Pride chairman hits back over waste of public money claim

Canterbury Pride takes place in the Dane John Gardens on June 9

The chairman of the Pride Canterbury has been forced to defend the annual festival after it drew criticism for receiving £2,000 of public money.

On Monday, the Canterbury Journal revealed that the city council had granted organisers the cash to help buy a marquee ahead of this year’s event in the Dane John Gardens.

But the news was met with exasperation in some quarters of the city.

One woman complained: “Why when we have people in this city sleeping on the streets and parents having to swallow their pride and use food banks so that their children don’t go hungry is Canterbury City Council handing out a £2,000 marquee?”

Another said: “This money could be better spent on helping people with nothing who are literally dying on the streets so shameful.”

Pride chairman Edd Withers

Pride Canterbury applied to the city council for the money to buy a marquee it could use a focal point when the festival takes place in June.

Writing exclusively for the Journal, Pride chairman Edd Withers explained why the festival is so important.

He said: “I get it, on the surface Pride events look like a huge party. And there is no denying that they are enormous fun, full of colour, excitement and flamboyance.

“But in the same way that Christmas isn’t just about the presents and Thanksgiving isn’t just about the food, Pride isn’t just about the party.

“When I was 18 I went to my first Pride event. At that event, for the first time in my life, I truly accepted who I was. I came out to my Mum, and started to feel like I no longer had a secret to hide.

“For many LGBT+ people, the realisation that they are valued members of society even though they aren’t straight, first happens at a Pride event. That moment of personal self-acceptance has a lifelong impact.”

Cllr Terry Westgate

Despite the criticism, supporters of the festival leaped to its defence.

John Worrow said: “Gay people in Canterbury collectively pay a fortune in taxes, much of which goes towards the education and healthcare of other people with large families.”

Jane Lamb added: “What great news especially as the council denied funding previously.

“Grants are made to many different schemes and groups and I am happy the council has recognised the value of this event and and the commitment and hard work that has been put in to put Canterbury Pride on the map.”

The £2,000 grant for the marquee was approved by the council’s Canterbury Area Member Panel.

Its chairman Terry Westgate said: “I’m all for granting this money. It will help the event grow and become even better.”

This year’s Pride takes place on Saturday, June 9.

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