Taunton Pride is a vibrant annual celebration and protest where everyone is free to come together and be themselves. We spoke to Jenny Keogh, CEO of GoCreate Taunton, who talked about Pride Month and how a £2,500 grant from The Somerset Fund helped fuel Taunton Pride’s first-ever parade.
“Over the years we’ve done a lot of community arts projects and the question kept coming up: ‘Why don’t we have a Pride in Taunton?’. So we got talking and decided to launch an event where people could celebrate their authentic selves. The process began by us listening to local LGBTQIA+ groups about what they wanted. We put a call out and, because everybody knows everybody in Taunton, word really got around. Our local groups are very diverse and their views were all different. But what really came through is that people wanted to create a safe space where they could be themselves. They wanted to march and they wanted to be seen and heard. They wanted to celebrate a real sense of community while also honouring the people who came before them and sacrificed so much.
We launched our first Pride while emerging from Covid in 2021 and obtained approval for the festival by the skin of our teeth! That year we also followed through with our idea of the UK’s first Rainbow Path in Goodlands Gardens in Taunton. That was a really strong permanent signal of pride in our communities. I think it definitely showed that we weren’t going anywhere. The first event was joyful, with a beautiful atmosphere, but our original vision was for a bigger event in Vivary Park. After restrictions eased we felt free to make the event what it deserved to be.
The £2,500 grant from Somerset Community Foundation in July 2022 went to organising our first parade at Taunton Pride. For so many people the opportunity to march was what was missing from the first year, and it was wonderful to make it happen. It felt so colourful, joyful and busy. But while it was a celebration, it was also a protest too. We had to go back to the roots: like Stonewall and people fighting for their lives to be seen. Sadly, that’s still really relevant today. I know people who are scared to hold hands with their partners – it’s very real.
It’s so important to have that space and really shout from the rooftops that we’re here and proud. That aspect was incredibly powerful for a lot of people and many were crying. It was very moving.
The money from the grant meant we could pay for essential things like traffic management and security and get advice from organisers of other Prides out there. We had to do it meticulously and safely – and your funding made that possible. Taunton Pride is now set up as its own separate Community Interest Company. We mentored the set-up process, but the event was really ready to fly on its own. That was our hope from the start. Now they’re moving forward and there are lots of exciting plans, so hopefully it will continue to be a massive success in the future too.”