Iris Prize Festival: Welsh Rugby Union throws full support behind LGBT short film festival

As excitement about the Rugby World Cup reaches fever pitch in Cardiff, the organisers of an LGBT short film festival feare their event would be left in the shadows.

Instead they find themselves “hand in hand” with the sport’s biggest competition after the Welsh Rugby Union threw its full support behind the Iris Prize Festival, saying it was “right and proper” that the two events were celebrated in the Welsh capital at the same time.

The festival, which offers a £30,000 prize, the largest award for a short film festival, has embraced its sporting rival. It opened on Wednesday with the documentary Scrum, which is about competitors in the Bingham Cup, the international gay rugby world cup.

About 50 rugby players, including sportsmen from Australia and Canada, attended the Iris opening night. John Williams, Welsh Rugby Union’s head of communications, joined festival director Berwyn Rowlands and chairman Andrew Pierce for the start of the five-day event which closes today, when the prize is handed to one of 30 competing films.

“If feels right, it is right, it should be right and both of these events are going to be massively successful,” Mr Williams said. “We believe in the cause that’s represented by the Iris Prize Festival in Cardiff. We understand its importance; inclusivity is a must.”

Mr Pierce, a columnist and consultant editor for the Daily Mail, described Mr Williams’s address as “a very powerful, charming heartfelt” speech. He also hailed the influence of rugby role models such as referee Nigel Owens, who is gay, and former Wales captain Gareth Thomas, who came out as gay in 2009.

“Having the Welsh Rugby Union at the opening was fantastic. Here we are in our ninth prize with the blessing of the Welsh Rugby Union, and the city is full of rugby fans.”

Mr Rowlands will today also announce a £247,000 grant from the Big Lottery that will allow the organisation to expand all over Wales in a three-year project, working with local communities to fight homophobia.

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