This weekend marks the beginning of 10 days of events and celebrations leading to the annual LGBT+ Pride parade and rally next Saturday (27 June).
The epic arts festival includes exhibitions, talks, and plays — some of them free. Highlights include a photo exhibition on “London’s threatened gay scene”, aptly hosted in a well-known former gay pub, a Sound of Music Sing-Along party, and a carnival stage (we’re not sure either) at BST in Hyde Park on the day Kylie and Grace Jones are performing (21 June). The Pride Arts Festival launch event — also this Sunday — includes a screening of the award-winning film Pride and a Q&A.
The jewel in the tiara however is, of course, the parade. The theme this year is 'Pride Heroes' and the bearers of the traditional giant rainbow flag will be an international crew of lesbian, gay, bi and trans people sporting the flags of their country of origin. As in previous years, the parade starts in Baker Street — at 1pm on 27 June — before mincing its fabulous way down Oxford Street and Regent Street en route to Trafalgar Square for the rally.
The line-up of acts announced at the time of writing is, alas, underwhelming as usual, considering London is a world capital hosting the “biggest Pride event in Europe”. They include such luminaries as Blue, Collabro and Rebecca Ferguson… There will also be speeches and community performers — all of it captioned and subtitled. LGBT organisations will be peddling their wares from stalls around the square and an 'improved' family area will take over Golden Square in Soho with live entertainment, food and drink, and activities for children. If this is all a bit too much for you to take in, there’s an app for that.
London Live (remember them?) will do a special broadcast from 4pm on the day and individual bars and clubs are hosting special Pride parties in the evening.
On 28 June, the most eager are invited to join UK Black Pride at the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens for pretty much more of the same (live entertainment, music, dance, sport, stalls, food and drink) if perhaps in a more relaxed atmosphere.
Pride wouldn't be quite what it is without a good controversy and this year we've been spoilt with two of them taking place even before the event has happened.
One involved Lesbian and Gay Support the Miners (LGSM) — resurrected in the wake of the success of the film Pride — and the TUC, and where they would be walking in the parade. LGSM will now be marching with the TUC rather than the other way around...
The biggest debate, however — which saw pretty much everyone pitch in, including Boris Johnson and Katie Hopkins — is still rambling and surrounds the invitation by the Pride organisers of a group of LGBT members of UKIP to take part in the parade and a subsequent de-invitation on the official grounds of the safety of the event's stewards.
Despite this and beyond the formulaic nature of the event, Pride remains a high point of London's street celebrations and is best enjoyed as part of the crowds taking over the West End that day. Whether LGBT or straight, dress up (or down), immerse yourself in the madness, and honour diversity.
Full details on the Pride website.