Olympian Dame Kelly Holmes, singer Emeli Sande and TV presenter Phillip Schofield joined crowds attending the 50th anniversary of the UK’s first Pride parade.
The athlete and songstress, both of whom recently came out publicly as gay, shared their excitement at being part of what the London Mayor’s office described as the biggest Pride in the capital ever.
Schofield also took to social media to share his Pride experience, describing it as a “wonderful and inspiring day”.
Crowds – which Sadiq Khan’s office said were made up of more than one million revellers – in rainbow colours and wearing face paint, glitter, jewels and sequins gathered on Saturday for what was also the first Pride in London since the outbreak of the pandemic.
Floats lined Park Lane ahead of the main march through the capital, which was led by Gay Liberation Front (GLF) activists holding placards saying “I was there in 1972” and that they are “still fighting” for global LGBT+ freedom.
Uniformed officers from the Metropolitan Police did not take part in this year’s parade after the force acknowledged concerns from the LGBT community in the wake of inquests which concluded police failings “probably” contributed to the deaths of young men murdered by serial killer Stephen Port.
As part of what organisers called the “biggest and most inclusive event in history”, a line-up of artists performed across four stages around central London.
Sande, who was among those on the entertainment bill, posted a story on her Instagram which showed her and her partner, classical pianist Yoana Karemova, on their way to soundcheck, and later in Trafalgar Square, where preparations were under way for the day’s musical extravaganza.
Sande previously said she was driven to come out publicly by an urge to be “bold and honest” in everything she does, and that while she had been “nervous” about the decision, she also wanted to “shout from the rooftops and celebrate” their relationship.
Dame Kelly posted an image of herself online wearing a long multicoloured outfit featuring a Pride flag with the hashtag “being me” – a nod to an ITV documentary she appeared in to tell her story.
Addressing the crowd in Trafalgar Square before introducing Sande, Dame Kelly vowed she would “never live behind that curtain again” after coming out as a gay woman.
This Morning presenter Schofield, who spoke in early 2020 about “coming to terms with the fact that I am gay”, walked alongside Dame Kelly during the parade.
This year’s parade, from Hyde Park Corner to Whitehall, paid homage to the original 1972 march.
More than 600 LGBT+ community groups were due to join the march, which saw the route passing significant sites from the UK’s first LGBT+ movement.
Mohammed Nazir, 24, from Bangladesh, from campaign group Rainbows Across Borders, said he wanted to dedicate this year’s pride to those forced to still hide their sexuality.
He told the PA news agency: “Pride is about self-affirmation, dignity and equality. It is a way to meet some other LGBTQ people. Pride is a movement where we’re still fighting for our rights.”
Mr Khan said there was still a “danger” to the LGBT+ community of “discrimination, bias and violence”, and warned against being “complacent”.
He said: “This year is the 50th anniversary of Pride, celebrating this community, celebrating the progress made, but also continuing to campaign and never be complacent.”
London Gay Men’s Chorus, which was taking part in the march, described an assault on one of its members and his partner in the early hours of Saturday as a “terrible attack”.
A man was arrested by the Metropolitan Police on suspicion of causing grievous bodily harm in what the force said it was treating as a homophobic hate crime.
The choir said the attack “only serves to underline how important it remains to fight against homophobia and all forms of discrimination”.
Pride participants also told of their relief to be back out marching and celebrating after the pandemic.