Don your lycra hotpants, fairy wings, bells and whistles. Dig out the rainbow flag, the pink feathers and your mum's lipstick. Grab the sequins, spandex, the glitter and the pompoms. It's time to party with gay abandon – in every sense of the word.
Party with Pride
Pride London is one of the most exciting parties in the capital's calendar and absolutely everybody is welcome. From drag queens to businessmen and tourists to transsexuals, the streets will be filled with a colourful collection of characters celebrating diversity, equality, freedom and life in general.
The event kick-started in the 1960s with a small group of activists gathering on Hyde Park Corner to call for the lowering of the homosexual age of consent.
This gave way to the British Gay Pride Movement, which in turn has helped organise an annual march to promote and fight for gay rights.
The carnival has grown in recent years. And while it’s no longer associated with a militant message it still holds the essence of the fight at its heart.
Getting together for a big street party doesn't sound very political, but it is. It’s all about demanding the freedom to live your life as you choose and to be who you are without fear. It's about saying – “here we are, we have nothing to apologise for and nothing to be ashamed of."
Going to your first Pride is a landmark in the life of a young gay man or woman. It's a chance to be part of something with an important message and an opportunity to make friends and express yourself.
Alex, 17, went to his first carnival last year.
"To me it was like I was coming out all over again,” he remembers “I had told my parents I was gay and a lot of my friends suspected, but I come from a small village outside of London and I didn't actually mix with many other gay guys.
“It was a chance for me to shout it from the roof tops and get a round of applause in return!"
He added: "Pride was a total eye-opener. I felt like I really belonged there and I left with a feeling that anything was possible. I think it also says to people who haven't come out yet – `there's nothing to be frightened of'."
Straight friends on the gay scene
Like many young people, Alex used the carnival as a way to introduce some of his straight friends to the gay scene.
"I took three mates with me and they absolutely loved it," he said. "Two were girls and the other was my best male mate from school. He is straight but it made no difference. He said it was the best weekend of his life.
“To me, that is why Pride is so brilliant. It is not just for gay people – it is for everybody; gay, straight, girl, guy, black, white, it doesn't matter. The point is that we are all getting together to enjoy ourselves."
But Jessica, 18, another festival-goer, said it was important you picked the right friends to join you at the event.
"I made the mistake of taking a straight friend one year who was a bit of a prude," she said. "She wasn't homophobic or anything but she didn't like the sexual abandon that a lot of people seem to enjoy at this sort event.
"I think you have to try and go with people who want to get in the spirit of the thing, who want to let their hair down and won't flinch at the sight of bare buttocks in a thong."
Put your mates straight
The point of Pride is that it is inclusive and nobody should be left out. Having said that, people who do not share the same sense of fun, and those who have a problem with gay people, should not be invited.
Those who find large crowds and noise intimidating should also stay away.
Around 800,000 people turn up to the parade, some waving banners and others hopping on and off promotional floats. Disco music is pumping everywhere, whistles are blowing…
It’s busy and there can be lots of harmless pushing and shoving. Same-sex couples walk hand-in-hand, there are plenty of scantily-clad men and women and public displays of affection are commonplace.
If you are inviting friends to join you at the party, pick ones who accept your sexuality and who want to be a part of your life.
If you really have nobody you want to share the experience with, don't be afraid of going alone – just make sure you tell someone where you are and stay with the crowd. You’ll make plenty of friends along the way.
As with any big street party, there are a few things you need to be aware of to keep you safe.
If you follow these simple rules, you will reduce your chances of getting into trouble:
Keep your money and personal belongings close to you. If you wear a bag, chose one which goes over your head and shoulder and can be zipped up. If not, make sure you keep money in a separate pocket to your credit cards in case you lose one or fall victim to a pick pocket.
Stay close to your friends and organise a meeting point where you can hook up if any of you get lost. If you are going to the festival alone, make sure a relative or friend knows where you are.
Do not take any drugs. There will be plenty of illegal substances on offer at Pride but steer clear. Many drugs on sale will be very dangerous and could be mixed with other medicines which could make you very sick.
Drink sensibly. If you are over the age of 18 and are drinking alcohol, don’t ever leave your glass unattended. You don’t want to risk having your drink spiked. You should also drink in moderation and top-up with plenty of water to avoid getting dehydrated, ill or out of control.
Choose the right clothes. There is certainly no dress code at Pride but remember, you are likely to be on your feet for long periods of time, so wear comfy shoes. You should also try and pick layered clothing to adapt according to the weather. If it is sunny, do not forget to apply sunscreen and wear a hat!
Avoid confrontation. Sadly there are some people who go to Pride simply to cause trouble. Remember, there is safety in numbers. The police will be on hand to offer help and advice so it is also worth working out where the officers are stationed and staying nearby.
Chris Brocklebank, a regular festival-goer, has a word of warning for the way home.
He said: "It's worth being vigilant on the way home – the further out you go, the more likely you are to encounter trouble. Not that would necessarily happen – it's unlikely really – but it doesn't do any harm to keep your wits about you."
With the drink flowing and the mood jubilant, Gay Pride is often a time where people hook up with one another.
Sharing a snog, a grope or a cuddle is one thing. But if you think you may end up doing something more, it is a good idea to go prepared.
Gay men in particular need to think about the dangers of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and make sure they use protection.
There might not be the risk of an unwanted pregnancy associated with same-sex couples but you could still catch something nasty.
Sarah Creighton a consultant gynaecologist and sexual health advisor at University College Hospital, says: "The right to safe and consensual sex applies to all – gay or straight. When it comes to sex it is important to be your own person.
"It is a myth that safety detracts from enjoyment. There is only way to stay safe – use a condom!"
Gay Pride is called Pride for a reason. It is all about holding your head up high and being proud of who you are. Pride London is the perfect opportunity to celebrate that, surrounded by people who are doing the same. Enjoy yourself!