LIVERPOOL Pride has announced a new Patron for the 2017 festival which takes place later this month. The Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Rev Paul Bayes, says he is delighted to back the region’s established annual celebration of all things LGBT+, and is looking forward to taking part in this year’s festivities. Liverpool Pride 2017 takes place on Saturday 29 July and Sunday 30 July at St George’s Quarter for a third year. Thousands of people are expected to take to the streets for the colourful annual Liverpool Pride March on Saturday 29 July as it wends its way around the city centre. Bishop Paul will be among those invited to speak at the Muster outside St George’s Hall ahead of the march setting off on its route. Atomic Kitten are headlining the main Barclays Festival Stage on 29 July, while there is also a packed programme planned for the annual We Are Family day on Sunday 30 July. And there is a busy line-up of Pride Community events including exhibitions, workshops, music, literature, theatre and Pride at the Pictures. Meanwhile a host of Liverpool landmarks will be lit in rainbow colours as part of the Come Out of the Shadows initiative – helping make Liverpool the most visibly LGBT+ city in the UK. Bishop Paul said: “Ever since the tragic death of Michael Causer, Liverpool Pride has stood for the struggle for justice as well as the celebration of LGBTI+ life in our city and region. I am privileged to identify with Pride’s contribution to tackling prejudice and promoting awareness of the richness of our LGBTI+ community. As a Christian, I really believe that Jesus wants a community where all are included and free from fear. “Now we all know that the Christian church in general, and the Church of England as part of that, can get itself into a twist over inclusion and equality issues. I myself have been advocating in the church for LGBTI+ inclusion, and all Christians have to agree that homophobia and hate crime are evil and are to be resisted. “At the recent meeting of our General Synod the Church of England made some clear and positive statements resisting so-called conversion therapy and exploring services of welcome for trans people who want their true identity to be recognised before God. “When I came to Liverpool three years ago and met LGBTI+ Christians across Merseyside, and in particular our Open Table LGBTI+ Christian community, I saw again the real joy we can know as a church when we are open and welcoming to all.” Liverpool Pride’s Lucy Day added: “We are all delighted that the Bishop is to be a patron of Liverpool Pride, and we welcome him to the Liverpool Pride family. We’re very much looking forward to him joining us at Pride weekend this month. “Pride respects people of all religious beliefs.” The theme of this year’s Pride is International Love, complementing the city’s wider 50 Summers of Love festival, which celebrates 50 years since the decriminalisation of homosexuality.