Julu Irvine has been breaking down barriers in Tavistock, now she has been elected for the first time to the town council.

Cllr Irvine fought and won a contested vote for the town council SW ward in May’s local elections. She was already well-known through her pioneering work setting up the first ever Tavistock Pride celebration of diversity in society. It was so successful, that she is helping organise a repeat on July 1 with events in the Meadows and a parade that will go through the centre this year for the first time.

Julu and her partner Heg threw themselves into the Tavistock community when they set up home in the town together. However, as a same-sex couple, they did not feel the town was as integrated as other places of similar character and size. So, she set about trying to change the social climate: ‘I really love Tavistock and have been made to feel really welcome. But although Heg and I could walk easily enough down the street holding hands without any antagonism or hassle, there was not that feeling of inclusion generally. The invisibility of the LGBTQ+ was especially obvious during lockdown.

‘Some in the LGBTQ+ community didn’t feel at all confident they could behave the same as us in public. They felt that people weren’t open or welcoming to them which is very sad.

‘When I organised Tavistock Pride there was a lot of support, but I know it was a touchy subject for many people. The council was supportive and changed their policy to agree to fly the Pride flag on the town hall — that was enormous for me and helped portay Tavistock as a welcoming place for people with alternative lifestyles to visit and to live.

We also need to do everything to keep young people in the town to keep it multicultural and diverse and the Pride event and flag all helps keep them living here if they feel its an inclusive community.’

As possibly the youngest person on the council, aged 39, she also understands that aspect: ‘Age diversity leads to different ideas and debates happening both in the council chamber and the community. I know the council has been concerned about the age imbalance with a high average age.’

Julu attended Tavistock College and moved away to be educated at Bristol University in biology then she gained an MSc in genetics at Exeter University, however, she calls herself a musician and explored her creativity in Bristol before returning to Tavistock in 2019 and formed a folk duo called Suthering and the Wheelhouse Choir in Tavistock and the Great Sea Choir in Plymouth.

She has joined a council group dealing with the Meadows and the Neighbourhood Plan committee. Her priorities are the supporting the provision of affordable housing, public transport and infrastructure such as schools, and health care.