As part of a GAY TIMES and Channel 4 campaign to spotlight local Pride events across the country, titled #ProudAllOver, Channel 4 supported the island’s inaugural event with a vibrant barge off the coast of Lerwick which read: “Happy Pride Shetland / Everyone remembers their first time.”
With regional Pride celebrations dramatically increasing in recent years (there are over 180 Pride events taking place in the UK this year!), the campaign demonstrates how communities in the most rural of locations come out and support the Pride movement.
El Hardwick, a London-based trans and non-binary photographer who was on hand to capture moments from the festivities, tells GAY TIMES that Shetland Pride was “incredible” and that they “instantly felt welcomed and quite emotional at how large the turnout was”.
“There was such a diverse, intergenerational community present, from all spectrums of the LGBTQIA+ community, and huge support from allies too,” they explain.
“It felt like everyone across the islands were talking about it when we arrived. I met so many wonderful people who were enthusiastic to share their stories with me and spend time together.”
Although El says they only grew up 50 miles outside of London, it was important for them to be involved with the campaign because they “never imagined” Pride could be accessible outside of major cities such as London, Manchester and Brighton.
“I never knowingly met another trans person as a teenager, and I certainly didn’t feel able to come out as queer at school,” they add. “As someone who dreams to live close to nature, it’s often felt like living rurally and being trans and queer are mutually exclusive.”
Attending Shetland Pride and taking photographs was a no-brainer for El, who says they were “excited” to meet members of the LGBTQ+ community in the region because “queer London-centricism has truly underestimated just how strong communities are elsewhere.”
“We met wonderful queer people, one of whom was wearing a badge for the Shetland Gay Bird Club, which shines a light on 40 species of birds found in Shetland enjoying “gay love in the natural world,”” reminisces El, who took portraits of their child wearing a t-shirt in the non-binary colours. “It made me so happy to see this queer family!”
#ProudAllOver is supported by on-the-ground commentary from local LGBTQ+ content creators and creatives, who will be educating audiences on the LGBTQ+ experience in the respective communities, while also sharing unique and unheard stories that are often overlooked in mainstream media.
Discussing the campaign, El stresses that Pride does not “just exist in metropolitan places” and that it “should exist wherever people are – and it has done for as long as people have existed.”
“There are so many voices to be heard, and there is a bias that has developed towards platforming perspectives in cities,” El continues to explain.
“This should be acknowledged and changed, particularly in order to make tangible change for the LGBTQIA+ community that actually goes far beyond representation, and into tangible policy changes that improve lives – for example access to trans healthcare, no matter where you live.”
Earlier this month, the campaign was live on Channel 4 with star-studded LGBTQ+ programmes, plus Pride specials of Celebrity Googlebox, Steph’s Packed Lunch and First Dates, with all programmes still available to watch on All 4.
To keep up with the #ProudAllOver road trip and learn more about brilliant regional and local Pride events in the UK, visit our hub and see all the best photographs from the first-ever Shetland Pride below.