The Lord Mayor of Exeter will start Exeter’s third pride event, one of the area’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) celebrations, on Saturday, April 9.

Councillor Marcel Choules will start the ‘Rainbow Flag Parade’ through the city centre. It will leave the St Sidwell Centre, Sidwell Street, at 11.30am, before it heads down Exeter High Street.

“Exeter City Council is pleased to be supporting Exeter Pride 2011 with a ‘My Neighbourhood’ grant,” the Lord Mayor said.

“Exeter has a fantastically diverse community of which we are very proud.

“I would like to wish the event every success and am looking forward to starting the celebrations – and walking in the parade with my wife, Jenny.”

Also taking part will be Exeter’s MP, the openly gay Ben Bradshaw. He is scheduled to be taking part in a panel discussion on The Equality Bill.

“I am proud of the huge strides made under the Labour Government on equality and an end to discrimination,” said Mr. Bradshaw, who, with his partner of more than 12 years, Neal, registered their Civil Partnership in 2006.

“But from the recent murder of a gay human rights activist in Uganda, to homophobic bullying in schools here and the attitude of some churches, it is clear we still have a way to go before everyone can live their lives honestly, free from fear of discrimination or worse,” he added.

The parade will be lead by a fire engine provided by Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service. Firefighters will also be marching in the parade, as will officers from Devon and Cornwall Police.

Exeter-based samba band ‘Street Heat’ will provide musical entertainment during the parade.

Representatives from community groups, as well as individuals, will also be taking part in the parade. A road closure will be in operation for the duration of the parade.

The parade will end at Exeter Phoenix in Gandy Street, where many of the free events and activities will take place.

There will be sales and information stalls, legal and health workshops, speed dating, drumming, Zumba dancing, circus skills, youth space and other fun events at The Phoenix.

Also, two debates with panels of invited guests are planned. Topics will be “The Equality Bill” and “Homophobia in Sport”.

There will be a chillout café with acoustic music, plus DJs and live bands throughout the evening at Exeter Phoenix.

Other events and activities will take place at other venues in Gandy Street on the day and LGBT movies will be shown at Exeter Picturehouse during the weekend.

“This will be Exeter’s biggest pride event and we expect to attract hundreds of people to the city from around the South West and beyond,” said Exeter Pride committee chairman Alan Quick.

“Exeter Pride is a celebration of our lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans communities. It is about us having pride in our contributions to a vibrant and diverse city, and the city having pride in us.

“Exeter Pride is a volunteer led independent project run by a dedicated committee made up of volunteers.

“The event is totally dependent on grants, donations, fundraising and sponsorship and the committee would like to thank all those who are contributing to make the event possible, including not only those who have made financial contributions but also the volunteers who will be fulfilling a range of roles.”

Mr Quick added that the Exeter Pride committee was “delighted” that Cllr and Mrs Choules would be taking part, thanking them for their past service in door supervisory roles for the LGBT community in the city.

Lee Howell, Chief Fire Officer, Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service, said the service was proud to be supporting the LGBT community at Exeter Pride 2011.

“We want to demonstrate our commitment to both making our communities safer and, as one of Stonewall’s diversity champions, to creating a workplace where people can be themselves.

“Enjoy the celebrations,” he urged.

Stephen Otter, Chief Constable, Devon and Cornwall Police, said: “Congratulations to Exeter Pride on making this an established annual event.

“The Devon and Cornwall Constabulary is proud to support this event as part of its commitment to serving the LGB and T communities of Devon.”

The first 500 people who attend Exeter Pride will receive a free goody bag.

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