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Friday, July 2, 1999 Published at 16:49 GMT 17:49 UK


Stars lead gay festival

Billie: Will play to 65,000 people in Finsbury Park

A host of pop stars will top the bill at Europe's biggest lesbian and gay festival, being held in London on Saturday.

The Mardi Gras Festival - formerly the Pride event - takes place at Finsbury Park featuring performances from pop acts including Steps, Billie, Boy George, Human League, Gary Barlow and Bjorn Again.

The 65,000-strong event is the first for two years. Last year's Pride event was cancelled as the organisers hit financial problems.

[ image: Boy George: Another Mardi Gras star]
Boy George: Another Mardi Gras star
The festival follows the Pride Parade march through central London which is set to be led by cast members from the hit West End musical Rent. Sports Minister Tony Banks and gay MPs Stephen Twigg and Ben Bradshaw will also join the procession.

Collections will be held for the April Bombings Appeal, a fund for the injured and the families of the three dead following the nail bombings in Brixton, Brick Lane and the Admiral Duncan pub in Soho.

The Mardi Gras comes the day after the re-opening of the Admiral Duncan, nine weeks after it was bombed.

The organisers of the march are also setting up an "area of reflection" at Hyde Park for people to remember the dead from the attacks, as well as people who have died of Aids and breast cancer.

[ image: 1997's Gay Pride: Mardi Gras organisers say things will be different this year]
1997's Gay Pride: Mardi Gras organisers say things will be different this year
Parade director Steve Greenwood said the theme would be "equality through diversity".

He said: "The symbolism of the quiet area at the start of the march is that people will be leaving this behind them and going on to take part in an event which is about celebration.

"The message of the march is that the whole community is diverse. This march is about celebrating the diversity of our community whether you are gay, black or Asian.

"The gay community are standing up and saying they won't be bombed back into the closet."

The organisers are hoping to put last year's cash rows behind them, when the previous organisers were accused of incompetence.

London Mardi Gras Limited spokesman Dominic Fenton said: "It is a totally different set of people organising this year's festival.

"It is exceptionally well organised with a huge team of professionals."

The event starts a busy weekend for pop fans in London - Sunday sees Party In The Park in Hyde Park, where 100,000 people are expected to see Gary Barlow, Steps, Geri Halliwell, The Corrs, Boyzone and Blondie play.

Organised by Capital Radio, it raises money for the Prince's Trust.

BBC Radio 1 will broadcast from the London Mardi Gras from 1700 BST on Saturday, on.

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