and laughter from many.

We were asked to lead the Health and Wellbeing Section of the parade. So there we were, 40-50 people: black, brown, yellow and white, ranging in age from 15-60+, disabled and deaf, Muslim, Christian, Jew, Buddhist, secular and humanist, LGBT+ and straight allies, asylum seekers, refugees and local born. Unity within diversity. Everyone pitching in. New friendships formed; old friendships rekindled. Victims of hate crime or domestic violence transformed. Ideas, energy, affirmation, celebration.  Laughing with the crowds lining the streets. Dancing to the music. Handing out 3000 leaflets.

The Rainbow Hamlets embodied.

After the parade, there was another first. Working in partnership with Barts Health, Rainbow Hamlets took its place in the community marketplace in Trafalgar Square.

“I think back to 2010 when Rebecca, Esther and myself first took on steering this fledging voluntary group, to 2012 when we adopted a charitable company structure, to 2013 when despite the recession we won sufficient funding to employ staff, to 2014 when we publicly relaunched as a professionalised – but still grassroots – agency, to the groundbreaking casework, research and other activities of the last year.

I pay tribute to the past forum members, to the current board,  to Salma our talented caseworker, and to all our fabulous volunteers.

You are all amazing. We are building something very special together.

“And what of 2016? Pride in London will be on Saturday 25 June. We already have some ideas… Why not join us?”

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