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One of the year’s most important events moves online

Bournemouth’s Bourne Free Pride Weekend has been an important date in my summer diary for many years.

I was a trustee of the event from 2012-2019 and now serve as an ambassador. It is also a regular date in my office’s summer engagement programme – an occasion on which we reach out to the LGBT+ community and other members of the public, seeking their views and letting them know more about what the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner does and how it can help them.

Last year’s Bourne Free was the biggest in the event’s history, with thousands of people attending, more than 50 floats taking part in the main procession and over 80 organisations getting involved.

It was also incredible to see such a strong representation from the emergency services, with Dorset Police’s Pride car there alongside vehicles from other 999 teams as well as staff and floats.

PCC Martyn Underhill and Chief Constable James Vaughan with the Pride car ready for Bourne Free

It was hugely symbolic to see Chief Constable James Vaughan along with the Chief Fire Officer walking with their teams. Particularly on the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, which is how this whole celebration began, this really sent out the right message.

Sadly, this year’s event – which would have taken place tomorrow and would have been the 16th Bourne Free – has been cancelled as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Large events like this take months to prepare, and need to be closely organised in conjunction with the emergency services, so it was the right decision.

However, fans of Bourne Free – like myself – will be able to take part online, when the first virtual Pride is held live on the organisers’ Facebook page from 5pm on Saturday 4 July.

And it promises to be a treat. There will be acts from performers including Lee Martin, Sam Callaghan, Angie Brown, Lola Lasagne and Lucinda Lashes.

This year’s theme was due to be Schools Out, in recognition of the fact that the Relationship and Sexual Education (RSE) regulations come into effect this September – welcomed by groups such as Stonewall as a real, positive step forward for LGBT+ inclusion in England’s schools.

There will be messages about the impact these new regulations will have on ensuring a new generation of children grow up better informed about LGBT+ relationships, while there will also be community messages from the Bourne Free team and people who have supported the organisation over the years.

Martyn Underhill with Dorset Police at the 2018 Bourne Free

The virtual event will also see the launch of the Bourne Free Community Fund, which has already provided funding to The Samaritans, Poole Food Banks, Dorset Children’s Foundation and Galop – the UK’s LGBT+ anti violence charity.

And the 10th Steve Collier Award will be given to an individual who has celebrated diversity.

The event will be back even bigger and better next year, when it returns with a new theme: Stronger Together – Celebrating Our Emergency Services And Key Workers.

The 2021 Bourne Free Weekender, held at Meyrick Park on July 10-11, will be a fantastic opportunity to recognise the people who have made a difference during this pandemic – from police officers and staff to NHS workers and carers to bus drivers, supermarket workers and the unpaid volunteers who have given their time willingly.

As many of you will know, I have taken the decision not to stand again at next year’s now delayed police and crime commissioner elections, so while I won’t be attending in my current role as Dorset’s PCC, one thing is certain – I’ll be there!


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