HOMOPHOBIC graffiti has been sprayed in Southend just as the annual Pride celebrations kick off.

The graffiti was discovered yesterday on the Southend Festival mural under the bridge on the High Street. The black coloured words say that “Southend is full of p*******”.

Southend Pride officially begins its week-long celebration tomorrow with a tea dance at the Railway Hotel, and will conclude next weekend with a parade.

The graffiti was discovered by James Vessey-Miller, vice chairman of Southend Pride.

He said: “It’s horrible and extremely disappointing, but it does highlight why Pride is actually really important and why it should be kept going every year.

“There are still a great many people with these kind of attitudes out there, we need to be making sure events like Pride are around so we can be talking to people and showing them that actions like this just aren’t acceptable and can be very damaging.

“I will be reporting it to the police as a hate crime.”

Matt Dent, councillor for Kursaal ward, said: “It is disgusting.

“Southend has a thriving and diverse LGBTQ population, something which we celebrate.

“Bigotry like this most definitely not welcome in our town.”

Residents also blasted the homophobia.

Rachel Parker said on our Facebook page: “What an absolute disgrace, all because some people are different. Whoever did this needs to get a life, this is 2019 and we should be better.

“Shame on the small-minded people that did this.”

Hayley Edwards said: “The best way is not to rise to it. You give these idiots attention and it will get worse than just a few words on a wall.

“Rise above, and know that love is love.”

Southend Pride has events running every day this week until Saturday.

For more information on the schedule, visit www.southendpride.org.uk.