In 1972, around 2,000 protestors pounded the London streets on the first Saturday of July as part of the first official UK Gay Pride Rally. Almost forty years and a name change or two later, the annual festival-cum-party is now an annual London institution. An estimated attendance of over a million turned out this weekend to cheer on the outrageous costumes and brightly-dressed floats as the parade made its way from its starting point outside BBC Broadcasting House down to Trafalgar Square.
After Bucks Fizz opened proceedings, this year’s Grand Marshal Kath Gillespie Sells, an activist for the disabled, led the parade in a white Corvette. Drag queens walked beside bodybuilders, soldiers and London’s gayest dog while corporate sponsors vied for attention with charities and community organisations. A small group of Christian protesters were given a fruity salute.
Randy revellers were not the only ones pressing the flesh. Home Office secretary Theresa May turned up for the pre-Parade reception before seeing off her departmental float which had been recycled from their 2009 effort. Unlike his boss, Deputy Mayor of London Richard Barnes put in an appearance, as did Ken Livingstone despite calls from LGBTory for him to be banned. Peter Tatchell carried an anti-BNP placard while castigating Boris Johnson for his absence after the Mayor called on Friday for London to be the “benchmark of LGBT equality” (presumably the kind of benchmark that doesn’t require visible support from its top politician).
The parade ended with the usual political rally on the main stage in Trafalgar Square where those not rollicking in the fountain were treated to speeches and entertainment from the likes of England rugby union player and gay icon Ben Cohen, Nate Young, Stavros Flatley and Twenty Twenty plus a rousing rendition of Go West from the Big Dance Pride London Flash Mob. Over in Soho Square, the official Pride Dance Stage was headlined by Mikey B2B Pitron and the 8 Sharp Boys.
Were you there? How was Pride for you this year? Let us know.