25 years of Pride Cymru: Cardiff reaches quarter of a century celebrating the LGBTQ+ community

Once again Cardiff is set to host the country's biggest LGBTQ+ event, as Pride Cymru returns this weekend.

Tens of thousands of people are expected to line the streets of the capital and this year they will also be celebrating a quarter of a century of the event.

From humble beginnings in 1999, the event now welcomes thousands from across Wales and further afield.

ITV Cymru Wales took a look back at its history and the importance of the event.

The first Cardiff Mardi Gras took place on Coopers Field in Bute Park back in 1999 Credit: ITV Cymru Wales/HTV

The Cardiff Mardi Gras in 1999

South Wales Police noticed a significant increase in the number of hate crimes against the LGBTQ+ community in 1999. The force wanted to work with the community with the hope of making Cardiff a safer place.

Actress Lu Corfiled, Steps singer Ian H Watkins and an iconic Cardiff Drag Performer, Rob Keetch came together to organise support for the event.

Rob, who performs as Dr Bev, said, "It was the first big event I'd been to performing as Dr Bev. Back then it was just the 'Lesbian and Gay Mardi Gras'.

Standing in the same spot where that first event started, Rob said things have changed so much over the last 25 years. "I could walk through today in drag and people would be like 'uh ok', whereas back then it would've been 'What is going on?!'."

"It's not just about the Pride event in Cardiff now - the world's biggest small film festival for LGBTQ people is held her in Cardiff, the Gay Games is coming here. We are really showing to the world, we are a small city but boy do we have a large voice!"

About 5,000 people attended the event held on Coopers Field in Bute Park. Ten times that many are expected to attend the 2024 event.

In 2014, the charity behind the event changed its name from Cardiff Mardi Gras to Pride Cymru.

The Pride parade will go through Cardiff City Centre, then there will be music and performances in the castle grounds. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

25 years later

Now, in 2024 the event is celebrating a quarter of a century of Pride.

From the humble beginnings in Coopers Field, this year's event is expected to bring more than 50,000 people to the capital.

The stage in the castle will host performances from acts including Vengaboys, Heather Small, House Gospel Choir and Jake Shears across the two days. Other LGBTQ+ icons performing over the course of the weekend are RuPaul’s Drag Race UK winner Danny Beard and local legend Victoria Scone.

ITV Cymru Wales' very own Carl Edwards will even be hosting some of the event's proceedings.

Reflecting on the milestone occasion, Gian Molinu, the Pride Cymru chair, said, “Pride is an opportunity to come together for us to celebrate the achievements of activists but also to fight for further action where there is still progress to make.

“Too many people don’t realise that Pride is a volunteer-led organisation with members of the community right across Wales working on putting together Wales’ biggest celebration of love, tolerance and inclusion.

"I am so proud of the year-round work they do to make this event happen. While we have grown in scale over the last 25 years, the foundations of how and why we do this remains a constant”.

Thousands of people are expected to come to the capital to celebrate. Credit: PA Images

'Pride is a protest'

It is famously a day of celebration but the event still serves a vitally important purpose. Dr Bev explained, "Ultimately Pride is a protest and it also has been.

"For me I look upon Pride in three different ways: we celebrate how far we've come, we commemorate those who've walked that path for us and we educate those who still may not realise they are sewing seed of discomfort and hurt for others", she said.

Although it is a day for celebrating people's individuality, Dr Bev said she hopes there will come a day when the event is no longer needed.

"We are still fighting it. We have a great city here in Cardiff - we have Pride Cymru. We have pride events all across the country, all of which hold their head high and proud. We have our events here, we have the 'Gay Games' coming to Cardiff.

"But three weeks ago, one of our drag queens was attacked purely for holding his boyfriend's hand in McDonalds."

"Everybody deserves to be happy, everybody deserves to be safe. Unfortunately, the world we live in we do still need pride - whether that's a pride in yourself because your identity is LGBTQ, your pride in identity is the nation you come from, or your proud of the place you are born."

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