AHEAD of a headline set at Preston Park tomorrow, Pet Shop Boys’ frontman Neil Tennant told EDWIN GILSON why Pride is still so important.

NEIL Tennant and his Pet Shop Boys partner Chris Lowe hadn’t played a Pride event in over 20 years before they performed at the Tel Aviv festival a few weeks ago.

The band’s return to the Pride circuit seems timely. For one, a whole new generation of revellers will experience their sublime synth-pop for perhaps the first time, understanding just why the duo scored four number one singles and collaborated with Madonna and Elton John among other stars.

Secondly, PSB’s intervention comes at a time when LGBTQ people are being treated with disdain by the US president, no less. In the week that Tennant took some time out from a packed touring schedule to talk to The Argus – just half an hour before he was due on stage – Donald Trump banned trans people from joining the military. He had earlier failed to acknowledge LGBTQ Pride Month in America, a tradition upheld by Barack Obama and Bill Clinton before him.

It is no surprise, then, that when I ask Tennant if there will be an extra sense of defiance and expression from the gay community at Prides across the world, he doesn’t hesitate before saying yes. His reasons for the answer run deeper than just the actions of Trump, though.

“Violent homophobia is still practised and even encouraged around much of the world – nothing can be taken for granted,” says Tennant. “The fact that it’s 50 years since the original decriminalising legislation in England and Wales passed into law also makes it a special anniversary worth marking.”

Indeed, Brighton Pride is understandably keen to highlight the anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act that decriminalised sexual acts in private between two men. The theme for this year’s event is Summer of Love, a throwback to the late 1960s and a time when it felt like the country was emerging from the dark ages in its attitude towards homosexuality.

Tennant came out as gay in 1994 and, while his songs are often too cloaked in metaphor and ambiguity to be considered personal, he has spoken about his sexuality on occasion. He remembers the thrill he received in headlining a huge Pride gig at Clapham Common just three years after he came out.

“I remember being told that 300,000 people were there,” he says. “It was very exciting and significant that so many straight people came to a gay celebration.” Has Tennant ever witnessed a backlash to a Pride event from a minority of close-minded people?

“Not personally but I will never forget seeing a documentary about Pride in Riga where gay Latvians were jeered and threatened by a mob of homophobes while the police looked on,” he says. “And more recently Reggie Yates’ brilliant Gay and Under Attack documentary exposing persecution of gay people in Russia was also chilling.”

Pet Shop Boys are supported tomorrow by Years and Years, the pop band whose singer Olly Alexander has been very outspoken about gay identity, most recently on his BBC documentary Growing Up Gay. Tennant says that “young people have never been so LGBTQ friendly” and that “musicians have always helped to change social attitudes and advance”, citing a song with a lasting impact to prove his point.

“All You Need is Love [by The Beatles] was released 50 years ago and it’s still a strong message.” Pet Shop Boys have earned their place in British music folklore just as the Fab Four did. After Tennant and Lowe met in a Chelsea electronics store they began working together, soon creating future hits such as It’s a Sin and West End Girls.

The latter won a Brit Award in 1987, the first of many more to come. The duo scooped NME’s Godlike Genius Award earlier this year for their “outstanding contribution to British music”. Tennant says: “It was nice to be on the cover of the NME more than 20 years after our previous cover. Making new music and playing new shows is what energises us and I think that goes for much of our audiences as well.”

When I ask if Pet Shop Boys’ future output might include a commentary on the leadership of Donald Trump, Tennant replies mischievously. “We already wrote a song called I’m with Stupid [2006],” he says. “I can imagine writing a Trump-inspired lyric. Unfortunately stupidity is a new trend in politics.”

While the Pet Shop Boys might be forever pushing forward with their music, on Saturday Pride-goers will revel in the band’s message of love and tolerance. “Brighton Pride seems like such a great celebration that we were very happy to accept,” says Tennant. “We always have fun in Brighton.”

Pet Shop Boys perform at 8.45pm on the main stage at Preston Park tomorrow. For more information visit: brighton-pride.org