Up to 3,000 people are expected to attend Larne’s first Pride Festival later this summer, it is claimed.
The organisers say the have been overwhelmed by the level of interest from around the UK since the programme was announced last month.
In a statement, strongman and LGBTQ ambassador Chris McNaghten, who is spearheading the event, said: “Larne pride Festival - to be held at the Olderfleet bar on 17th August - has attracted massive attention from around the UK.
“Travelling support coming from London, Isle of Man, Scotland, Liverpool and Ireland.”
He added: “I am so thankful to everyone for their support to date, it’s been amazing and have received such a heartfelt welcome in the town.
“There has been little negativity , and any there has been has given the event an even bigger boost.”
Clergymen from two churches in the town have voiced their concern at the festival in letters to the Larne Times.
Rev Ben Preston, Craigy Hill Presbyterian, challenged the organisers on their claim it is a way for business to give back to the community, asking “what are they giving to our whole community by sponsoring a divisive event”?
And Rev David Brown, Larne Free Presbyterian Church, said the festival “brings great sadness to any Bible believing Christian as it is further evidence of the departure from God’s beautiful institution of marriage”.
However, Alliance councillors Danny Donnelly and Gerardine Mulvenna are backing the festival. Mr Donnelly said: “I strongly support the
up-coming Pride event in Larne. This is an important first for the town. There are LGBTQ people living and working in Larne. They are our brothers and sisters, our neighbours, our friends and co-workers and they should supported in expressing their pride in who they are.”
Cllr Mulvenna said: “I’m absolutely delighted that Mid and East Antrim’s first Pride festival is taking place in Larne, signalling an open, inclusive and welcoming town that we all should be championing.
“I must praise the organiser and all those who have worked hard to make this a reality, who are pushing to open up our town and in doing so building a better understanding of the issues faced by all citizens in our borough, irrespective of sexual orientation or gender.
“While some might be tempted to criticise from the sidelines, I’d encourage everyone to come along and support what is sure to be a fantastic festival. We all deserve and need to be treated as equals, with dignity and respect, and without prejudice or judgement, so let’s embrace this Festival.
“I’d also hope this is just the beginning for Mid and East Antrim when it comes to celebrating diversity and inclusivity within our borough, and I very much look forward to backing further initiatives across the borough.”
The Pride Festival organisers say local businesses are getting behind the event.
“Many shops in the week coming up to the festival will be displaying Pride decor in shop windows and bringing a lot of colour to Larne Main Street this August.”
The festival day time programme is free and promises entertainment for all the family. The evening show boasts headline performers, Danny Beard from Britain’s Got Talent and Dee Dee, along with drag performances and other live singers.