In 2011, the Limerick Pride Festival will mark its tenth year of recognising and celebrating Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans-gendered and Queer identity in Limerick City. As the festival has grown, so too has the support from the civic authorities, the public and our regional LGBTQ community.
Beginning in 2001, the festival began humbly when community stalwarts Paddy Doyle and Nicole Dunphy organised the first festival of celebration with their events in both Cosmo and Yum Yum Niteclub. Every year since, the festival has grown into what we have come to enjoy today.
Rainbow Support Services became involved in the festival organisation in 2002. This culminated in both the Pride festival and RSS participating among Limerick’s other cultural and sporting organisations in the 2003 St. Patrick’s Day Parade. By 2004, the festival continued upwards, closing off Cecil Street and hosting the first street-party of the festival, while an impromptu Pride marched up O’Connell Street with six individuals and a pride flag.
In 2005 the festival continued on its journey of recognition and celebration organising alternative events from film nights to party nights. All of these led up to the establishment of the first women’s only night in 2006, something which the festival is very proud of and a tradition which the organising committee continues to keep within the calendar of events.
The festival began its now-annual Pride march in 2007, thanks in part to the huge efforts of well known LGBT activist Bille, attracting crowds of several hundred people marching down O’Connell Street. This was the first year that Out In UL, the University of Limerick’s LGBT society took part who put together the first float of the festival. The festival also recognised the International Day Against Homophobia as an important date in its off-season calendar.
In 2008 I had the honour of producing Pride and I wanted to make it mainstream by integrating the general Limerick community with a weeklong festival of events encompassing art, theatre, culture and music. Limerick had lots to celebrate with its first Mardi Gras night headlined by You’re A Star winner Leanne Moore, our first Variety show and a theatre piece produced by Teaspach Theatre starring Myles Breen and Ms. Sheila Fitspatrick who was Alternative Miss Ireland at the time. Shelia along with her consort Madonna Lucia became the Grand Marshals for parade day and led a huge crowd down O’Connell Street and back to Leamy House where Myles Breen hosted the now annual tea dance. The parade also included delegations from the leading trade unions and LGBT campaign – Marriage Equality. This was also the first year that the national 300ft Pride Flag was unfurled down O’Connell Street and carried by those who marched.
2009 was another special landmark year as the bridges on the approach to the city raised the pride flag over the river Shannon thanks to Limerick City Council and Laura Ryan from the Limerick City Communications Office. That year the festival parade was moved to begin at City Hall, with the first official peaceful protests being recorded and on a more solemn note, the first remembrance service took place recognising those who have gone before and their contributions to the lives we now live.
In 2010 the festival now in its’ ninth year, continued its’ firsts receiving letters of support from President Mary McAleesse. Eurovision starlet Niamh Kavanagh took to the stage and entertained the crowds with a fantastic show at Dolans.
2011 promises to be as fun-filled with another series of firsts and The Limerick Pride committee would like to take this time to invite YOU the readers and all the people of our lovely city to join the celebrations from September 3rd – 11th in our Celebration of Equality, Love and Diversity.
The video ‘A Decade of Limerick Pride’ features global drag superstar Rupaul and looks back at the history of Pride in Limerick. Also available on our site are videos of past Pride years 2009 and 2010. Visit LimerickPride.ie for all info on the upcoming festival.
Love to you all