Buoyed by a large new committee of enthusiastic volunteers previously without ties to the event, the Galway Pride Festival is predicting the biggest celebration in its 27-year history.
Led by chairman Bruce Henry, who runs the hen party event company Murder on the Menu, the parade will, it is estimated, involve 1,000 participants on Saturday, August 20, with 5,000 tipped to attend a packed calendar of events over the seven days judging by the responses on social media.
“We took over in May and started with no money, we’d missed all the deadlines for public funds and had to finance it all out of our own pockets,” explains Bruce, a native of Canada.
“We set up a partnership programme, created a brand new website, with fresh branding. I’ve contributed well over 600 hours to the festival – collectively the committee has put in thousands of hours. We’re pulling out all the stops.”
Galway Pride has been beset with infighting over the years, which served to tarnish the event’s reputation and may have contributed to a small enough turnout.
Bruce said none of those serving on the new committee had ever been part of festivities.
“Galway is such an amazing city, choc full of life, with an unbelievable spirit. I believed I could bring everyone together and since we set up we’ve had no fights, no walkouts.
“Our initial meetings were open to the public, one of our meetings was broadcast live on Facebook which was viewed 1,500 times so transparency, openness and inclusivity are the fulcrums of this planning committee. We took over with a vision and plan to take us straight into 2020.”
The 12-strong committee has reached out to other Pride events around the country for support. A 32-page guide on the festival will be published for the first time.
The parade will be led by grandmarshal James Patrice, Ireland’s top snapchatter who has presenting gigs on TV3’s Ireland AM and Xposé, finishing up in the Spanish Arch, where there will be a family fun event for three hours, with music and food.
On the Friday, there will be a comedy night at the Loft in Seven on Bridge Street with comedians Pat McDonnell from Father Ted, while Katherine Lynch with host Martin Beanz Warde.
The biggest party takes place on Saturday night at the Black Box, with performances by Dublin drag queen Victoria Secret and music by 2FM DJ Conor Behan.
The traditional Corrib Princess cruise and party on the Sunday evening kicks off with drinks at Nova Bar before revellers are transported by open top bus to Woodquay.
The more serious side of the festival take place at the beginning of the week with workshops on mental health, one centred on the transsexual community, another geared to parents of gay children with a talk by Paul Hegarty of the West Sligo Family Resource Centre who almost lost his daughter to suicide after she came out.
A third workshop is dedicated to HIV – last year there was a 30% increase in the numbers of people diagnosed with the virus, with one person each week diagnosed in University Hospital Galway alone.
This will be hosted by Robbie Lawlor, a former Mr Gay Ireland who lives with HIV and now works as an advocate for the Lesbian, Gay Bisexual and Transgender community.
Thursday is an alcohol-free day of events geared to tee-totallers and those who feel disenfranchised by the festival’s alcohol-fuelled partying.