Published: 14:30, 06 June 2017
| Updated: 14:37, 06 June 2017
Organisers of a gay pride festival in the city have held talks with counter-terrorism specialists ahead of the colourful spectacle this weekend.
As many as 6,000 people are expected to attend Canterbury Pride on Saturday, with huge crowds parading through the city and gathering in the Dane John Gardens.
But in light of recent terror attacks in London and Manchester, security will be stepped up for the popular LGBT celebration.
Dane John will be fenced off for the first time and plain-clothed police officers will join their uniformed colleagues among the revellers.
Edd Withers, the chairman of Pride’s organising committee, said: “We have been speaking to both local police and counter-terrorism specialists about security and visitors will notice the increased measures and police presence.
“For the first time at a Canterbury Pride, the Dane John Gardens perimeter will also be fenced off with only access via the main Watling Street entrance, where everyone coming in will have their bags searched.
“Armed officers are already a familiar sight in Canterbury and although they are not being specifically deployed for us, they may well also be present at some stage.
“We have also increased our own security staff, but are doing everything we can to make sure that, first and foremost, it is going to be a fun, family-friendly event.
“But it will be noticeable to those attending with the bag searches and people being patted down, which is the sort of things people have come to accept in the current climate.”
Mr Withers says strengthening security measures has pushed up the cost of holding the free festival to about £30,000 - almost double last year.
“The costs have been racking up but it’s still a completely free event and that’s only been made possible by the many generous sponsors by the stalls and bar,” he said.
“We are expecting more visitors as it’s the biggest of its kind in Kent and will draw people from all over the south east and London, as well as even abroad.
“That has to be good for the local economy, including hotels, B&Bs and shops and restaurants," he said.
The event starts with a parade up the High Street from the Marlowe Theatre at 11.30am, with live Samba music and a carnival atmosphere.
Entertainment starts in the Dane John Gardens at 12.30pm and includes star acts from the American reality show Ru Paul’s Drag Race, Courtney Act and Willam, as well as some of the UK’s favourite tribute acts, performers and DJs.
There will also be food and drink stalls, children’s entertainment and a Pride market.
The celebrations continue in the evening from 10pm with the Glitterball After Party at The Venue on the University of Kent campus, where Courtney Act and Willam will also be entertaining.
The after-party is a ticket-only event. Buy on the door or at www.canterburypride.co.uk.