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Pride of place
A WITNEY pub is set to host the town’s first regular gay night in a bid to tackle isolation within the community.
The Over the Rainbow night will take place at The Butchers Arms in Corn Street on the first Saturday of every month.
It follows the success of the town’s annual gay pride event.
Organiser James Cunningham, 22, said: “We want to get more people to feel happy about their sexuality and be able to go out and express themselves in a safe environment.
“In bigger cities it is normal to see same-sex couples holding hands but a lot of people I know do feel intimidated to show public affection in Witney.
“I live in the town and I have received a number of homophobic comments in places in the past.”
He added: “By breaking down the barriers, by making people aware, hopefully it will change people’s opinions for the better. I want to celebrate equality and diversity in Witney and make it a more accepting place.
“But I’m not trying to make it an exclusive event. I want to create a community event that everyone can enjoy.”
The first event will take place on October 5 from 6pm and Mr Cunningham has already confirmed live music and two drag acts to perform.
If the monthly events are successful, he hopes to increase it to fortnightly or weekly.
Mr Cunningham also hopes the event will help fund the annual gay pride festivities.
Andrew Coggins, landlord of the Butchers Arms, said: “We hosted the pride event for the first time this year and it was quite popular.”
Mr Coggins said he hoped the event would cater for the town’s gay community and combat any isolation people may feel. “I hope it will be a success for straight and gay people,” he said. “It will be something different for Witney and I hope everyone supports it.”
Andrew Coles, West Oxfordshire District Council member for Witney Central, said: “I think it’s a great new event for the town.
“It will give a home and a safe haven to the LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] community in Witney, which they currently lack.
“The pride events have been running for about six years and have been popular and successful. This is the next step.”
But he added: “I think it is wrong to think homophobia does not exist any more. We have moved really far in recent years but homophobic bullying still happens, especially in schools.”