Brighton Pride is thought to be the largest in the country – tens of thousands of people descend on the city every year in a celebration of acceptance for all genders and sexualities. But summer in Brighton is not all glitter and rainbows, especially for those with disabilities.
Last year, 20-year-old Charlie suffered a traumatic experience of disability-based discrimination at Brighton pride. She has multiple disabilities including global developmental delay, severe learning difficulties, hypermobility and two rare genetic syndromes. Saddened by the situation, her adoptive mum Jenny Skelton took matters into her own hands and set up what is thought to be the first Disability Pride event in the UK.
Jenny, who has three adoptive children with special needs, came up with the idea after her post about Charlie’s story went viral internationally. Part of the post reads: “It is ironic that it was during this wonderful weekend that Charlie was discriminated against; proof that, although one group of people are now completely deservedly accepted in Brighton, another group – the disabled – aren’t. How sad and how very un-Brighton.”
“Disability discrimination is obviously an emotive subject but I was still overwhelmed when I saw how strongly this issue affected and incensed people,” she explains. “On the back of the huge amount of support we received as well as the sadness of many people with special needs telling me they had suffered similar problems, I decided to do something to try to get all disabilities – visible and invisible – acknowledged and accepted.”
She is now urging members of the Brighton and Hove community to get involved and contribute their ideas at the first open meeting for the event. The meeting, made possible by the Scope Local People Programme, will be held at the Brighthelm Centre at 1.30 pm on Saturday 18 March. “This is going to be a community-led event as much as possible and we would like members of the disabled community to get involved,” Jenny says.
Disability pride events run across the globe, including in Italy, Switzerland, and the US. Jenny is currently liaising with the organisers of Disability Pride New York City, which was set up by jazz musician Mike LeDonne to celebrate his daughter. Similarly to Charlie, she also has a rare genetic syndrome.
Jenny will run her Brighton event on the same day as the New York event – Sunday 9 July 2017. She says: “As far as we know, there has never been another Disability Pride event in England and we think you will agree that Brighton is a great place in which to hold the very first one. Of course, it would be wonderful to think that this could happen annually in every city – that would be my dream, anyway!”
The fun-filled day will kick off at noon in New Road, when visitors will be able to enjoy a vast array of stalls and performances including live music, street food, education, arts and comedy.