Strabane hosts first ever LGBT Festival

Strabane hosts first ever LGBT Festival

The Co Tyrone town of Strabane hosts its first ever lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender festival this weekend.

While there have been similar festivals in Northern Ireland cities, the Strabane festival is thought to be the first of its kind in one of the smaller provincial towns in the region.Stephen Burkitt is a founder member of Strabane's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Society.He has lived in the town, as an openly gay man since the 1970s and said homophobia made his life difficult, but says attitudes are changing.He said: "Strabane was a tough place. I got a lot of hostility in the 70s and 80s."People would shout abuse and I got a brick through my window."However, society in the border town has progressed so much that it now boasts a gay bar in its centre and this weekend the first ever LGBT Festival.The theme for the festival is 'Coming Out' with the centrepiece being a play based on the experience of the Strabane community.Playwright Jenny Patton explains the background of the performance.She said: "The message I got from the majority of people I spoke to was that their coming out experience was a positive one."Normally people have a negative experience, but I wanted to focus on the positive, because that's something you don't hear."The LGBT Festival runs through until Sunday at various venues and locations around the town.Festival organiser Gina Gallagher added: "The legacy I'd like to see from the festival is more people involved, more people out in this community and more people confident in their community and the wider perceived heterosexual community being more inclusive of the LGBT people in Strabane."Chair of Strabane District Council, Ruarí McHugh said he hoped the festival would demonstrate to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, that they were part of the whole community.He added: "You are our sons, our daughters, our fathers and mothers and you are as cherished as equally as any other member of Strabane District Council."Organisers, hopeful of a successful event this weekend, are looking into making the festival an annual event in the town.


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