This explosion of energy and joy, this “gay Christmas”, brings together the most diverse and improbable selection of people; from uniformed members of the forces and other public organisations to hired models wearing as little as possible, drag queens and strange creatures, or more normal-looking people there to have a good time and support their organisation of choice.
The message is clear: “It is our day and we are taking over. Just don’t try to resist and join in the fun. Everyone is welcome.”
The much diluted original aim of Pride marches, one of visibility and affirmation for a beleaguered community, stems directly from the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York and the beginning of the modern gay rights movement. The first ever Pride march took place a year later to mark the anniversary of the riots. London had to wait until 1972.
The theme of this year’s event was “Paint the Town Ruby Red” (not much better than last year’s yawn-inducingly bland “Come Out and Play”) and aimed at commemorating the 40th anniversary of the creation of the Gay Liberation Front in the UK, veterans of which were leading the parade together with Boris and assorted “celebrities” (we don’t think there were actually any this year).
The parade, the culmination of two weeks of cultural events across London, finished with a rally in Trafalgar Square where the serious and the frivolous gaily met. Further entertainment was also available in Leicester Square and in Soho. Speakers on the main stage included a delegation from the Home Office: openly-gay Minister for Police, Nick Herbert, and Minister for Equality, Lynn Featherstone.
Boris, who had reportedly declined to speak for “fear of jeering crowds“, was represented on stage by his deputy, transport advisor Kulveer Ranger. This did not stop him however from making the headlines by apparently lending his support to gay marriage during a chat with human rights activist Peter Tatchell.
The casts of Hair and Wicked, The Freemasons, Kim Mazelle, Living Joy and Sonique were some of the “big names” shepherded by gay standup Stephen K. Amos to entertain the crowds soaking in the balmy July sun and a glowing sense of empowerment.
Although the whole day passed without any reported incident, a stalwart group of vociferous evangelical Christians was corralled at their usual place at the bottom of Lower Regent Street, attracting jeers from the passing crowd (including a forceful rendition of Lily Allen’s song-turned-YouTube-meme Fuck You by the London Gay Men’s Chorus, who will incidentally be performing in Warsaw for Europride in a couple of weeks). Their presence denied by the fact that a record number of Christian walking groups took part in the parade (gay Muslims and Jews were also represented, though we did not spot the Raëlians this year). There was no sign of the National Front and its highly artistic banners.
The day concluded with an official party at Koko in Camden and several other club events around the capital, under a benevolent London Eye turned rainbow for the occasion.
The organisers are already looking towards 8 July 2012, which will see London hosting World Pride. Perhaps you should too.