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Crowds in rainbow colours have gathered for the 50th anniversary of the UK’s first Pride parade.
Revellers wearing face paint, glitter, jewels and sequins are taking part in Pride in London – also the first since the outbreak of the pandemic – on Saturday.
Floats lined Park Lane ahead of the main march through the capital, which was led by Gay Liberation Front (GLF) activists holding placards saying “I was there in 1972” and that they are “still fighting” for global LGBT+ freedom.
More than a million people are expected to descend on the city for the parade and associated celebrations.
As part of what organisers are calling the “biggest and most inclusive event in history”, there is a line-up of artists performing across four stages around central London.
Singer Emeli Sande, who came out publicly in April, is among those on the entertainment bill.
She posted a story on her Instagram which showed her and her partner, classical pianist Yoana Karemova, on their way to soundcheck, and later in Trafalgar Square, where preparations were under way for the day’s musical extravaganza.
This year’s parade, from Hyde Park Corner to Whitehall, pays homage to the original 1972 march.
More than 600 LGBT+ community groups are joining the march, which will pass significant sites from the UK’s first LGBT+ movement.
Mohammed Nazir, 24, from Bangladesh, from campaign group Rainbows Across Borders, said he wanted to dedicate this year’s pride to those forced to still hide their sexuality.
He told the PA news agency: “Pride is about self-affirmation, dignity and equality. It is a way to meet some other LGBTQ people. Pride is a movement where we’re still fighting for our rights.”
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said there was still a “danger” to the LGBT+ community of “discrimination, bias and violence” and warned against being “complacent”.
He said: “This year is the 50th anniversary of Pride, celebrating this community, celebrating the progress made, but also continuing to campaign and never be complacent.
“We saw this time last week an attack in Oslo just hours before that parade, where two people lost their lives and more than 20 were injured.
“So, we’ve got to be conscious of the fact that there’s still a danger to this community of discrimination, bias and violence. But allies like me are really important to support this community.”
He said people are marching for an “open, inclusive accepting world”.
People taking part in Pride told of their relief to be back after the pandemic.
Stephen Sanders said he “really missed Pride the last two years, obviously with Covid, so it’s good to be back celebrating the 50 years”, while Padraigin Ni Raghillig, who rode her Harley-Davidson at the front of the Pride parade as president of Dykes on Bikes London, said it felt “fantastic” to be back after lockdown.
Popstar Ava Max will close the show on the Trafalgar Square stage, while other performers include Eurovision-winner Netta, Samantha Mumba and Kat Graham.
Celebrating 50 years of #PrideInLondon
Today’s Pride march is a celebration of how far we’ve come in the fight for LGBTQI+ rights & a reminder of why we must keep fighting.
Thank you to @BishopsgateInst for these pictures from the Gay Pride March 1982: Robert Workman Archive. pic.twitter.com/jk2r9H7aax
— Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan (@MayorofLondon) July 2, 2022
All proceeds raised from commercial partnerships are reinvested into the LGBT+ community, such as through the Unity Fund, organisers said.
The Unity Fund aims to build stronger communities by providing one-off grants to grassroots organisations, which address the needs of the UK’s LGBT+ community.
Meanwhile, public health officials have urged people not to attend Pride events if they have monkeypox symptoms or feel unwell.
As of Thursday, there were 1,235 confirmed cases in the UK.
Wendi Shepherd, monkeypox incident director at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), said: “Our investigations and information from confirmed cases continue to show that the overwhelming majority of cases are in gay, bisexual or other men who have sex with men.
“This weekend let’s enjoy Pride safely. Before you go to any events or parties check yourself for blister-like spots and rashes.
“Please don’t attend if you have monkeypox symptoms or feel unwell. If you have a rash or blisters stay at home, phone a sexual health clinic and get tested.”