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North East England is welcoming to all

An interview with Peter Darrant-Parkes, Pride Media Centre

Newcastle’s bid to host UK Pride 2020 (now postponed to 2021) is a glowing indictment of how far the city embraces equality, diversity and inclusivity.

Previous Northern Pride festivals have brought tens of thousands of visitors to the city, but under the UK Pride moniker, organisers are predicting 2020 (now 2021) to be the biggest yet. Peter Darrant-Parkes, CEO of Pride Media Centre – the UK’s first LGBT+ media and business hub – describes the decision as “a massive endorsement” for NewcastleGateshead.

Peter is a former chair of the charity that stages Northern Pride every year and explains that the festival puts approximately £9m back into the economy.

“It’s also important because it says that North East England is welcoming to all, regardless of how you identify,” he adds.

Pride Media Centre, which opened in May 2019, boasts four television studios, two radio studios, a cinema, conference facilities and a range of office spaces, in which 16 businesses currently operate.

Peter’s vision for the centre is based on what he elegantly describes as “relaxed creativity”. This being the idea that it’s a place for those in the LGBT+ community who want to set up a business without having to continually explain their identity.

Surveys of young unemployed people who identify as LGBT+ consistently show that a major factor in joblessness is the fear of being treated differently in the workplace. Peter, therefore, wants the centre to be a safe place where people can be themselves.

“It’s about standing up for who you are,” he explained.

Peter also wants to make clear that the centre is not just for those in the LGBT+ community.

“As long as you come with a clear mind and an understanding that anyone can be anything in life and diversity and inclusivity is at the heart of your business model, you are welcome,” he said.

“When tenants sign up with us, we have an equality and respect statement and we say, ‘you’ve got to put that in your staff handbook’ because what we’re trying to do is encourage the entrepreneurs of tomorrow to have good practice.

“We now have 16 businesses based at the centre – several of which don’t identify within the LGBT+ spectrum but they support what we’re doing.”

One of Peter’s key messages is that while it’s important to be ambassadors for the LGBT+ community so that future generations don’t have to suffer the prejudice and discrimination of the past, equality is something that everyone can buy into.

It’s a message that is resonating far beyond NewcastleGateshead; Peter currently operates five radio stations that broadcast across 127 countries with over 300,000 listeners every week. He also explains that of the 78 countries where it’s illegal to be LGBT+, listeners from 37 tune into Pride Radio on a regular basis.

“It’s so important to reach areas that don’t have an LGBT+ voice,” Peter said.

Someone who works very closely with Peter at Pride Media Centre is much-loved Tyneside drag queen and Pride Radio DJ Ophelia Balls aka Gary Short. Gary praises the work the centre is doing and describes it as a shining example of how the LGBT+ community and wider community can work together to make North East England a welcoming place to live.

“It’s a brilliant place to live. I’ve been here all of my life but in recent years, North East England has become a lot more cultural. To see everyone come together, it really is the best it’s ever been.”

The content and photography in this editorial section were produced by North East Times.

"As long as you come with a clear mind and an understanding that anyone can be anything in life and diversity and inclusivity is at the heart of your business model, you are welcome."
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