Sha Gillespie is the founder of the Foyle Gay Pride Festival. She has single-handedly and against the odds - without funding or mainstream support, built a core volunteer team, put a programme in place, and for two years running - delivered a hugely successful and internationally acclaimed festival promoting the rights of LGBT people in Northern Ireland.
In its first year, the festival was celebrated by 7000 people and in its second year, even more people attended. This is a community, and family inclusive celebration of diversity and acceptance in a historically divided and troubled geographical region. For the first year (against great political barriers) Sha managed to get International spokesperson on LGBT rights Kasha Nabagesera (from Uganda) to launch the festival, and this year, Donal Óg Cusack launched the event with aninspiring speech.
All this success is largely down to the effort, commitment, professionalism and volunteering generosity of Sha herself who is passionate about driving change, promoting equality and creating social justice for LGBT groups. For over two years, she has committed herself on a full-time, unpaid basis to this project. The festival she has founded has very much captured the imagination of the national and international media and of the general public. It is now an up and running annual event.
This festival does not receive any government funding so Sha has managed to create this event single headedly. She works on this festival all year round on an entirely voluntary basis. In the months running up to the festival she works day and night.
Aisling Friel nominated Sha for a Voluneer Ireland Awards, she said "We need to celebrate the Sha Gillespies of this world, they are willing to take those steps that move us forward into a world of tolerance and understanding. Her tireless unpaid work and dedication to the LGBT community in Derry has not gone unnoticed. Because of this fabulous woman people all across Northern Ireland are starting to realise that it's ok to be proud of who you are.”