Rhondda Pride was founded in 2019 by Lauren and Natalie Bowen. Lauren was born in Treorchy and grew up in the Rhondda Valley, she experienced some prejudice and lack of acceptance due to her sexuality and didn’t want any other LGBTQ+ people in her community to experience this. The first Rhondda Pride was in Treorchy on the old town market site which (fortunately) was operated by her father and stepmother allowing the event to go ahead. Despite a few bumps along the way with other organisers offering help and then pulling out Lauren and Natalie were determined to bring Pride to the Valleys for the first time in history. Thanks to Lauren’s family, Natalie’s friends and local LGBTQ+ allies and activists they made the event happen.. even covering the costs themselves as it was so important to the community. The day was a mixed success. Local businesses benefitted hugely and this was a a factor in pushing the profile of the town of Treorchy. LGBTQ+ people from the local area travelled from across the UK to attend the event.. one lady even came up from Reading! Young LGBTQ+ people from across the Valleys were happy to finally find acceptance and “feel less invisible” families became closer and the community became more accepting. No one should ever underestimate the positive impact that Rhondda Pride had or continues to have, not just in the Rhondda but across the whole of RCT.
Moving forwards Rhondda Pride became more than just a one day Pride event, Rhondda Pride became a cornerstone of the community. Unfortunately in February 2020 horrific flooding destroyed homes and property across RCT. Seeing members of their community suffer and their family and friends Lauren and Natalie needed to help. They worked alongside Jenna and Dan from The New Inn (Ton Pentre) and put on a star studded fundraising event. With help from close friends Minus De Kock, Tammy Paxton and Miss Felicia (among others) they raised lots of money on the day and entertained the locals who had suffered so much. Tonypandy McDonald’s got involved and donated a huge amount raised by staff.. in fact many people worked alongside Rhondda Pride and they helped many, many local people. Lauren and Natalie Bowen went door to door in the local area finding the people who needed help and distributing funds quickly and effectively. Making yet another positive impact on the local community in the Rhondda.
No one could have predicted what came next… The whole country was plunged into Lockdown due to coronavirus. Now with a team of four people (Minus De Kock and Tammy Paxton joined the team) Rhondda Pride again felt the need to support the LGBTQ+ community in dark times. Rhondda Pride organised many online entertainment and support events. Every single day a volunteer was available via a secure Zoom account (kindly part funded by RCT Council) to chat with members of the community who needed it. This had a very positive effect on more vulnerable people who could have seen their mental health impacted negatively due to social isolation. RP-TV was started off the back of this.. (a weekly infotainment programme via Zoom) where Minus and Tammy would interview a different LGBTQ+ icon or celebrity and discuss their experiences with Lockdown. Rhondda Pride were fortunate to work with amazing people like Paul Davies, Lee Gilbert, Divina de Campo, James Majesty, Scott McGlynn and Norena Shopland to name just a few! The team was now growing adding local music star Lee Gilbert and the legendary Stifyn Parri became it’s first Patron. The team pulled on every friendship and got many people to perform exclusively and Rhondda Pride were pumping out entertainment almost daily. They shared content from other artists and venues including The Flamingo Cabaret Bar, Drag Diva Lockdown, Drag Queen Story Hour UK and The Golden Cross. As nearly every Pride event was cancelled in 2020 Rhondda Pride jumped at the chance to get involved with as many online Prides as possible!
Rhondda Pride were one of only three Welsh Prides who were featured in the huge Global Pride. They allowed their Youth Officer, Damian Riddiford, to take the floor and explain the importance of Pride. Rhondda Pride were also featured in Pride Stronger Together and LGBTQymru. Lee Gilbert put together some of the most amazing performers and performances for this event. Unfortunately and despite several date changes the physical Pride event could not happen in 2020. In December 2020 Rhondda Pride Winter Pride Online happened. This was a milestone event and gave a platform to everyone from local anti racism campaigners to international celebrities. You can find all of this content on Rhondda Prides various social media channels. Rhondda Pride were proud to work with Lady Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, Heather Peace, Yvy DeLuca, Courtney Act, Zoey Allen, Romeo De La Cruz, Laura Mansell and the adorable Mark and Georgia Williams a local Daddy/Daughter duo who have supported the event from day one.. Mark even built the stage for the first Rhondda Pride. Winter Pride Online was a huge success and drew an international audience. Rhondda Pride has grown considerably from the first small event and are making Rhondda Cynon Taff known for diversity across the world.
Moving into 2021 with a larger team and their new home in Ynysgharad Park Pontypridd Rhondda Pride has become RCT Pride and look forward to seeing everyone very soon