TWO staff at the insurance giant Ageas have told how they enlisted their employer to back Bournemouth’s Bourne Free Pride Festival.

Ageas signed up as official partner to this weekend’s event after employees Spencer Holmes and Ash Mann made a presentation to the executive team.

Around 70 Ageas staff have volunteered to help out at the weekend’s event, which will be the town’s 15th annual celebration of diversity.

The multi-national insurer employs around 750 people at Deansleigh Road, near Royal Bournemouth Hospital, with around 3,000 staff in the UK.

Spencer, 33, said: “For me it’s a bit of a personal crusade. I came out as transgender and was blown away by how supportive they were.”

He said he came out as a female to male transgender man two and a half years ago. “It’s just been amazing. I’ve never had to worry about anything at Ageas at all,” he added.

“If I’ve had hospital appointments or surgery, any issues I’ve had related to my transition, I don’t have any issues about telling work because they are completely on board and will make sure that I’m OK first and foremost.”

Both staff had been involved in previous Bourne Free events and believed it would fit with the company’s approach to diversity and inclusion.

“I thought it would be a good idea and I took it to the executive team who all thought it might be a great idea,” said Spencer.

The pair were invited to pitch their idea to the insurer’s diverse inclusion group. Ash, 37, said: “It was great being able to present the idea.”

He said he had always found Ageas supportive. “They understand that people work better when they have support to be themselves and don’t have to pretend,” he added.

Staff from the company’s Eastleigh office will join Bournemouth colleagues at the festival.

Bourne Free runs from Friday to Sunday. Friday’s events include games, activities and an open air showing of the Pixar film Inside Out.

Saturday sees the main parade, in which Ageas will have a double-decker bus, as well as live events at the Triangle and in the Lower Gardens. Sunday’s events include multi-faith celebrations and a big tidy-up.

Louise Clarke, chair of the Bourne Free Trustees, has said: “It’s great to see such a significant local employer taking action to become a truly inclusive employer and celebrating diversity with us as partners in this year’s event.

“Their support both financially and practically will help us make the 15th year of Bourne Free an outstanding success.”