Newcastle's Mr Gay GB finalist raising money for two vital North East charities

Andrew will compete for the title of Mr Gay GB 2024
-Credit: (Image: Catherine Ball)

One of the finalists for this year's Mr Gay Great Britain competition is flying the flag for Newcastle - and raising money for two incredible North East charities in the process.

Andrew Gardiner is one of nine finalists competing in this year's event, with the grand finale set to take place in the Alnwick Garden this August. Even for the 39-year-old actor and dancer, who has worked with some of the UK's leading dance companies touring nationally and internationally for the last 15 years, the prestigious contest is "out of his comfort zone" - but he has vowed to seize the opportunity of his debut to advocate for an important cause close to his heart.

Andrew hopes to use his Mr Gay GB platform to raise awareness of the need for better mental health understanding and care, having been diagnosed with bipolar disorder himself in adulthood. "It's very close to me, my family and my work. The statistics of mental health related issues with the LGBTQIA+ community is staggering," he told Chronicle Live.

He added: "I am really interested in shining a light on this, raising awareness, reducing stigma and signposting towards support. Especially with young people, where the symptoms can be reversed so young people don't grow into adulthood with these struggles."

Mr Gay GB was set up as "an antidote to the outdated nightclub beauty contests", and has gone on to become a world-renowned competition with international pageants that have moved with the times to become about much more than beauty alone. As well as the pageantry aspect, involving catwalks of formalwear, beachwear and national dress, finalists must fundraise for two selected charities and undergo an exam on LGBTQIA+ history.

One of the chosen charities for 2024 is the The Charlie & Carter Foundation (CCF), which provides financial support to parents of seriously ill children with life limiting conditions that require 24-hour nursing care or specialist nursing facilities. The charity was set up by South Shields couple Chris and Sarah Cookson in honour of their boys Charlie and Carter, who sadly died very young, to make things easier for struggling families.

The other is Pride Action North, a leading LGBTQIA+ charity providing a wide range of support services across the North of England and beyond. The mission of this charity is "to make the world a safer, more inclusive and accepting place for everybody to live, and to end discrimination in all its forms", with work including counselling, social gatherings, events, and training and development courses.

Andrew has some epic fundraising events planned, including a dance and fitness class Homotiv8 this July and a cabaret show, as well as a raffle with prizes linked to fitness, wellbeing, experience days, restaurants and more. You can donate directly to Andrew's fundraising efforts for The Charlie & Carter Foundation and Pride Action North via his JustGiving pages.

Gay Day 2024 will take place in the Alnwick Garden, which will not only play host to Mr Gay GB and Mx Drag GB, but to Mr Gay World too - marking the first time in its 15-year history that the competition has taken place on UK shores. Promising "a day of pride, celebration and an unforgettable runway", the competition will culminate in the crowning of the winner during the Grand Finale ceremony on August 26, with music, stalls and entertainment for spectators to look forward to.

Stuart Hatton Jr, CEO of Mr Gay Great Britain, said: "My team and I are elated to bring Mr Gay World to Great Britain for the first time ever! This is an event you won't want to miss, as Mr Gay World is returning bigger and better than ever."

Following an audience vote and an appearance in front of a celebrity judging panel, the pageant winners go on to represent Great Britain at Mr Gay Europe and Mr Gay World. You can cast your vote for Andrew Facebook or Instagram - simply like the posts to cast your vote.