Organisers have announced Hollyoaks actress and Aberdeen-born Annie Wallace will lead a celebration of diversity in the city next May.
And the entire length of Union Street in Aberdeen is to be turned into a colourful parade route as Grampian Pride, the region’s main lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) event, gets underway on Saturday 26th May. It’s thought this will be the largest ever march for Pride through the city and is expected to attract thousands from the area and across the UK.
Annie, who plays Hollyoaks High’s headteacher in the hit soap, was born and raised in Aberdeen and said:
“I’m beyond excited to not only be asked to speak at Grampian Pride but to lead the Pride Parade through the city, it’s an incredible honour and I’m very privileged to march with LGBT people from my hometown, standing up for equality and calling out discrimination. It’ll be a fabulous day celebrating equality and I hope everyone comes out to join us in the march – if you believe in equality and you’re an LGBT ally, come along and get involved, everyone is welcome!”
Since starting at Hollyoaks in 2015, Annie has been listed in the prestigious Rainbow List, Pride Power List and the Diva Power List, as one of the country’s most influential LGBT people. In 2016 she won the ‘Celebrity of the Year‘ award at the National Diversity Awards, and was runner-up at the Icon Awards as ‘Cultural Icon of the Year‘. The entertainment website Digitalspy also nominated her as ‘Biggest Unsung Hero‘ in their annual Soap Awards. Topping off an incredible year, Annie also became the first ever transgender actress to be nominated for a BAFTA award, as ‘Best Actress – Television‘ in the Scottish BAFTA Awards.
This year, she was nominated as ‘LGBT+ Celebrity Rising Star’ in the British LGBT Awards, and was once again included in the Pride Power List.
Grampian Pride is being organised by a team of over 30 volunteers, with key organisations and charities involved to make it happen, including Grampian Regional Equality Council, local LGBT trust Four Pillars and Pink Saltire, a national LGBT equalities charity. It’s Co-Chaired by prominent trans activist, Justine Smithies, from Cruden Bay, a Stonewall Diversity Role Model.
Justine told us:
“We have some big ambitions to bring back Pride to the North East of Scotland after an absence of over 10 years – just look at how the world has changed and how Scotland has changed in that time. Although we’re one of nearly 130 Pride events across the UK, we’re the most northernly Pride! We want to show that no matter how far away from London, Manchester or Glasgow you go, there are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people standing up against discrimination and standing up for their rights.”
“I’ve heard lots about a new gay pride coming to Aberdeen – some positive and some negative comments and that’s understandable. Sometimes people might not understand the right language to use or feel confused about the spectrum of sexuality and gender – I always say ‘Sexuality is who you want to go to bed with, but gender is who you go to bed as’. But a modern Pride event is more than just a party for gay men, it’s for rainbow families, older LGBT people, its for lesbians and bisexual people, trans and non-binary folk and ofcourse for our amazing allies. It has never been more important than now to stand up against those who would deny us our right to marry or to adopt or to live our lives openly. We’re so lucky to live in a country where those rights are available, so many don’t have the freedoms we do, but as we can see from America, those rights are never entirely safe.”
LGBT work in Scotland has mainly been concentrated in Edinburgh and Glasgow, where many LGBT people have moved to feel safe or more connected to a traditional ‘gay scene’. But equalities charity, Pink Saltire’s founder, Stuart Duffy, tells us that things are changing, especially over the past few years:
“I think the Equal Marriage campaign and vote back in 2014 brought a major shift in the LGBT community – that moment changed many people’s views on what society thought about being LGBT. There was a confidence – for some even a validation, that it was ok to be who you are and that Scotland accepts everyone for who they are. That’s a big deal for lots of people we’ve worked with.”
“Since then we’ve seen a growing confidence and activism in smaller communities around the country to really increase the visibility of LGBT people locally and to tackle issues like hate crime and bullying happening in their areas. Aberdeen will join newer Pride events, such as those in West Lothian and Fife who have also brought positive economic benefits to their towns as well.”
It’s expected Grampian Pride will need to raise over £30,000 to stage the march and a festival event in the city. “We’re already in final talks with a number of big businesses who are really behind what we’re planning in the city” said Justine, “but we’re always keen to hear from other companies as well as musicians and bands who might want to play at Pride too. There’s so many ways to get involved, we’ll be happy to speak to anyone who comes forward.”