SOUTHEND Pride kicks off this Saturday, with a whole host of events which will go on all week, with the main celebratory message being "everyone is welcome".

Dan Turpin, chair of Southend Pride, explained this is the first time the festival will have been held locally in 15 years!

It returns as part of the Southend Festival presented by the Southend BID, who have scooped a number of established events under its umbrella name in an attempt to raise the profile of the town and "put it on the cultural map".

Dan said: "We have a great, positive, diverse community in our town and we want Southend Pride to be about inclusivity and positivity, no matter what your sexuality is - that doesn't matter - everyone is welcome!

"We are really excited that we have a whole week of events and some brilliant acts. We are focusing on local acts, but are also excited to say we have some special guests from out of town coming to the parade, although I'm not allowed to say who they are yet.

"There have been some negative reports about the events that took place at London Pride, about the extreme groups who targeted the event. Southend could potentially be a target, but we hope not! We want to say 'no' to hate and show that is not what Southend is about! Southend is open to all and is about inclusivity right across the board! Everyone is welcome in Southend!"

The week will include poetry, film, party nights and more, culminating in a parade and festival which takes place on Saturday July 21, through Southend and ending up in Warrior Square.

All Southend Pride events are free, although a donation bucket will be passed around to collect from Southend Pride 2019.

Basildon Standard: Britain’s Got Talent runner up Robert White will be headlining the Southend Pride comedy event in association with Southend Comedy Festival

Saturday July 14

8pm - 1am

Proud Opening Party

The Railway Hotel, Clifftown Road, Southend

"For our opening party, we're going back in time to celebrate 50 years of LGBT culture, nightlife and music. Think Fire Island, New York, San Francisco, Miami, London. Disco! Funk, Soul, High Energy, 80's Electronica, House and Techno. There will be two floors of music with disco and dance music in the bar and something a bit harder upstairs.

DJs in the bar are Gavin Page, Adrian Pel, Rob T and Sean Moriarty (doing a disco set).

Proudly presenting a live set in the bar are 1980's electronic legends, Marlow!

DJs upstairs are Tony Pontius (Spatial Awareness) and Steve Zorro.

Drag queen hostess and MC is Sofonda Cox.

We will have state of the art sound, whatever lighting we can blag and surprises..."

Sunday July 15

5.30pm - 10pm

Pride Sunday Cinema

Kings Road URC, Crowstone Road, Westcliff

"A special Southend Pride Sunday Cinema at Kings Road URC, a screening of two great LGBT+ films Moonlight and A Fantastic Woman with a panel discussion afterwards."

Basildon Standard: Cat Howe

Monday July 16

7.30pm-10.30pm

Proud Poetry Evening

Utopia Coffee Shop , The Royals, Southend

"Southend LBGTQ+ poets and writers will be performing their work in a relaxed and welcoming environment. Everyone is welcome - allies included. Enjoy a tea or coffee, listen to some poetry and celebrate the rainbow of our community.

Line up so far is Lewis Archer, Alexa Barrett, Rachel Dalton, Emy-Lee Parsons, Jake Penny, Ren Stedman and Toska Wilde, hosted by Cat Howe and sponsored by Utopia."

Tuesday July 19

6:30pm - 10:30pm

You do You – Under 18’s Event.

Twenty One, Pier Approach, Southend

"Figuring It Out is pleased to announce that it shall be hosting a mixer event as part of Southend Pride week! Please note, this event is only open to those aged between 11 and 17 on July, 17, 2018."

Wednesday July 18

7.30pm-10.30pm

Park Inn by Radisson Palace, Church Rd, Southend

Pride Comedy Night in association with Southend Comedy Festival.

"Britain's Got Talent 2018 Runner Up Robert White comes to the town for one night only to headline a Southend Pride Comedy Special at the Park Inn Palace. This show is part of our Free Fringe and operates a pay-what-you-like policy on exit. Joining the bill are Drag King Joey Bambino, and John Pendal.

Seating isn't allocated. Tickets need to be booked."

Thursday July 19

8pm-9pm

Inclusive Church – Avenue Baptist Church, Southend

"The Baptist Churches in Southend are putting on a special Pride service open to all at Avenue Baptist Church."

Basildon Standard: Joey Bambino will be hosting Kings vs Queens      Picture: Joe Lang

Friday July 20

8pm-11pm

Drag Kings vs Queens

The Alex, Alexandra Street, Southend

Over 18s only

"The liberal army needs its best and brightest stars - but who will make the cut? Join Joey Bambino and his delightful co-host Jessica Rammit for a night of the finest Kings and Queens fighting for their right to be sickening!

"Line up: Representing #TeamKing is Prides Got Talent 2018 Runner-Up, Max Legroom. Max has alternately been described as 'what the ** did I just watch?' and 'Oh my god, I think I've weed myself laughing'. This drag prince serves you six feet of silliness and a reminder that when life gets you down, just spread your legs and fly away.

Our secret weapon for #TeamKing is the sensational Don One. Don One from Bir-ming-ham will take you through a songbook of anthems that you can’t help but sing along to. Topped off with some funny one-liners for plenty of laughs and a show-stopping performance that you definitely won’t forget!

Joining #TeamQueen is the wonderful Asia Thorne. Miss Asia Thorne is an exotic beauty from The Philippines. She burst onto the Singapore Drag Scene as part of the “girl” group The Vajayjays and is part of Singapore’s LEGENDARY Haus of Stars. She’s the current reigning winner of the Miss Posh Pageant.

Completing #TeamQueen is Essex born and bred Queen of Spice, Saffron Slayter - a high energy, high camp, all singing, dancing and lip syncing assassin from Chelmsford. After starting drag little over a year ago she is already a force to be reckoned with, performing gigs around Essex, Kent and London. She can often be found impersonating your favourite TV characters and cartoons or spicing it up Broadway-style at a live cabaret. However, she can always be found on Instagram under @saffronslayter. So come and join the "Saffans" and get ready to #StaySpicy. So, which side are you on? "

Saturday July 21

12noon-12.30pm

Pride Parade

Southend High Street

"Our Pride Parade will form up in Royal Square and march up the High Street and disperse at Warrior Square gardens, expect colour, pride and joy."

Saturday July 21

12noon - 8pm

Pride Festival

Warrior Square Gardens, Southend

"A fun family day to celebrate Southend’s first Pride, with a main stage, bar, food vendors and community organisations. Expect a party and celebration with choirs, singers and some special guests."

Saturday July 21

5pm - 3am

Official Southend Pride Closing Party,

The Cliff Pub, Hamlet Road, Southend.

"The only full-time Essex LBGT venue The Cliff Pub is proud to support Southend Pride 2018! Hosting the Official Southend Pride After Party after a jam packed time of celebrating the freedom of equality, and joining the spirit of pride of sharing love and respect for all! Doors open at 5pm and will stay open till 3am, celebrating equality for all! With all the gay classic hits, up-to date tunes and floor fillers. Fantastic drink deals all night long and free entry - it’ll be a night NOT to be missed!"

Basildon Standard: Tony Pontius will be DJing at the opening party. Photo by Michelle Pontius