Wow! And Breathe xx
What an incredible three weeks its been. Working as a team on creating our initial bid, through to getting our presentation and bid document together, there was a lot of adrenaline and pressure on!
Getting letters of support from some amazing people was a bit of a double edged sword! – It was incredible to have the support of MP Bob Seely, The High Sheriff Ben Rouse, our Lord Lieutenant, Major General Martin White, all the cross solent operators, John Giddings and many many more – having the incredible backing of our tourist board Visit IOW and also the Needles attraction.
The downside to all of this however, was the pressure it brought with it! Everybody was willing us on to represent the Island as best we could, but a lot of people wanted to know when the result would be announced and we definitely felt the pressure as we headed to Blackpool!
We had a great start to the weekend, after being invited to the Isle of Wight Radio local heroes award, we went along with no expectation of winning, but proud of having been shortlisted for an award. Having tuned in in previous years, you always hear humbling stories about our incredible community and selfless individuals. When it came around to our category, Paul Topping started to read the citation and it sent immediate shivers down our spines. We had won! As the citation continued, the tears started to roll down the cheeks. The incredible impact that Pride has had on the Island still does not sink in, it never ever will, every time I think it does – someone else pulls me aside and wants to speak to me and then pours out their heart about the difference it has made in their lives! We felt like imposters however, standing up on stage receiving an award for something that the community did! It wasn’t us that deserved this award, it was the Island community for what they did in bringing the Island together in a way it has never seen before.
So, with hangovers from a great awards evening, we set off to Blackpool! Stopping off at Southampton and Red Funnel enroute to collect vouchers, the journey to Blackpool was not a fun one (other than random sing alongs in the car) Gridlock on the M3, a diversion around Oxford on the A34, a diversion around Stoke on Trent on the M6 and then again around Manchester, eventually – after 8 hours of driving, we arrived in a windswept Blackpool and hurriedly made our way to the welcome event!
We settled in and had a few drinks, but our nerves then got the best of us as we saw the entourage from Cardiff! 8 members of Pride Cymru had travelled to Blackpool! Suddenly our visions of networking and getting to know people and talking about Pride Isle of Wight led to nervousness about a competent and professional team who were well established, well liked and well networked within the UK Pride Network. We had our work cut out!
After a fun night out which resulted in most of the flying handbag waking up with “I support Isle of Wight Pride stickers” affixed to themselves, we headed to the conference venue and decided to take over a nice section to put up our Love Wins wedding dress and lots of Flags. Our presentation wasn’t due until after the first break, but already the nerves were kicking in!
The presentation went well, with various distractions including announcements from the casino, encouraging people to go and gamble! Our fight was to encourage people to come to our Beach Pride instead! It appeared to be generally well received and many conversations afterwards were positive! We handed out our goody bags and most of the hardworking was over! Only networking and getting to know people and engaging with different prides was left to go.
All of this was great and we met some incredible people. As we were less nervous and less worried on the second day, we could have some amazing conversations and get to know some lovely people.
Sunday came along and we headed to the venue, nervous excitement ruled the day! We settled into the conference venue, in the knowledge that the voting was high up on the agenda! Three rounds of voting saw us in a play off against Pride Cymru having seen Exter and Liverpool fall at earlier hurdles. As the masses gathered and Facebook live began streaming, there were some great poker faces around the room, indicating nothing at all! We really didn’t know what the result would be, Pride Cymru was an incredible option, with a fantastic team led by Lu Thomas and a brilliant bid. Whatever was about to happen, we were grateful of the opportunity but to have come so far and to have put in SO much effort and passion, we really didn’t want to experience disappointment.
The words came through “ISLE OF WIGHT”. WOW!!!
What do you do in that moment? The camera is running live – don’t say “F, SH, or Bo!” nothing to do but to embrace, so much love in the room and so much joy!
After our Thursday experience, catching up with MP Bob Seely, I had promised him that he would be the first I would call. He was ecstatic! The messages started to flood in, but nothing had sunk in! The photo opportunities came, – no it still hadn’t sunk in! – Media started to call and interviews were had in the lobby of the casino! Still it hadn’t sunk in what had just happened!
Even on the long drive home, we played Queens “We are the champions” and joined in the chorus. Nothing really hit home. – Not quite sure why it didn’t hit until Monday morning! After dropping off Matt to the 0615 Hovercraft, returned home and got a phone call waking me up again at 0720 from Isle of Wight Radio live. The Island were truly buzzing at the result! I was told that the leader of the council was in early and wanting to know who knew anything about TeamPride? Gaydio called and ran a story and then we had phone calls from the BBC wanting to do a news story that evening. It finally started to dawn on us – bugger! what had we done! – The Island was in a state of delirium – the spot light was firmly ON!
Various phone calls, meetings and interested parties took up most of the week. Some amazing and incredible offers of support and some really eye opening opportunities which will make Pride 2018 a fantastic event! The team will need to grow and things will need to be kept in check – it would be really easy to run away with all the excitement at the moment!
Then suddenly Thursday came and it hit me like a brick wall. Tiredness and exhaustion and a loss of the buzz! It had been three weeks of pure adrenaline in creating and passionately fighting to bring this to the Island. That buzz continued into the first part of the week, but there had to be a point and Thursday was that point! Thankfully there are awesome people to support and amazing friends and my amazing partner and my fabulous dog meant that the downer didn’t last long! A nice long brisk walk and a clearing of the head led to a fabulous Friday!
Time to Launch Pride 2018 in the best way possible! Launch the new Logo – The T-shirts arrived in time, the new pull up banner arrive in time! The website was ready to go, Facebook and Twitter were both behaving themselves! Facebook even allowed us to create a frame that worked remarkably well (Those who have tried to create frames on Facebook will know how incredibly difficult this can be!) – We headed to Quay arts and had a party! Lots of people coming along and volunteering to get involved in Pride 2018!
The weekend involved friends and walks and beer and halloween, it was time to relax and take time out. The hard work starts now – it will be worth it – it will be stressful – it will be fun – it will be entertaining and we have built one formidable and incredible team of people to make it as successful as we possibly can!
Bring It On!!