A PARTY atmosphere filled Bournemouth town centre this weekend as Bourne Free was celebrated.

The annual Pride parade took place on Saturday, filling the streets with a dazzling display of rainbow colours. The roadsides were packed with people watching the procession, which celebrated the diverse LGBTQ+ community.

The theme for this year’s parade was Hawaiian beach party, and there were plenty of flower lei gardens being worn by members of the parade. Thousands of supporters waved their rainbow flags as the parade set off from East Cliff and made its way around the town centre, finishing at the Triangle.

A wide array of organisations, charities, groups, and individuals took part including Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service, Dorset Police, and South Western Ambulance Service, all of which decorated their vehicles in rainbow colours specially for the event.

Rubyz, Space Youth Project, Communi-T, Yellow Buses and Morebus also had floats in the parade.

The celebrations continued after the parade, with free family entertainment and stalls in the Lower Gardens until 4.30pm, and live music and entertainment for over 18s in the Triangle.

Acts including Dane Bowers, MC Big Ben, S Club, Artful Dodger, Brandon Block, Michelle Heaton, Courtney Act, and Sam Callahan performed.

The festival continues today when the local Metropolitan Community Church will provide an open-air service for all at The Triangle Arena. The event is free to attend and open to everyone of all ages.

Martyn Underhill, Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner and Bourne Free trustee, said this year saw the biggest ever parade.

“It was a fantastic day, helped by the weather. There were at least 500 people in the parade this year, so it was bigger than ever before. There were also more stalls in the Lower Gardens than we’ve ever had.”

Despite the fun and frivolity of the parade, he added this year’s festival also had a serious message.

“The festival this year is drawing attention to the high rate of suicide in the LGBTQ community. It’s worryingly high.

“We showed a video made by Bournemouth University students, which raised awareness about this issue and highlighted an important message.”

Bourne Free was established in 2004 to defend and promote the local LGBTQ+ community in the face of an organised homophobic protest planned for Bournemouth’s Lower Gardens.