Rain showers, a ban on floats and the absence of one high-profile politician failed to dent the enthusiasm of parade-goers and passers-by as London celebrated WorldPride today.
Setting off from London’s Baker Street a little later than the new 11am start time, it was nearly four hours later that the final marchers reached Whitehall.
Rumours on the route suggested there were 10,000 more marchers than had been anticipated after the start time was brought forward by two hours a little over a week ago.
Led by the ‘Veterans of 1972’, the organisers of London’s first pride parade and without floats or vehicles due to last-minute cuts, the parade became more political in its focus.
Chants from the front of the parade included: ‘Give us a G, give us an A, give us a Y, what does that spell? Gay. What is gay? Good. What else is gay? Angry.’
As the parade reached Oxford Street, a chant went up of ‘We’re here, we’re queer, we’re not going shopping’.
Angela Mason, former director of Stonewall and one of the 1972 veterans, told PinkNews.co.uk: “Well, I think we’ve got it together again, despite all the obstacles. That’s always been the history of Pride.
“Pride really depends on the commitment and anger of our lesbian and gay community. Politicians sometimes court us and sometimes don’t, but we’re going to carry on anyway. I think that’s very much the spirit of the original Pride, it shows we’re not dependant on political bureaucracies.”
Peter Tatchell was marching among veterans under the banner ‘Decriminalise homosexuality worldwide. Global LGBT equality.’
On the parade route today, he told PinkNews.co.uk: “Despite the failures of the parade organisers, the Mayor of London and Westminster City Council, we’re here and having a fabulous WorldPride.
“We’re celebrating not only the global struggle for LGBT freedom but also 40 years since the first gay pride parade in Britain. These are momentous, historic occasions. The spirit here today is amazing, it’s much more like the original spirit of pride in 1972. Even without the floats and razzamatazz, we are having a fabulous time.”
Mr Tatchell added that while it was “fantastic” to see so many 1972 veterans leading the parade, “great anger” had been expressed about the lack of accessibility of the parade for those less able to walk the route.
“It’s a great pity that we don’t have floats and buses in the parade, especially for older and disabled LGBT people, most of whom aren’t now able to participate. The Mayor of London should have pulled out all the stops to make sure this parade was fully accessible to older and disabled people.”
Among the many charities and organisations raising awareness along the route, Jason Warriner, clinical director at the Terrence Higgins Trust said: “There are no floats at all, but actually there’s a big turnout and a lot of energy on the march, sending a strong message that while things haven’t gone to plan with Pride, the gay community has come together.
“All the major organisations are supporting the event, there’s a really good atmosphere and it’s sending a strong message that Pride will take place again in future.”
The LGBT Labour group was out in force and handing out ‘Never kissed a Tory’ stickers to those lining the parade route while a committed LGBTory member tried to undo the damage, locking lips with anyone prepared to give up their stickers on the side of the road.
Political figures on the parade route included Chris Bryant MP, the Liberal Democrats’ candidate for Mayor of London Brian Paddick and Anna Grodzka, Poland’s transgender MP, but London’s Mayor remained a notable absentee.
Mark Healey of 17-24-30, which remembers the victims of hate crimes including the Admiral Duncan bombing in Soho in 1999 said: “It’s been a great turnout, a great day, there are a lot of people here and everyone’s having a good time.
“I think it’s being policed really well, you’ve seen a lot of coppers with the Pride stickers all over their uniforms, they’re all being friendly and polite and just nice really. It’s a good crowd and a good atmosphere.
“17-24-30 has had a good marching group this year, we’ve had 20 to 30 people joining us so we’ve had lots of fun and the group we’ve got are enjoying themselves.”
Prime Minister David Cameron sent a message to Pride-goers: “The UK has been judged to be the best country in Europe in which to live if you’re gay so it is great that World Pride is being celebrated here in London – especially during this Diamond Jubilee and Olympic year.
“I’m very pleased that the Mayor of London has enabled the march and events in Trafalgar Square to go ahead and I want to thank all the volunteers who will be stewarding the event and contributing to it.
“It is 40 years since people first marched in London calling for equal rights. Since then we’ve come a very long way and progress is still being made. We have just finished consulting on how to introduce same sex marriage and we are working with countries across the globe to bring about greater equality.
“I hope you all have a happy Pride and remember all those who have, and those who are still fighting for, greater rights and protection for the LGBT community.”
PinkNews.co.uk will be publishing a photo special of London’s WorldPride celebrations later today.