The third Whanganui Pride Week is back on Saturday, with 13 events and a new theme - 'Active inclusion'.
The Pride Hub is at 131 Victoria Avenue this year, and will once again offer visitors a chance to chat with a member of the Pride Whanganui crew, view works from local and national artists, and pick up merchandise and resources.
The other constant throughout the week is New Zealand artist Shannon Novak's Symplegma exhibition at Sarjeant on the Quay. The exhibition explores the constant wrestling match the local LGBTQI+ community has between love and pain on the path to wider visibility, acceptance, and equality.
One event is a Whanganui first - a long lunch on the Dublin Street Bridge, set for Sunday, February 28.
Pride Whanganui trustee Christina Emery said there had been "a lot of talk about it" and, while it was a lengthy process to get all the necessary permissions to use the bridge, she was really looking forward to the event.
"There hasn't been any negativity or backlash or anything," Emery said. "It's just been people asking, 'how did you get the council to let you close the bridge?'
"Just so everyone knows, the bridge isn't closing, it's just the footpath on the city side."
Ticket-holders will get a safety briefing at neighbouring Cornmarket Reserve before beginning their dining experience.
"Then everyone jumps on to the bridge and sits at tables for two, and they'll be served some delicious food from the Yellow House next door," Emery said.
"Whanganui High School are lending us some tables, because we couldn't find any that were 1.3 metres wide anywhere, and Bayleys Whanganui has provided the chairs, all totally free, so we're super grateful for that.
"I'm excited to see how it goes."
Other new events for 2021 include Drag Bowling at Laird Park on March 5 and an 'Authentic You' evening at the Pride Hub on March 1.
"There'll be a whole lot of secondhand clothing that people can try out if they're looking to experiment with their gender expression or sexuality," Emery said.
"All that clothing will remain in the back section of the hub after it's finished as well," Emery said.
The Pride Hub was formerly clothing shop Pagani, and the changing rooms and mirrors are still in place towards the back.
Another first for the 2021 event will be the youth festival at the green space at 1 Victoria Avenue on Saturday (February 27).
"There are about 18 organisations setting up for that," Emery said.
"It's really taken off, and I'm now beginning to think that we might run out of space.
"We've got drag queens, community drumming, Amdram Starlet doing a couple of performances, and Steph Lewis is coming to talk about the rainbow policies for Labour.
"It's going to be a chill day, and I don't want it to be confronting. I don't want the youth to feel like, 'you must go and see these people'. I want them to come and hang out and then visit the DHB tent to learn about STIs, or go and see the Green Party about the ban on conversion therapy.
"Only if they want to, though, I don't want them to feel like they've been forced into a space where they have to interact."
Emery said she was really passionate about doing things to support individual parts of the pride community, not just a " blanket approach for everybody".
"I really want to focus on youth and rangitahi, I want to focus on people who are gender diverse, I want to focus an all the different areas, so that they're getting heard, educated, supported, and celebrated.
The 'Small Talks' event is set for Tuesday, March 2, with 10 speakers presenting five-minute talks.
'There are some bloody cool topics for Small Talks, and I'm doing one on Sir Harold Gillies," Emery said.
'He was a Collegiate old boy, and their science block was named after him.
"Gillies was the first person to perform sexual reassignment surgery, and he pioneered reassignment surgery for transgender people.
"Karen Craig is going to be talking about Charles Mackie and how he shot his gay lover, and photographer Albert Sword, who did an exhibition in 1989 on the Aids campaign, is coming to talk about how things have changed over the years, and where we are now.
"His photos will also be in the Pride Hub."
Emery said the annual Pride Walk, set to cap off the week the following Saturday (before the Pride Party that night) had been getting bigger each year.
"It's not that people don't know about, I think it's that people are getting braver.
"If you're not out and proud and loud and wearing rainbow pants, like I do, and if you're not comfortable with who you are or not ready to come out, walking in a pride parade is massive.
"There are a lot of people who are just allies and supporters, but there's still the thought process of 'but what if people think I'm gay?'.
"I understand that, because people's minds still go that way but, in yourself, you've just got to say 'f**k it', you know? We still get a lot of people who hang on the tree line and kind of watch from afar, but every year we're seeing more and more people coming into the fold.
"There's nothing like looking back over the river and seeing a sea of rainbow just walking past."
The full schedule for the 2021 Whanganui Pride Week is:
Saturday, February 27 - Sat, March 6
Pride Hub & Art Exhibition | 131 Vic Ave | 10am - 4pm | Free Entry
Symplegma | Sarjeant Gallery | 10:30am - 4:30pm | Koha Donation
Saturday, February 27
Youth Festival | The Green at 1 Vic Ave | 10am - 2pm | Free Entry
Boom Boom Burlesque | Savage Club Hall | 8pm |$35 Early Bird
Sunday, February 28
Long Lunch | Dublin St Bridge | 11:45am - 2pm | Tickets are now closed
Monday, March 1
Authentic You Evening | 131 Vic Ave | 6pm - 8pm | Koha Donation
Tuesday, March 2
Small Talks | Bayleys Real Estate | 7pm | $15 Early Bird - $20 Door
Wednesday, March 3
Film - Rūrangi | Confluence | 6:30pm | $10pp
Thursday, March 4
Cocktail Evening | Vic Bar | 7pm | $10pp
Friday, March 5
Wear the Rainbow | Everywhere | All day
Bowls in Drag | Laird Park Bowling Club | 6pm | $30 per team of three
Saturday, March 6
Pride Walk | Silver Ball - River Traders Market | 9:45am | Koha Donation
Pride Party | Stellar Bar | 7pm | $20pp
For more information, head to www.pridewhanganui.co.nz.