Published: 06:00, 04 April 2021
| Updated: 12:45, 06 April 2021
It may have a relatively brief history but Pride events in Kent have already made quite an impression.
From fashion icon Gok Wan to Bucks Fizz and Nadine Coyle of Girls Aloud, the festivals which celebrate the LGBT+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community have attracted their share of celebrities to the county - and increasingly larger crowds.
The first Pride festival was held in London in 1972.
It was attended by 2,000 people but it is now marked by events which are spread out right across the world.
It came three years after Gay Pride began on June 28, in 1969, when customers fought back at the Stonewall Inn in New York’s Greenwich Village as police descended on the popular gay bar.
That night, there were 200 people inside the bar and they all refused to cooperate with the police. Back-up was called for to get everyone out and transferred to police cells but, by the time they had arrived, a crowd had gathered in Christopher Street, outside the Stonewall.
The police inside couldn’t get out and the rough way the officers outside the bar dealt with those gathered outside led to a flashpoint.
Drag queen Marsha P Johnson began the fightback and the Stonewall Riot was under way, with gay rights activists fighting with the police until 4am, as the gay rights movement began.
Now, we take a look back at the festival movement with which the rainbow flag has become synonymous.
In 2005, Canterbury celebrated its first Pride.
Called Picnic In The Park and organised by Pride in Canterbury, it played host to a variety of drag artists, started at Dane John Gardens and attracted almost 2,000 people, including visitors from Brighton, London and Liverpool.
After its success, it returned the following year.
The theme was Brokeback Mountain, the Oscar-winning film about gay cowboys, and it was officially opened by singer and gay icon Mandy Winters.
Fast forward six-and-a-half years, however, and things were very different.
Andrew Brettell and his partner Martin Lammas, who had run Pride in Canterbury, left for Norwich - and didn’t pull any punches as they did so.
In a statement, they said they felt they were moving to a city where they could feel they belonged, adding “Young, middle-aged or old, there is little for gay people in Canterbury.” They also made an official complaint about Canterbury City Council to the Local Government Ombudsman but an investigation found no grounds for their claim.
It was 2016 before Pride returned to the city in its current guise, as then-Lord Mayor Cllr George Metcalfe led the celebrations.
"For our first year, we attracted 4,000 people," says Jon Fitter-Harding, one of Canterbury Pride's organisers.
"We didn’t know what to expect. The last Pride before that in Canterbury had got 1,500.
"I think there had been a real social change in the community. There was everyone there from the Canterbury community as a whole. They actually want the event to happen and they are disappointed when it doesn’t happen."
Thousands of people flocked to the streets once more in 2017 before S Club 3 (the three remaining members from S Club 7) headlined the 2018 edition of Canterbury Pride.
They were joined at the bash by drag act Delilah Tickles, who featured tributes to Little Mix, the Spice Girls and Abba, as well as some of Kent’s best singers.
With Pride continuing to grow in popularity in the city, there was an array of colour for the festival in 2019, with Gok Wan among the 20,000-strong crowd in the city while Nadine Coyle headlined.
Of course, Kent's biggest annual celebration of the LGBT community was wiped from last year’s calendar due to the coronavirus pandemic, although the Beaney did put on a special exhibition last summer to showcase the history of Canterbury Pride.
Mr Fitter-Harding says: "We were really, really disappointed we couldn’t have our Pride last year but we were able to put on an exhibition. It shows how we got to where we are.
"That was really nice. It was good to still be there but just in a different way."
The 2021 edition of the festival is set to go ahead this summer on September 11.
Mr Fitter-Harding highlighted how much it costs to put on now - and why the support they receive from local businesses is so crucial.
He explains: "Our event costs in excess of £50,000 to put on. We recently got some funding from the National Lottery but we just couldn’t do it without funding from our sponsors.
"We do quite an in-depth survey and get in excess of 1,500 responses from those who come along. We have had people come from Scotland, Cornwall and a couple have come from further abroad as well.
"That is because of the acts and talents we can attract, and that’s because of the sponsorship we receive from businesses."
Thanet, 'Margayte', Kent and Margate Pride
After a race against time, Thanet Pride’s inaugural event was held along Margate seafront in 2007.
It was put together in just eight weeks by members of the Sundowners Private Members Club, including owner Paul Rollins, who were approached to organise a Pride event in the town.
Mr Rollins admits there was a lot of work involved in putting on the four festivals he was directly involved with but is pleased to see Pride still going strong today.
“There is a lot of organising to do, it's not something that just happens,” he says.
“We were lucky to have Steve Davis from Winter Gardens on our committee. We were lucky to have a reasonably knowledgeable committee. We knew a lot of companies in the area and we were able to mobilise them.
"We did a lot of work in the early days with Southeastern railway.
"They gave us sponsorship quite early on. We did quite a lot of the ground-breaking work.”
It attracted some 10,000 people the following year who were kept entertained by X-Factor finalists Same Difference.
The 2009 and 2010 bashes proved hugely popular, too, with Eurovision's Bucks Fizz headlining in 2009.
Horace Hotman, one of the organisers, who was a compere on the main stage for three of the first four festivals, says: “On a lovely summer’s day to walk along the seafront where there are galleries and restaurants, there is something for everyone down there.”
But come September 2010, chairman Kevin Grice feared its days were numbered unless new sponsors were found.
Indeed, it was another three years before "Margayte Pride" 2013, a weekend of events held in late September.
Pride returned to the town two years later as Kent Pride 2015, organised by a team including Sue Sanders and Tony Butcher.
It made a comeback despite anti-gay leaflets being posted through letterboxes in Margate just days before the festival.
Since 2016 Margate Pride, now run by a community interest company of the same name, has helped to celebrate the LGBT+ community.
In terms of this year's plans, organisers said: "Though there will be no parade again this year, we will be bringing back the art trail across the town, including the return of the 'Red Flags' open call exhibition; the Pride Portrait Project; and very exciting plans for the Oval Bandstand on August 14."
Tunbridge Wells Pride
Tunbridge Wells Pride is another of the more established festivals, having first launched in 2017.
However revellers were unable to walk on the roads for the first two Prides that they held, not booking road closures for their first festival before they found out roads would not be shut a few weeks before the big day in 2018.
Swale and Faversham Pride
Hundreds turned out for Faversham’s first LGBT Pride celebration, an all-day festival at West Faversham Community Centre, in 2018.
There were more smiles and splashes of colour as hundreds of people braved the heat to take part in Swale Pride in August 2019, which marched through Faversham.
The inaugural Folkestone Pride happened in 2017 with hundreds showing solidarity for the LGBT community.
Then-Folkestone Mayor Cllr Roger West attended but was condemned for showing his support for his town’s first gay pride march by two residents from Cheriton.
He hit back, saying: “It’s just unbelievable that people in this day and age think this way and can be that bigoted.”
The festival went ahead again in 2018 and 2019, where the parade came to a stop at the Leas Cliff Hall and a rooftop party was held.
The first Dover Pride was held in 2019.
It went through the heart of Dover, from the Market Square to Dover's historic Town Hall where there was music, live entertainment and a market.
This year, Dover Pride has organised two litter-picking events, one held on the seafront on Saturday, April 10 and the second a week later in Pencester Gardens.
But with lockdown measures introduced just a month later, the festival has been pushed back until August 21 this year.
Medway Pride held its first events in 2013/14 when it staged a Picnic in the Park event in Rochester.
It was promoted by Kent & Medway LGBT Community Action Group with help from Metro Charity.
This year LGBT History Month was under Covid restrictions which prevented an annual event which is usually staged at Nucleus Arts in Chatham.
As a result, the group began a new project Medway Pride Radio which is broadcasting 24 hours a day, as part of Medway Pride.
The Medway Pride parade being held in August is both a demonstration and celebration of LGBTQIA+ people.
A spokesman for the event said: "It is an opportunity for those taking part, representing their communities to say we are here, we exist, and raise issues about the challenges affecting their community, like issues around health care and discrimination be that for race, religion, disability, age, sexuality or gender identity.
"The festival includes the work of community support organisation, NHS, Kent Police & Fire Service."
Plans have been put in place for Maidstone's first LGBT event too.
Featuring Britain's Got Talent semi-finalist Danny Beard and three stars from RuPaul's Drag Race UK as part of the line-up, it is scheduled to be held at Mote Park on June 25.
It has been organised by Popular nightlife promoters Glitterbomb.
They are pulling out all the stops with RuPaul’s Drag Race UK season one finalist Baga Chipz, a multi-talented performer, taking to the stage for a live vocal set.
She will be joined at the festival by Lawrence Chaney and Bimini Bon-Boulash from season two of the popular TV series.
Former Canterbury Pride boss Edd Withers has launched a new organisation called Kent Pride, which he hopes will become the largest LGBT celebration in the county.
It will kick-off with an "online extravaganza" this year, which he says could be an evening of live-streamed entertainment, and will be held in west Kent but a date for the inaugural bash has yet to be confirmed.
In March 2019 Gravesham Pride CIC was formed with elected officials.
The original event was planned to take place on August 15 last year on Community Square in Gravesend however, this was cancelled due to Covid-19 restrictions.
In May 2020 Gravesham Pride CIC joined forces with Medway Pride to produce a week long virtual event held in August 2020 which featured a flag raising with Mama G and Kent Police, along with speeches from both mayors.
There was a virtual pride march with local people supplying pictures of themselves at other prides over the years and it featured performances from Jayne Snow, Clea Lewellyn, Satch, Lolly (90’s bubblegum pop star), Gary B Lucas, Aiden Sadler, Leanne Jones (Hairspray - London). Phil Francis, Rosa Monsoon , Cosmic Ninja and Smashby (MTV).
There was also live Q and A sessions with trans boxing promoter Kellie Maloney.
The week long event ended with a huge closing party that was broadcast over multiple platforms and the even reached more than people in 32 countries.
A host of fundraising events were held in the run-up to the summer of 2019 for Sheppey’s first-ever Pride but plans for their inaugural festival have, so far, not come to fruition.