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Saturday, 1 September, 2001, 12:34 GMT 13:34 UK
Mardi Gras lights up city
Mardi Gras
Cardiff is hosting the fastest-growing lesbian and gay event in the UK over a colourful festival weekend.

It is the third Mardi Gras to be held in the city and is expected to attract record crowds to indulge in a range of pop legends and celebrities.

Gay couple's hands
It is one of the UK's top gay events
Sponsored by the National Lottery, the event's aim is to celebrate diversity and promote the city as one of the safest capitals in Europe.

The event, which takes place in the grounds of Cardiff Castle, began at 1500BST on Saturday.

It comes in the same week the National Assembly helped establish the Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Forum, the first umbrella group for gay rights organisations across Wales.

The festival also coincides with a call from the Christian Institute that teachers should not be forced to promote gay rights.

The institute is opposed to new guidelines being drawn up by the General Teaching Council for Wales which include notes on respecting pupils sexual orientation.

Growing party

The Cardiff Mardi Gras has grown at a dizzy rate since the first event in 1999 - and is beginning to rival similar events in Manchester and London.

Then, the colourful celebration of gender freedom drew 5,000 people, while the following year's event did even better, attracting 12,000 revellers.

Having cost around 100,000 to organise, it has now established itself as one of the top gay events in the United Kingdom. It has been advertised in gay magazines.

Cardiff Mardi Gras
The festival has been growing in popularity
Marketing director Haydn Price said: "In just two years, it has firmly established itself in the premiership of lesbian and gay events across the country.

"We are on target to attract visitors from all over the country - which is not only good news for the Mardis Gras, but also for traders, bars, restaurants and the hotels."

The main stage will play host to an array of pop acts while the cabaret tent will feature comedians, drag acts and singers.

It has firmly established itself in the premiership of top lesbian and gay events

Haydn Price, marketing director
There will also be more than 40 market stalls, a health tent and a meditation demonstration.

On the music front, Phats and Small and Welsh singing diva Iris Williams will be making appearances, and there will be a 1,000-capacity clubbing tent.

In more official matters, MPs Chris Bryant and Adam Price will be turning up at the weekend-long party.

On Thursday, the Cardiff Community Safety partnership hosted a conference on tackling hate crime against gay people in Wales.

The event urged gay people to report homophobic-related crime to the police.

See also:

30 Aug 01 | Wales
National voice for gay people
21 May 99 | The Company File
Gay workers' legal protection plea
19 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Anger over gay former speaker claims
10 Apr 00 | Wales
Anger at claim Burton was gay
29 Oct 99 | Scotland
Gays and lesbians 'face violence'
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