PinkNews.co.uk’s Marc Shoffman looks ahead to this weekend’s EuroPride rally.

It’s been a revolutionary year for the UK gay community, unlike the last gay pride in London, same sex couples will be attending this weekend’s EuroPride rally as civil partners, confident that they are protected by law in the workplace and eventually in the supply of goods and services.

This Saturday and Sunday provides a culmination of smaller events over the last two weeks, where the gay community can come together and be proud to be lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.

Half a million people are expected at The EuroPride parade tomorrow, it will feature 40 floats, around 200 costumed groups and walking bands, and thousands of individual participants.

The parade assembles on Baker Street at 1230pm and departs at 1pm, then makes its way along Oxford Street to Oxford Circus turning right down Regent Street to Piccadilly Circus. From here the route moves on to Trafalgar Square then along Whitehall to pass the Houses of Parliament before dispersing along Victoria Embankment.

EuroPride Day will then continue with the Trafalgar Square Rally (3pm-7pm), Virgin Mobile Cabaret Stage in Leicester Square (4pm-6pm), and the all-day Soho Party.

The parade will include floats from a wide spectrum of organisations, ranging from TfL to the Transport and General Workers Union, from Age Concern to Youth@Pride, and from Amnesty International to Battersea Dogs Home.

The eclectic line-up also includes floats from Ford, Terence Higgins Trust, Heart 106.2, Blue Cube, Nationwide Building Society, Shell Gay and Lesbian Network, Greater London Authority, and London Ambulance Service.

EuroPride Chief Executive Jason Pollock said: “EuroPride Day will be a celebration of Europe’s gay and lesbian community, and an opportunity for people from all walks of life and visitors from around the world to come together to enjoy a carnival atmosphere and festival of diversity.

“This is expected to be one of the biggest parades London has ever seen, and we are delighted that the parade will for the first time feature the capital’s world famous shopping streets of Oxford Street and Regent Street.”

The Civil Service’s gay network announced earlier this week that it will join this weekend’s EuroPride for the first time.

This is the first time that Civil Service Rainbow Alliance will be represented at EuroPride and aims to send a strong visible message of an inclusive, proud Civil Service that aims to reflect the diversity of the nation it serves. Secretary of the Cabinet and Head of the Home Civil Service, Sir Gus O’Donnell, said: “I want civil servants to be able to say ‘I’m proud to be a civil servant’ and am delighted that the Civil Service Rainbow Alliance will be visibly representing our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender stakeholders at EuroPride 2006.”

Canary Wharf Pride is set to transform West India Quay on Sunday with hundreds of revellers flocking to Beluga Cafe and Scuzi for a day packed with music, dancing and entertainment from 12pm until 8pm.

Canary Wharf Pride, on the middle Sunday of the two-week EuroPride London 06 festival, will feature stalls from the local fire service, the Metropolitan Police , Friends and Families of Lesbians and Gays (FFLAG), Tower Hamlets, Positive East, and the Cabinet Office.

The event is designed to reach out to the whole community with children’s rides, salsa classes, bungee slides and street entertainers transforming West India Quay into a carnival atmosphere for the day of events.

Andy Heath, chairman of the Canary Wharf Gay and Lesbian Association, said: “This is the inaugural Canary Wharf Pride event and is will celebrate the arrival of EuroPride 2006 in London. So many people from the local community have worked so hard to make it happen.

“We have had great support from Tower Hamlets, Barclays, West India Quay and British Waterways, as well as the host bars Beluga Cafe and Scuzi and all of their staff . It’s going to be a fantastic celebration.”

EuroPride organisers are looking for people from all the nations of Europe, whether they live in the capital or will be visiting London for EuroPride, to appear on stage alongside celebrities, performers and high-profile speakers.

Mr Pollock said: “EuroPride 2006 is a unique opportunity for people of Europe to come together in one of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities to celebrate diversity. We are looking for volunteers to fly their nation’s flag and demonstrate just how many nationalities will be represented at this year’s event, which we hope will be the biggest and best Pride event that London has ever seen.”

On Sunday legendary singer Sir Elton John will headline the finale of the festival at the Royal Albert Hall.

Sir Elton, who is a patron of Pride, will be joined by a galaxy of stars from the worlds of entertainment, music and dance including Ruby Wax, Billy Jean-King, Andrew Hayden-Smith, Julian Clary, Graham Norton, Avenue Q puppets, Heather Small, Alan Carr, Stephen Fry, as well as the West End casts from “Chicago” and “Mamma Mia”.

Sir Ian McKellen, actor and creative director of The EuroPride Show said: “Elton wants to be celebrating EuroPride 2006 in London with the rest of us. He is one of the most generous stars in the world. The Show just keeps growing all the time and The Royal Albert Hall will be the only place to be on July 2nd”

Other performers include Ruby Wax, Stephen Fry, Heather Small, Sandi Toksvig, Julian Clary, Graham Norton, Ian McKellen, the Avenue “Q” puppets with Andrew Hayden-Smith, plus the West End casts from Chicago and Mamma Mia.

The Clapham Grand EuroPride show will play host to an eclectic night of live music and showmanship tonight.

The event will feature performances from Paleday, Portugirl Beat Company, Real and Bushguru.

The headline act Paleday are a unique live six-piece polysexual disco-pop outfit.

Paleday, who will also be performing at the Trafalgar Square Rally on Saturday 1 July, will donate £1 for every ticket and t-shirt sold to from the EuroPride Show to Pride London charity to support the LGBT community.

Lead singer Anthony Stubbs said: “We are thrilled to be performing at the Clapham Grand on Friday night and Trafalgar Square on 1 July to celebrate the EuroPride festival this year.

“Paleday are unique. Imagine a new Bee Gees with Chic riffs and a Scissor Sisters edge. Catchy melodies, massive harmonies, irrepressible hooks and a groove that just won’t let go. And just a tiny, tasty bit camp!”

The festival will reach its climax on EuroPride 06 Day – Saturday 1 July when up to half a million people will attend a colourful parade which will for the first time pass down the London’s world famous Oxford Street and Regent Street.

A conference supporting victimised LGBT people in central and eastern Europe took place today.

Workshops on Pride and policing and Pride and diversity were held at the event which was organised by EuroPride, Amnesty International the European Pride Organisers Association, and ILGA-Europe (the European Region of the International Lesbian and Gay Association).

Stephen Coote, Chair of Pride London, said: “The aim is to build on the successes achieved so far by sharing the lessons gained and by exploring the ways that European institutions and international solidarity can contribute to further advances.”

It was addressed by public figures such as Labour MEP Michael Cashman and organiser of last May’s violently targeted Moscow Gay Pride Nicolai Alekseev.

This weekend is a time to celebrate our rights and to remember those less fortunate. It’s a time to think about our brothers and sisters in Moscow, Bucharest and Warsaw who have marched amid governmental, religious and social outrage.

Tomorrow is a chance to show our Pride in living in a city which protects all communities.

Tomorrow is a chance to show how proud you are to be yourself, not just for this weekend, but forever.