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Wolverhampton Pride festival 2017 is a howling success - with PICTURES

By Marion Brennan | Wolverhampton | Wolverhampton entertainment | Published: | Last Updated:

Wrapped in rainbow flags and in the mood to party, thousands of revellers converged on Wolverhampton city centre for the annual Pride festival.

Pop favourites S Club notched up the energy levels even more with a storming performance on the main stage - and Wolverhampton roared its way into the history books by setting a world howling record.

Visitors refused to let the rain dampen their spirits as the revived Pride festival kicked off under a new format and in a new venue, beside the university in Wulfruna Street.

Wolverhampton City Council stepped in to rally support when previous organisers, the LGBT Network, struggled to finance the event after stringent cutbacks. The 2017 festival cost £30,000 to stage, triple the previous investment.

S Club perform during Wolves Pride

And with more than 6,000 free tickets booked in advance, Kevin O'Keefe, the city council's director of governance, declared the festival a huge success.

Mingling with the crowds at Saturday's event, he said: "We haven't sought to compete with Birmingham Pride. We feel we're offering something very unique here.Wolverhampton Pride is less commercial, more fun, and more grounded in the community."

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With new sponsors and professional festival organiser Will Power at the helm, Pride has reinvented itself as an all-encompassing celebration, still retaining its quirky image and colourful characters.

Alongside the main stage tent, were a cocktail tent and dance tent with an arts and crafts area set up for children's activities, also featuring some of the Wolves in Wolves artists, and several food stalls. LGBT traders sold everything from 'Yes I Am' T-shirts to rainbow-coloured feather boas.

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Precisely 1,004 people in the main tent took part in a 60-second Big Howl, rocketing themselves into the World Guinness Book of Records for the most number of people wolf howling continuously for a minute.

Watching S Club perform at Wolves Pride

They smashed the former world record which stood at 803 people, set at Niagara Falls on July 1 this year. Independent adjudicators verified the bid and organisers are now waiting for the the record to be officially recognised.

Immediately afterwards, former S Club 7 members Jo O'Meara, Tina Barrett and Bradley McIntosh took to the stage to the delight of new and older fans, and prompting some nostalgic twenty-somethings in the crowd to stand on their seats and boogie.

The event was organised by the city council, Wolverhampton Homes and the university, all big supporters of past Pride events, as part of the newly formed LGBT Alliance, helped by a range of sponsors including city nightclub Gorgeous and The Grain Store.

Colin Parr, the city council's head of governance, said: "It's a celebration of the city's diversity. We're promoting it as a more inclusive Pride in Wolverhampton event. The council has been able to mobilise its resources to ensure the event worked. "

Watching S Club perform at Wolves Pride

The university library hosted a speakers event, which included East Park councillor Anwen Muston talking out against Donald Trump's stance on transgender people in the military and former Shropshire Top Gun Caroline Paige, who was a pilot stationed at RAF Shawbury, near Shrewsbury, before coming out as a trans woman.

Gay couple Nikki and Dani Denigan, from Oldbury, who met whilst working at The Park Lane Tavern in Cradley, brought their one-year-old daughter Kinlee along to enjoy the fun.

Dani, 27, said: "It feels like more of a family event than in previous years. My mum has come with us, and other members of the family. It's a more Pride in general event, with gay and non-gay people mixing in, which is how it should be."

Some party-goers had travelled further afield to attend. Care assistant Lucy Holroyd and factory worker Jason Williams, from Rubery, Birmingham, were impressed.

Jason, 27, said: "It's more inviting for people like me who haven't come here just to drink. There's more on offer."

Enjoying Wolves Pride, Laura Marie Howard, of Wolverhampton

Lucy, 28, added: "Being smaller, you feel safer."

Wolverhampton entrepreneur Will Power, who organises street festivals across the UK, said: "It's great to see people working together in a very positive way for Wolverhampton."

Ben Howley, chairman of Wolverhampton LGBT Plus Alliance, said: "It's massively different to previous Wolverhampton Pride events, with a large entertainment focus, and everyone seems to be having a good time.

"It was too late logistically to also organise a parade but that's certainly not off the cards in future years. We hope to build on what we've started."

Marion Brennan

By Marion Brennan
@Marion_EStar

News and features reporter, specialising in human interest and local history stories.

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