Foyle Pride celebrates identity

Sha Gillespie, chairperson, Foyle Pride Festival. 2608JM04
Sha Gillespie, chairperson, Foyle Pride Festival. 2608JM04

To say it’s been a busy week for Foyle Pride organiser Shá Gillespie would be a bit of an understatement. Y

Yesterday, as hundreds turned out for the colourful carnival parade celebrating Derry’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community, the sense of excitement and celebration in the city centre was unmistakable.

Since its beginnings in 2010, the annual Foyle Pride festival has soared in popularity. That’s something Shá’s delighted about.

This week, the local woman at the helm of the popular event spoke about growing up in Killygordon in Donegal in the 1970’s. She said support for young people who were struggling with their sexuality was non existent.

In that content, the inclusiveness of events like Foyle Pride is a breath of fresh air.

Sha spent her childhood in a family steeped in GAA and has warm memories of growing up there, although she says different times meant there was very little support for a young person faced with coming out to family and friends.

“I was in the middle of a family of four - two older brothers Chris and Lyndon and my younger sister Benita. My dad Hughie worked in the Donegal Creameries and my mum looked after the house.

“We were a huge GAA family, my dad played gaelic for Ulster and Donegal and my mum Phyllis did the same through camogie so I spent my childhood playing camogie and played with the county team a few times.

“I have so many warm memories of that time, like watching my dad sewing nets for the river in the back room, my mum teaching me to jive and playing camogie in Croke park.

“But when I grew up in Donegal all those years ago I didn’t have what we have today,” she says.

“Kids need to know that they are not alone when it comes to identity and coming out. Events like Foyle Pride are celebrations of identity and they are for eveyone.

“Seventy per cent of our parade in Derry is families with children in prams enjoying the day. Pride is for everyone in the community - every background.”

Shá first became involved with Foyle Pride in 2010.

“There was a lot more work than I expected,” she says.

“It took off from one meeting in 2010 and there was no turning back. That was the first year we had a parade in Derry for P ride. It was an incredible feeling because we didn’t think anyone would show up, but it was fantastic and it was worth all the hard work.”

She believes the annual event can only grow in the years to come.

“My hope are that the LGBT community in Derry will build from what we have achieved already. It can only get bigger.”