30 under 30: Ciara Maguire

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Ciara Maguire, 24, Glasgow

Ciara Maguire is a lesbian feminist activist, the chair of Free Pride, and a totally kickass young woman. In 2015, when Glasgow Pride announced that they would be charging people for tickets to Glasgow’s main Pride event, Ciara and others decided to create their own space for everyone, Free Pride. Their goal was to make sure that lack of funds was not a barrier to any member of LGBTQ+ community to attend an event that celebrated their history, and raised awareness of issues.

In the years since then, Free Pride has gone from strength to strength under Ciara’s leadership. It is focused on Pride being a way to protest injustice, fighting for issues that still need to be addressed, such as trans rights, inclusion of disabled people, and the treatment of LGBTQ+ asylum seekers.

Free Pride is an inclusive space for all LGBTQ+ people and as the name suggests it is completely free so that everyone can enjoy it, no matter what their income is. To fund running this event, Ciara organises regular fundraisers throughout the year, which again are accessible to all LGBTQ+ people in Glasgow.

In addition to all this, she is also involved with Lock Up Your Daughters, a queer arts collective that makes films, music videos, and magazines; organises blazing dance parties and screenings and workshops. She also volunteers with Scottish Queer International Film Festival, and helps to organise film screenings, workshops and other film related events in Scotland, with a goal to get more people watching, talking about, and making more queer films.

I think that we can all agree that Ciara does so much for the LGBTQ+ community in Scotland, providing alternative spaces for everyone, and that’s worth shouting about!


What’s your proudest achievement?

 Organising three Free Pride events has felt like a really great achievement. It has been amazing seeing something go from a vague idea to rooms full of people and activities sharing ideas and celebrating together. It feels like we have created a space that was necessary for our community and although it hasn’t always been perfect and we have had lots to learn, the energy and enthusiasm we’ve had from people has been incredible. It still feels really emotional seeing so many people show up to support what we were doing and share in our vision for a radical, inclusive Pride event and showing us that what we do matters!

I was also invited to speak at the Tate Britain this summer about Free Pride as part of their Queer Art programme which was really exciting. It was great to connect with other activists and organisers and see the wider role we play in shaping our community and creating inclusive queer spaces at a time where they’re struggling to survive due to lack of funding and commercialisation.  I had major imposter syndrome the whole time but it was an amazing experience and everyone was so positive about the work Free Pride do and said they had been inspired by us which was really lovely to hear! It was a great opportunity to see ourselves in a wider context of change and activism in queer communities and feel proud of what we do.

I’m proud that I managed to do these things despite struggling with my own mental health. I think it can be easy to ignore the fact that this kind of work can be challenging and draining and time consuming, which can make it hard to keep on top of your own wellbeing.  Learning to say ‘no’ is difficult but important, and trying not to put pressure on yourself to do everything all the time. I’m proud of myself for learning to recognise when to prioritise my health and to not feel too guilty about taking a step back.

What women inspire you?
I’ve been very lucky to have been surrounded by lots of amazing women in my life. My friends are an endless source of inspiration, I’m always in awe of how resilient, warm and intelligent they are and how we look after each other in different ways. My family is also full of amazing, strong women who have always been supportive of me and given me a sound moral code!

I’m inspired by women like the Lesbian Avengers, who were a direct action group fighting for LGBTQ rights in the 90s and called out the misogyny that existed even in the queer community. They were creative and unapologetic in their activism and challenged so many ideas and issues. I think it’s important to learn about and from our history and acknowledge the activists who came before us. Women like Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P Johnson are also incredibly inspiring- they spoke out against the mainstreaming of the LGBTQ movement even when it meant they were ostracised, and protected the most vulnerable people in their community when they were vulnerable too. I learnt a lot about centring love and care in community work from their stories.  I’ve also been lucky to have known other women working in different LGBTQ/community spaces to give me advice and listen to me moan about all the rubbish bits of organising as well as inspiring me to keep going when it felt tough.

What change would you like to see for girls and young women in Scotland in the next 10 years?

I’d like us to be able to be less fearful- to not be afraid of speaking out and making change, to not feel like we have to apologise for taking up too much space or standing up for ourselves. I’d like more support and recognition for the intersectionality of our struggles and for us to come together to support and campaign alongside those of us with less privilege. We need real and concrete change in terms of access to resources and services- things like mental health services, support services, access to education and opportunities to learn are so important, but are often underfunded and inadequate. I’d like better and more diverse representations of women in the media and the arts, particularly for LGBTQ and BME women and I’d like more support for women to be able to create their own representations. I also think the recent insurgence of women coming forward about sexual abuse and harassment is so powerful- I hope it continues and that women are believed and supported to speak out.

What can we do to shatter the glass ceiling once and for all?

I don’t know – I think it’s a long, complicated and messy process. I think more women in powerful positions is a positive thing, but not if it results in the oppression of other women with less power. Having a female Prime Minister sounds great in theory, but when the reality is Theresa May and her Tory government making life impossible for the vast majority of women, is it really a good thing? I think there’s so much cultural and social work to be done and it’s not as simple as promoting women and thinking that the “ceiling” has been “smashed”. We need to be conscious and critical of how often women in power are white, middle class, cis, straight and able bodied, and can end up repeating harmful practices. Ideally we could move away from capitalist, patriarchal structures of power altogether but that’s probably an even longer and more complicated task!

What 3 women (past, present or future) would you invite to your dream dinner or party/picnic?

Rihanna, Eileen Myles and Peppermint from RuPaul’s Drag Race. That would be a really great party. And they’re all still alive so it could (maybe) (hopefully) happen!

What would your message be for young girls and women in Scotland?

You can do it! Whatever it is you’re passionate about or want to pursue, you can make it happen. I’ve realised since starting out with my own organising, that there are always people who will talk to you and give you advice and support when you need it. Take advantage of that, ask for help, and remember to take time to look after yourself. Don’t worry what people think of you or compare yourself to what other people are doing- you can only do what you can do and you can only go at your own pace. It can feel overwhelming thinking about all the things that need to change and where to begin but small things make a big difference. There’s a quote by Arts Emergency that I go to when I feel frustrated or stuck: ‘Do something, start small, start local, keep going.’ It reminds me that it’s okay to not be able to take on every issue in the world- pick something close to you, work at it, and change can happen.

Pictures courtesy of Ciara Maguire

You can see the full list of our amazing 30 Under 30 2017 finalists here, and keep a look out on the blog as we feature a different finalist every day throughout November.

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