Isle of Wight’s first Pride event gains support after row over homophobic Tory MP

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

The Isle of Wight’s first Pride festival is set to go ahead next month, after the local MP was forced out over homophobic comments.

Andrew Turner was forced to scrap his re-election bid back in April after serving as the Isle of Wight’s MP for 16 years.

The politician had told told school students that homosexuality is “dangerous to society” during a discussion about plans for the island’s first Pride event.

Though Mr Turner’s career faced an abrupt end, the event is set to go ahead next month with backing from the island’s famous music festival.

Isle of Wight’s first Pride event gains support after row over homophobic Tory MP

Organisers from the Isle of Wight Festival explained they were backing the event to “reverse the negative view” of the island.

Festival organiser John Giddings said: “When people make comments from a position of responsibility, it can reflect badly on our whole community on the Island.

“My experiences on the Island are different and I want to reverse the negative view and through the Festival, let the Island community show the rest of the UK that we do embrace diversity here, everybody is welcome on the Island irrespective of who they are or who they love and that LoveWins.”

Pride organisers will have a stand at the music festival, which is taking place June 9 until 11.

David Thornton from Visit Isle of Wight said: “With the Island being placed in the top ten places to honeymoon for LGBT couples, we want to encourage everyone to revisit our Island, spend a weekend exploring and to ensure that everybody feels welcomed here.”

A release said: “Isle of Wight Pride takes place in Ryde on 15th July, starting with a parade through the town at 11am and leading to a large free event on Harbour Beach.

“Ticket registration is essential and over 1000 tickets have already been snapped up, so make sure you register and don’t miss out. Visit our website for further details and to register for tickets.”

The Pride has had a mixed reaction locally.

As well as Mr Turner’s outburst, a divisive column was published in the Isle of Wight County Press telling LGBT people to “shut up”.

The columnist complained: “You can’t open a paper or tune into Woman’s Hour without somebody feeling constrained to tell the world that he is now a she, or they’re gay or bi or have discovered the joy of tantric sex with a lamppost.

“I couldn’t care less what people do in their private lives. Do it whatever which way you like. Enjoy yourselves, especially if you’d prefer not to say what you’re enjoying yourselves with. But do you think the rest of you could shut up as well?”

Actress Emma Thompson famously upset Isle of Wight residents in 2010 after joking that they stone gay people and shoot the Irish.

She made the quip when TV host Craig Ferguson described Santa Catalina, an island off the California coast, as “kind of like the Isle of Wight”.

She joked: “Oh, so they stone homosexuals there? Nice.

“I think they are still allowed to flog them, which of course some of them enjoy. I think they are allowed to shoot Irish or Scottish people if they arrive on the island – it is still in the rules.

“They are allowed to torture people. It’s lovely, you should go.”