The Doreen Valiente Foundation's John Belham-Payne was invited to be the guest of honour at this year's ever growing Pagan Pride Festival in Nottingham. John was invited to lead the parade of over 600 pagans through the streets of Nottingham and to partner the event's founder Esme Knight in performing the opening blessing ceremony.
John, Esme and First Nations' Elder, WaNaNeeChe, headed the parade to the accompaniment of drums, singing and hurdy gurdy music from Serpentyne. The parade was met by the Nottingham public cheering and applauding the colourful spectacle as it made its way through the city centre and on to the festival site at Nottingham's aboretum park where an estimated 1000 pagans enjoyed a day in the sunshine listening to live music, talks and demonstrations and browsing the numerous stalls and displays. John officially declared the event open and raised a great cheer from the crowd as he and Esme performed a four-elements blessing from the bandstand in front of the gathered crowd and then placed the elemental symbols at the four edges of the park.
Later in the day after manning the Centre For pagan Studies / Doreen Valiente Foundation stall and talking to hordes of well-wishers John was joined by fellow trustee Ashley Mortimer to give a talk about Doreen and the foundation to the day's biggest crowd. Some of Doreen's artefacts were displayed, a few stories were told and Ashley gave a talk that Doreen had written and delivered during the 1960's which was well received indeed. A questions and answers session followed and the talk was concluded with the reading of Doreen's poem "What Witchcraft Means To Me" which has never been published.
The event was declared a huge success, adding to its claim to be the UK's biggest free pagan event, and Esme was reported as saying that the involvement of the CFPS and the Doreen Valiente Foundation was a big part of its success. Ashley & Jon ended the day on a perfect note as they were presented with a new artefact for the collection which is a pentacle necklace once owned by Alex Sanders!
Pagan Pride itself has begun the long process of rasing funds to put on next year's event and, being based in Nottingham himself, Ashley will be supporting the cause on behalf of the Foundation and making further talks and displays in this capacity. Pagan Pride is expecting to roll out to other cities next year and has pledged to be involved in the plans for the future for the Foundation and the Centre For Pagan Studies which include a weekend event in 2013 and a first official exhibition in Brighton also in 2013 which it is hped will be the precursor for the long awaited opening of the Museum and study centre.