THOUSANDS descended on the Town Gardens dressed in rainbow flags and colours to celebrate this year’s Swindon and Wiltshire Pride.
It was the seventh year that Pride has been held in the town by Swindon’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community, with the largest number of people taking part in the parade yet and a record number of stalls available to browse.
From 11.15am to late into the night, Old Town shook with colour, music and laughter as partners, families and friends all flocked to celebrate and promote equality for all people regardless of sexuality and gender.
Jo Sharpe, the chairman of this year’s Pride committee, said: “The Swindon and Wiltshire Pride event is just one of many events that take place all over the country every year to show support for the LGBT community and show that we’re all the same no matter who we love.
“It’s a chance for everyone to get together and show people that we are just one big community.
“I do still think it’s important to hold pride events and to campaign against prejudices. This year we have seen some positive changes with the Marriage Bill being introduced, but there is still a lot more work to be done.
“People all over the world are still treated appallingly just because of who they love, and Pride is all about making a stand for all those that are suffering and to remember them. Even in the UK there is still a lot of homophobia and homophobic bullying, and this needs to change.”
During the afternoon after the Parade itself had taken place, the music began in the Town Gardens.
Musical highlights on the main stage – sponsored by Thames Water – included X-Factor runner-up Marcus Collins, drag act Shona Shuffles, the Fabulous Miss Bridy & Boy Jase and threesome Barely Over The Legal Limit as well as many other popular stars from Pride’s all over the country, like international drag act Leslie Lush.
There was also music from predominantly local acts on the Stephen G Sloan Stage – named after a much-loved local artist and Pride supporter who died after an unknown ulcer burst in January at the age of just 32.
Headliners on the Stephen G Sloan Stage included Charlie-Anne, Jamie Hawkins, Jimmy Moore, Karl Brookes and a performance fro the GW Dance Academy.
Jo said: “A lot of work goes into organising pride and it wouldn’t be possible without all the help from the volunteers and many of the acts who are volunteering their time.
“It’s all funded on donations, and around £4,000 was raised by the Mailcoach. It means that we can still keep the event free but we really rely on the support of the community to keep it going.”
This year there are also more zones for visitors to browse through, with demonstrations from the Supermarine Ladies RFC and the Street Elite Dance Company in the Sports Zone and musical bumps and Giant Games in the Fabulous Family Zone.
There was also an Arts Zone put together in collaboration with No Added Sugar as well as representatives from Swindon Council, Out Of The Can LGBT Group, Rethink and Foggy’s Invisible Illness Support, among many others in the Public Sector and Community zones.
Vikki Harvey, 39, of Stratton and Carly Derrick, 27, were just two of the many groups of friends who had come along to enjoy the party atmosphere.
Vikki said: “We just wanted to come along and enjoy the music and show our support for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community and stand up against prejudice.
“It’s been really fun and there’s a great atmosphere.”