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The BBC's James Helm
"Thousands gathered - many in costume"
 real 56k

Saturday, 1 July, 2000, 17:45 GMT 18:45 UK
London comes out for Mardi Gras
Gay Pride March and Parade
An estimated 100,000 joined the parade
Thousands of people gathered under alternate sunshine and showers in London's Finsbury Park to celebrate the UK's biggest gay and lesbian festival.

The theme of this year's Mardi Gras was equal rights, with thoughts still with the victims of Nazi nail-bomber David Copeland, who was jailed on Friday.

While they waited for headline acts, including Kylie Minogue, All Saints and Billie, the revellers enjoyed entertainment including bungee jumping and funfair rides.

The seven-hour Mardi Gras 2000, which is expected to attract 100,000, followed the earlier Pride March and Parade, which weaved from Hyde Park, through central London to Victoria.
Ken Livingstone and Kylie Minogue
Kylie Minogue welcomes London mayor Ken Livingstone on stage to speak at the festival

BBC Radio 1 is providing live coverage of the north London event where its DJs Judge Jules and Danny Rampling are playing sets.

Meanwhile, Leicester Square will be lit-up by drag queens, muscle boys The Pink Singers and The Mardi Gras Marching Band.

The festival will be marked by reaction to the conviction on Friday of David Copeland for three nail bomb attacks in London last Spring.

In April 1999, three people died when one of Copeland's bombs exploded in the Admiral Duncan pub, Soho, in the heart of London's biggest gay district.

Festival director Jason Pollock said: "The event does still have a political message - and it is equal rights.

"We are dedicating this year to equal rights and scrapping Section 28 - they are major political issues for the gay cause - but we are also delighted that justice has been done [to David Copeland]."
All Saints
Girl band All Saints were among the acts performing at Finsbury Park

In a written message, Prime Minister Tony Blair said: "Mardi Gras offers a chance to celebrate diversity and to remember the struggle of all minority communities against prejudice."

The first London Mardi Gras was held last year and replaced what was formerly known as Gay Pride.

A flamboyant procession through London has always been a focal point of the day's celebrations.

Peter Horn, 29, from Westminster said: "Mardi Gras is about saying, 'excuse me, we do exist. We are here and don't try to put us down'.

"It's fab that the nail-bomber has been convicted. There are still a lot of people out there who are scared of anything different.

"This is our time. It's our Christmas and New Year rolled into one."

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In pictures: Gay parades
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