THIS Saturday sees the return of Salisbury Pride to the streets of the city. Starting outside the Salisbury Playhouse at 6.30pm, the parade will wend its rainbow-coloured way toward a selection of after-parties at various bars and pubs where a host of musical acts and DJs will entertain marchers well into the night.

Building on the success of the inaugural Salisbury Pride last year, when over 500 people took part to show their support of the local LGBT+ community, the organisers have promised this year’s Pride will be ‘bigger, bolder and better’ and will cement its place as an annual feature in the city.

The history of pride marches can be traced back to New York at the end of the 1960s. In June 1969, the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village – a well-known gay bar – was raided by police, leading to several nights of rioting by the local community. It was a watershed moment in gay activism, and the following year, the first pride marches were held in New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles on the anniversary of the riots.

The idea swiftly spread around the world. The first official London Pride took place in 1972 with 2,000 people taking part; by 2017, the now renamed Pride in London drew crowds of over a million. As the main parades have continued to grow in size, so the number of them around the country have continued to proliferate. As well as Salisbury, this month sees Pride marches in Bolton, Carlisle, Leicester, Lincoln, Preston, Reading, Totnes and Wolverhampton.

The spread of the parades, and the sheer normalisation of their existence, are themselves part of a wider, historical march. It was Henry VIII who first passed ‘An Act for the Punishment of the Vice of Buggerie’ in 1533. The punishment in question – death – remained on the statute until 1861 and it was another century before homosexuality was decriminalised in the UK and Wales. Since then, gay rights have slowly become enshrined in law: in 2001, the Blair government passed legislation equalising the age of consent; David Cameron’s government, meanwhile, oversaw the introduction of same-sex marriages in 2014.

For many activists, the campaign continues. The latest flashpoint has been over Strictly Come Dancing, where contestant Susan Calman, who has long campaigned for LGBT rights, faced criticism on social media for agreeing to dance with a man. One suspects that same-sex partners on the show isn’t far away. ‘You only have to decide who’s going to go backwards,’ judge Craig Revel Horwood commented, supporting the idea: ‘It’s not just about sex, it’s about dancing.’ Dancing, certainly, is what Saturday night and Salisbury Pride is going to be all about.