The first ever Parade heads down Week Street, Maidstone Photo: Ray Duff

By Ray Duff: Last Saturday, two of Kent’s largest towns held their first ever Gay Pride events, with the County town of Maidstone joining the international rail hub of Ashford, having hundreds of revellers enjoying the vibrant celebrations.

In Maidstone, your roving reporter attended as it was also the 20th anniversary of the fight against the then Kent County Council’s attempt to bring it in its own version of the iniquitous anti-gay schooling legislation Section 28.  It was fitting then that the Parade assembled outside County Hall, where now the inclusive rainbow flag was flying from one of the masts above!

Stopping to entertain the crowds by Fremlin Walk Photo: Ray Duff

The parade left at midday with nearly 200 revellers following along behind the Old School Samba band in bright colourful costumes, whistling, dancing and waving flags and banners.

They made their way down Week Street to Fremlin Walk ,where a brief stop enabled the onlookers to be entertained, before moving down to the High Street and being joined by groups in costumes who had lined the streets with banners.

Making common cause -Gay allies and the Kent air ambulance charity in Maidstone Photo: Ray Duff

The parade continued to Lockmeadow where the afternoon’s entertainment of music and drag performances with many vendors was followed  by the Evening After-Party.

In Ashford town, hundreds of revellers had begun their celebrations in the High Street around the bandstand with music entertaining all, whilst others attended the many stalls and public services stands.

Organisers join the Mayor of Ashford, Cllr Lyn Suddards and consort for the Parade Photo: Ray Duff

At mid-afternoon the Parade assembled with a drumming band and led by the Mayor of Ashford Cllr Lyn Suddards alongside her consort and the organisers. This processed down the High Street, with again many colourful costumes, banners, flags, and balloons. It continued to East Hill before returning via Tannery Lane to Station Road and then on to Coachworks where there was further entertainment of music, partying, drag and many vendors stalls followed, as with Maidstone, the well attended After-Party.

The Parade streams down Ashford High Street. Photo: Ray Duff


Such have been the success of Pride events in Kent, they are now being organised widely across the County and are always well attended.  The next Pride event is on Saturday 29th June in Sheerness, billed as Swale Pride. There will be further such gatherings in the Summer with Deal on 13 July, Folkestone on 27th July, Margate on 10 August, and Dover on the 24th of August.  Information can be found on their web and Facebook sites.

Revellers attend the music at the Ashford bandstand. Photo: Ray Duff

It should also be noted that next year, 2025, is the 20th anniversary of the first ever gay Pride event in Kent, held in Canterbury in mid June of that year, and yes yours truly, Ray Duff, was involved in its organisation! There may well be extra celebrations next year.

By Ed

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