There was no escaping the Pride London scandal of the past few weeks. One day it was all on, the next it was cancelled, only to come back downscaled and seemingly stripped of its grandeur. (If you want an overview of it all check out the feature ‘The Real Gay Pride Shame’ )
Despite the Soho street parties, Trafalgar Square rally and any nighttime club events, the heart of Pride has always been the ‘parade’ through London’s streets, a declaration that the LGBT community was ‘out and proud’ and still fighting on the road to equality. With this year’s event falling on both the 40th anniversary of London’s first protest march and WorldPride it was more important than ever.
After the aforementioned issues related to Pride, motorized floats had been pulled and the parade moved to an earlier 11am start time. What affect this would have on it remained uncertain. This year’s event looked set to be more funeral procession than flamboyant parade, a sad meander in the rain down Oxford Street with a few half dozen queens waving soggy rainbow flags. But the online world was incensed with anger at the situation and for the first time in years the focus fell back on the parade. Rallying calls were made in QX and across media for people to turn it out and support the day.
Would anyone show up? Hell, yeah!
QX was there in force at 11am to check on the proceedings and we were agog at the sheer scale of the numbers that turned up on the day. As the parade kicked-off just after 11am led by original members of the Gay Liberation Front including Peter Tatchell and Bette Bourne, it snaked it’s way down Oxford Street as crowds 3-4 deep cheered on as the GLF legends walked past.
It must have been tremendously heart-warming for these original freedom fighters of the LGBT movement to see the change: 40 years ago they were jeered and sneered at, and today they walk proud with families, children and generations old and young applauding them. A shame the Mayor decided not to join them, but then I guess the next election is a few years away yet. Still congratulations go to at least two Conservative members who joined the front of the march, proudly so.
As we reached Oxford Circus we looked back to see the parade waving its colours all the way down to Selfridges and continuing to work its way as far as the eye could see. The crowds lined the streets all the way to Trafalgar Square and beyond, even a short downpour not enough to dampen the spirit of the moment.
The passion of the crowds infused the parade and back again; the energy was addictive. It really was a wonderful way to kick off what could have been a disappointing Pride day. It took over two and a half hours for the parade to work its way to an end, delivering a bold testament to the power of our community and its ability to stand united in the face of adversity.
Photos by Benjamin Faulkner and joel-ryder.com
Words by Cliff Joannou