Liverpool's first official Pride festival

Image caption,
About 20,000 visitors are expected over the weekend

Thousands of people are expected in Liverpool for the city's first official gay Pride Festival.

Organisers of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender event are expecting 20,000 to join the party.

The festival began with a march around the city centre, leaving St George's Plateau at 1230 BST before reaching Dale Street about an hour later.

Visitors will also be treated to performances from acts including Robin S, Adam Rickitt and Natasha Hamilton.

Rainbow circus

Rowetta, Cocabelle, Connie Lush, Ian McNabb and burlesque star Mille Dollar will also perform alongside local unsigned talent across three stages.

The event, which has a "rainbow circus" theme, will end with a balloon release and a big finish featuring Queen of Pride Carol Jiani.

Image caption,
The event has a "rainbow circus" theme

The second day of the festival has been called "Chilled out Sunday" with cultural and sports events taking place throughout the city.

Talks, exhibitions and cinematic events will be staged at venues including Tate Liverpool, the Bluecoat, FACT, the Walker Art Gallery and the Maritime Museum.

Festival organisers hope the event will be as successful as those held in cities such as London and Manchester.

The date was chosen because it is close to the anniversary of gay teenager Michael Causer's death in August 2008.

'Stand proud'

The 18-year-old suffered bleeding to the brain after being punched, kicked and stamped on by a stranger at a house party in Huyton, Merseyside, in July 2008.

He was taken to hospital and had surgery for a blood clot but died on 2 August.

James O'Connor, of Runcorn, Cheshire, was jailed for his murder last year.

Mr Causer's mother, Marie Causer, said: "It's fantastic that Liverpool Pride is happening.

"This gives LGBT people the chance to stand up and stand proud, to say that 'we are no different, we're not going anywhere, so people need to learn to live and let live'.

"There's no room for hatred in this city, so I hope everyone, gay or straight, will come together to show their support."

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