A RAINBOW of colour dazzled the town centre as Bolton Pride held its day of celebration.

More than 500 people took part in this year’s circus-themed parade inspired by the film, The Greatest Showman.

After a rain-soaked launch on Friday evening, the dry weather on Saturday meant there was a big turnout for Bolton’s fourth Pride festival.

Gareth Gates performs at Bolton Pride 2018.

Many people dressed as ringmasters and clowns, while others wore rainbow-coloured capes, wigs and make-up.

Even the police and members of the fire service entered into the spirit of things with their rainbow-adorned vehicles.

The Mayor of Bolton, Cllr Elaine Sherrington, officially opened the day.

Calling for the people of Bolton to embrace Pride, she said: “It is important that we celebrate people’s differences in a town like Bolton where we believe in equality and inclusion.

“The major cause of hurt and upset within the LGBT+ community is caused through hate crime, bullying and anti-social behaviour.”

She told the crowd: “Enjoy this very special weekend, join in the fun, reflect on why we have today come together, educate those who are still unsure of what LGBT+ stands for, and celebrate today and the rest of the weekend’s events with pride.”

Festival founder James Edgington got the enthusiastic masses to chant “Reflect, Celebrate, Educate” – the theme of this year’s Bolton Pride.

Bolton Youth MPs Ella Tinniswood,13, from Westhoughton, and Jonathan Owen,15, from Hall i'th' Wood, then took to the stage to deliver some important messages.

Ella said: “The Youth Council is made of amazing young people from very different backgrounds, including the LGBT+ community. We are proud to be the young people at events such as this to ensure that the views of young people in Bolton are heard and listened to.

“We want to work with young people in Bolton who feel that they have been discriminated against and we want to help combat bullying in all its forms by educating young people in schools, colleges and youth groups.”

Representation by the young people of the town continued with an appearance by the talented troupe of children from Theatre Dance, who delighted the crowds with a medley of songs from The Greatest Showman.

Gogglebox star Sandra Martin made an appearance to “big up Bolton Pride” and then it was over to best-selling Bolton-born author, and former editor of Attitude magazine, Matt Cain.

He spoke movingly on what it was like growing up gay in 1980s Bolton and the struggles he faced.

“The fantastic thing now is that it is easier to be yourself and you should rejoice that the level of acceptance has improved,” he said.

Matt was joined onstage by Carl Austin-Behan, an RAF hero who was discharged in 1997 for being gay.

Now LGBT+ advisor to the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, he said: “It’s events like this that are crucial in making sure we are listened to a treated with respect.”

The ethos of inclusivity was reinforced by the fact that the whole event was also signed for the benefit of the hearing-impaired.

And the Hand Made Sign Choir, comprised of people with hearing impairments, were one of the hits of the day, especially when they signed along to Abba’s mama Mia.

Grandmother-of-two Lynne Garner, 68, of Farnworth summed up what Pride is all about when she said: "It doesn't matter what you are, we should all be united because we are all people at the end of the day and everyone deserves love in their life."

The celebratory atmosphere continued throughout the afternoon, with more inspirational speeches and music, including an appearance by Gareth Gates and the amazing Rock Choir who brought the event to a joyful climax.