One of the borough’s most recognisable celebrities will return to the town as special guest at this year’s Wigan Pride festival.
A-list actor Ian McKellen, who was knighted for his services to drama and became known around the world as Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings films, will attend the second celebration of diversity and LGBTQ+ people next month.
Organisers are promising this year’s event will be bigger and better than last year’s inaugural festival, with Ian leading the first ever Pride parade in Wigan on August 12.
He will also kick off the celebrations with an event at The Old Courts the previous night and will make a short speech on the main stage to get the afternoon of entertainment under way.
Zak Bretherton, managing director and co-founder of BYOU+ and Wigan Pride said: “Ian McKellen has always been an inspiration as an activist within the LGBT+ community.
“I had the opportunity to meet Ian during his previous visit back in 2015 which was really inspiring and motivated myself to make Wigan Pride a reality and also set up BYOU+, a local LGBTQ+ adult provision.
“ I’m so delighted to be welcoming him back to the borough and to take part in Wigan Pride 2017.”
Ian, who has also produced an exclusive video message for Wigan Pride’s Facebook page, said: “If when I left Wigan when I was 12 years old there had been such a possibility of discovering one’s self in the company of people who cared and understood, what a better up-bringing I would’ve had.
“So in that spirit and in support of all the gay people in Wigan and their families and friends, I’ll be along with great delight to say hello.”
Other new innovations include entertainment and activities being spread out across Market Place and Believe Square and the introduction of an autism-friendly zone.
Leigh band The Lottery Winners return in a headlining slot on the main stage and Josh Robinson will also be back to perform.
BYOU+ and Wigan Pride co-founder Jess Eastoe said: “I’m really excited and I think it’s going to get quite a lot of attention.
“Last year was amazing but it will be bigger and better this time. It should be a really positive event.
“I think it’s really important to have a Pride festival in Wigan. It’s about getting people together, showing who we are, how we are kind to each other and supporting each other’s choices.”
Tickets for Ian McKellen’s event at The Old Courts on Friday August 11 will be available from 9am on Wednesday July 12. The main Saturday event in Wigan town centre is free.
To find out more visit www.wiganpride.com