It’s show time for Cardiff Mardi Gras

Cardiff will be awash with colour this summer and there will be a carnival atmosphere in the air as thousands of people are expected to descend on the city on the weekend of August 31st to enjoy the annual Cardiff Mardi Gras. Held at the Millennium Stadium for the first time this year, the event is dubbed Wales’ biggest celebration of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.

Revelers enjoy last year's Cardiff-Wales LGBT Mardi Gras which promises to be bigger and better this year.
Revelers enjoy last year’s Cardiff-Wales LGBT Mardi Gras which promises to be bigger and better this year.

And this year, the Cardiff Wales Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) Mardi Gras charity are also celebrating a grant of nearly £190,000 from the National Lottery Community Fund which is enabling them to drive the festival forward for the future and ensure that hard to reach groups of the LGBT community are properly engaged and supported.

Norena Shopland, the Project Manager and Director of Income Generation at Cardiff- Wales Mardi Gras, explains why the funding is essential in order for them to engage with the wider community, increase understanding of communities, improve cohesion and reduce hate crime.

I had been working on an LGBT heritage project, establishing the first history of LGBT people in Wales and when the funding for that ended I had some spare time so I started volunteering for Cardiff Mardi Gras. I then applied for the position of Project Officer when the National Lottery Community Fund awarded Cardiff-Wales LGBT Mardi Gras three year funding.

LGBT organisations, causes and projects are severely underfunded. A recent report showed that LGBT funding for London is around 0.03% of the national charitable average. As funding is always worse for those outside London it can be extrapolated that we in Wales probably receive about 0.02 or 0.01% of the national charitable average. Mardi Gras is important because it raises awareness – through visibility we can combat prejudice.

Norena Shopland
Norena Shopland from Cardiff-Wales LGBT Mardi Gras

Certain groups within BME categories can be very difficult to reach due to cultural phobias about gay, bisexual and transgender people. The same is true for those from religious backgrounds.

For people who come from backgrounds where being LGBT is taboo, and often carries great penalties such as being ejected from the family home and sometimes the whole community, or physical violence, it is important they know about organisations to whom they can turn, and who understands their particular problems. We too can learn from them and look at ways to tackle cultural phobias.

Recent reports by Stonewall and other organisations show that homophobic/bi and transphobic bullying in schools is very high and most children have either been involved in or witnessed homophobic based bullying. More work needs to be done to prevent bullying in schools and to provide support for those with particular needs and educate those doing the bullying.

LGBT people in Wales are often isolated in rural communities and receive little or no support, many will often move to larger towns and cities. Once in a new place they will want to make friends, socialise and network and often this involves meeting in pubs and clubs. In certain areas this can lead to a higher than average dependency on alcohol and sexual exploitation.

Hate Crime is divided into five categories: Race is the highest in the UK and in Wales, followed by Sexual Orientation, Religion, Disability and Transgender. The latest hate crime figures has shown that transphobic hate crimes rose by 50% and homophobic hate crimes increased by 17%. A 40% rise in homophobic crime over the last three years has been attributed to the increased confidence of LGBT people to come forward. There is still a lot of work needed to bring these figures down.

logoCardiff-Wales LGBT Mardi Gras is about raising awareness and fighting discrimination. We provide support for LGBT people, for those around them, and for organisations which provide front line services (such as hospitals, local authorities, etc.) who interact with LGBT but who may not understand the particular problems LGBT people face.

In ten years’ time we aim to have increased our attendance at Mardi Gras and to have developed the social enterprise side of our organisation in order to work towards eliminating the many difficulties LGBT people still face.

A survey by Stonewall in 2011 found that the majority of the people polled were supportive of LGBT human rights in Wales. Cardiff-Wales LGBT Mardi Gras is promoting Wales as a tolerant place to either live in or visit and we would like to see more LGBT people from around the world visiting Wales.

For further information about the Cardiff-Wales Mardi Gras, visit their website.

Visit the National Lottery Community Fund website for further information about the People and Places programme.

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