DESPITE grey clouds, the town was bathed in rainbow colours on Saturday as Swindon and Wiltshire Pride celebrated its fifth birthday in unforgettable style.

Organisers believe more than 8,000 people packed the Town Gardens in Old Town for the biggest and best Pride party to date which this year took on a rainbow theme.

As well as the main stage which saw chart topper Basshunter and 90s music sensation Baby D whip the crowd into a frenzy, this year also saw the introduction of two new areas – The Variety Stage and the Silent Disco.

An impressive 60 different acts performed throughout the day, from Miss Matrice and The Dream Girls to Fabulous Miss Bridy and The Boy Jase.

Chair of the committee Jo Sharpe was delighted with the success of the day.

“Our aim each year is to make Swindon and Wiltshire Pride bigger and better, and we do that by working really, really hard,” she said.

“This year we had more stalls, more acts and more stages than ever before and we were delighted to get Basshunter and Baby D, as well as so many other fantastic acts.

“We couldn’t do it without the support of our sponsors and their help is much appreciated.

“For us, this year has been a really positive step in trying to put our Pride event on the map.

“It isn’t just for gay people either, it is for everybody and that has always been the case. We want people to accept that we are all different but we can all get along together. We’ve always had brilliant support from families in Swindon.”

The event kicked off with a parade through Old Town which involved more vehicles than ever before and approximately 250 walkers, many dressed in fluorescent costumes and carrying rainbow flags.

Phoenix Stewart, 27, of Greenmeadow, co-ordinated the parade and donned large white feathered wings for his costume this year.

He said: “Swindon and Wiltshire Pride is so important because it celebrates diversity within the community and I think there are still some barriers and some things that people don’t understand, and we need to break these down.

“Our committee is made up of volunteers and we work really hard – we are now in our fifth year and it gets better every year.

“We look forward to the day all year round, we will have one month off and then we will start planning the next one.”

Swindon based Men’s Sexual Health had a stall at the event alongside a team from the sexual health clinic at the Great Western Hospital .

Throughout the day, they provided up-to-date sexual health advice, free safe sex packs, a wide range of relevant leaflets on health matters of interest to young and old, and a selection of goodies to take away.

And for the first time this year, they also offered confidential gonorrhea screening in addition to the chlamydia screening offered for the past three years.

Matt Othold, of Men’s Sexual Health, said: “Despite the weather, it has been a real success.

“It is growing every year, and it has really put itself on the Pride map, people definitely know about it now.”