Original article from Kent Live
Dover's Pride organisation has launched a new campaign designed to bring some colour back to their town centre.
High streets have been hit hard over the last decade – with the aftermath of the 2008 recession, the rise of online shopping and most recently the coronavirus pandemic leaving communities like Dover with a depleted town centre.
This is where Pride Dover and its new 'Paint the Town Rainbow' campaign comes in.
Designed to not only be a celebration of the community's LGBTQ+ community, but a way to bring back some life and vibrancy to the town centre, Dover Pride has assembled a 'pride of artists' to bring a splash of colour to the high street from next month.
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Even before the coronavirus pandemic hit, Dover high street had several boarded up shops, which a spokesperson for Pride Dover said made the town, "look sad and unloved, and we want to change this!"
Emma Sikora, vice-chair and creative director of Pride Dover has spent a considerable amount of time campaigning and communicating with the landlords of empty shops and the district council about bringing the area back to life.
Emma said: “The High Street was alive in 2019 when we had our first ever Dover Pride and it brought over 1,000 local people together and created a totally different vibe and atmosphere within the town.”
Dover's Pride protest and celebration has been cast into some uncertainty by the continuing COVID restrictions and increase in infections – meaning this scheme is all the more vital in celebrating the diversity of Dover's communities as Pride Month comes to a close.
A spokesperson said: "The team want to have a positive presence and make an impact in the town that isn’t just about pride for the LGBTQAI+ community but also takes pride in the place where we live by giving it a much-needed colourful makeover and boost"
Many landlords, Dover Town Council and Destination Dover have been supportive of the beautification project -and work on murals is set to start at the end of July, in the run up to the main pride event on August 28.
Emma Sikora did note that the local community had not been wholly supportive:
“Sadly there is some resistance to the beautification project including on the old McDonald’s building which is arguably dark and ugly.
"What was once a vibrant hot destination for a quick takeaway is now sadly abandoned.”
Emma stated that she believes that this area, "could be such a lovely pocket to sit in next to the new parklets and believes an amazing new mural to look at would be incredible and something people can feel inspired by.
"In particular the murals allow for visibility of our LGBTQ+ community in Dover and the work they do for us."
A spokesperson for Pride Dover emphasised the importance of pride events, not just for LGBTQ+ people but their local communities:
"Dover Pride isn’t just a one off event it is a chance to stand up to homophobia and encourage equality for everyone.
"It’s also a chance for us to educate people and share the love."
Other artists taking part in the project include local artist Holly Skinner, who said:
"This community has given me the courage to be myself without judgement and the freedom of expression – the same courage and freedom as being an artist does.
"Creativity takes courage and being yourself takes fearlessness; this community is a safe space for both"
Tim 'PSTX', an artist from Folkestone said “I cannot wait to paint the town to celebrate pride, as proud supporter of the LGBTQAI+ community – spreading love and inclusivity one doodle at a time.”