Parade of togetherness

Ellie X performs at Wigan Pride festival last year
Ellie X performs at Wigan Pride festival last year

Wigan town centre will become a rainbow celebration of diversity and tolerance for the borough’s second Pride festival this weekend.

Organisers have pulled out all the stops following the runaway success of last year’s inaugural event, including securing acting superstar Ian McKellen as special guest.

The LGBTQ+ community will be celebrated with a spectacular town centre parade, the first time this has been organised, before an afternoon and evening of live entertainment at venues across the town centre.

This year’s event is also set to be extra special as it falls on the 50th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Britain.

In addition to that the 2017 event will be more inclusive than ever as Wigan is believed to be hosting the UK’s first autism-friendly Pride.

Wigan Pride and BYOU+ co-founder Jess Eastoe said: “To celebrate the 50th anniversary of decriminalisation we knew we had to promote how progressive and enlightened our borough is, by celebrating Pride in style.

“The voice of the residents supported the need to have a parade and plan a Pride bigger and better than the huge success of year one.

“Meeting the Autism Charter has been a massive milestone in planning an event as we wish to be as inclusive as possible; we truly hope this year’s event is a success for the borough’s residents and they continue to keep the faith in us to celebrate our strengths in diversity.”

Saturday’s programme will kick off in style with a street parade making its way from Mesnes Park to the town centre from 11am. Leading the way will be a float for BYOU and BYOU+, the borough’s LGBTQ+ groups supporting young people and adults respectively, and Wigan-raised icon of stage and screen Mr McKellen.

The parade will include large organisations and community groups all showing their support for Pride’s ethos, with GMP, St John Ambulance, Wigan Borough

Clinical Commissioning Group, St Pat’s Rugby Club, Age UK, WWL NHS, Leigh Film Society, Wigan and Leigh Green Party, Wigan and Leigh Labour amd Unite among those involved. The main entertainment venue, which this year has been called the Unity Stage, will then be opened with a few words from Ian, who lived in the borough until aged 12.

Leigh indie-pop group The Lottery Winners will headline, with Jes Stretton, Ellie X, Josh Robinson and Zoe Unsworth returning and newcomers including trio Quantum Flux, a leading Lady Gaga tribute act, alternative folk singer Emrys Hall and ska band Bud Sugar.

As well as taking over Market Place this year’s Wigan Pride will include a community hub on Believe Square for the borough’s organisations to showcase their services as well as providing a chilled area live-streaming the festivities.

After the entertainment finishes at 7pm the afterparties will ensure the fun continues into the night, with The Old Courts hosting various tribute and drag acts.

, singers and a Wham! tribute group and Pride-themed events taking place at Reflex and The Wiend.

Wigan Pride 2017 is on Saturday from 11am. For more information visit www.wiganpride.com