Pride in London: What it means to the local and global LGBT community
What does Pride in London mean to attendees from London and around the world?
On Saturday, Pride in London welcomed a record number of over one million guests, who represented both the city-wide and international LGBT+ communities.
Organisers claim the 2015 celebration, which is one of the biggest Prides in Europe, surpassed last year’s amount of event-goers by over 250,000 – attracting tourists to the city as its largest one-day celebration.
While the Pride Arts Festival took place over the course of the week, more than 30,000 people participated in Saturday’s Pride parade.
The heart of the celebration, Trafalgar Square, hosted entertainment at the main stage from early afternoon to 8 PM, while in Soho, both the Women’s Stage and Cabaret Stage accommodated performers on Saturday as well.
With such a wide array of individuals in attendance, positive opinions and criticism could be heard about the event.
Essex natives Kellie and Amy showered London Pride with praise, saying, “It’s so hard because so many people are kind of stuck in their ways.
“I think more people need to come to these kind of events and see the happiness and see the love.”
Visiting from the US, event-goers Morgan Beckford and Whitney Hardy compared the celebration to their LGBT Pride experiences in Memphis, Tennessee.
Hardy explained: “Getting off of the Tube, there was a little brochure from the Transport Police that were like, ‘Oh, this is what a hate crime is.’
“It’s just openness… but it’s also constant education and, almost especially in the South of the US, we don’t even talk about it.”
Although Mid-South Pride in Memphis is considered to be one of the largest Southern LGBT celebrations in the US, it only draws in more than 8,000 guests.
Their first times at Pride in London, Beckford and Hardy said that the support in the UK for the LGBT community is overwhelming by comparison.
Pride in London is backed by figures from across the political spectrum, including Prime Minister David Cameron and Mayor of London Boris Johnson.
Hardy continued: “You can’t dress a certain way at our Pride because they want it to be depicted a certain way… it’s really, really conservative still.”
Marching in the Pride parade with the African LGBTI Out & Proud Diamond Group, representative Edwin Sesange had a simple message for Africa and the rest of the world: “We need our rights as LGBTI people.”
He explained that the organisation’s members, which number to more than 100, wanted to honour the African LGBTI advocates before them as their Pride Heroes by continuing their fight.
He said: “We shouldn’t be just following. Africa should take the lead in terms of LGBTI rights.”
Sesange’s group are also celebrating, after the UK’s fast-track asylum appeals system was ruled unlawful. Campaigners had argued it did not give LGBT asylum seekers enough time to argue their case.
He said: “Finding the fast-track system unlawful is very very good for our asylum seekers. We call upon the government to bring about a fairer system.”
For Bopa Rhys, however, Pride in London still has a ways to go, in terms of growth and acceptance for the entire LGBT+ community.
Rhys said: “It’s very LGB and I think the T, the Q, the I, and the A and the asterisks are not really represented here necessarily… you have a burst of all these different colours all over the place.”
After three years at Pride in London, Rhys thinks the solution lies in acknowledging and welcoming the smaller fringe prides as off-shoots of the main event, explaining: “Be proud that they want to represent who they are in a separate spacing that represents them.”
Through embracing the multiplicity of queer prides throughout the city, Pride in London can benefit as a whole to accommodate its entire audience.
They said: “I think the population of London really took it upon themselves to show who they are, rather than try to fit into what’s given to them.”
When it comes to the festival, locals Josh Foyster and Owen Landon think the majority of Pride in London issues stem not from the event itself, but from government involvement.
Foyster said: “With a lot of stuff changed – Tory government – it’s nice to see this sort of thing still kind of going strong.”
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The two suggested that more funding would be the ideal starting point, as an expression of national support for both the LGBT event and community.
Despite cross-party support for what threatens to become an establishment event, Pride remains decidedly radical in places.
Kept at a measured distance from the event’s corporate sponsors, activists are still marching – and want to see Pride return to its core as a protest.
From trade unions to LGSM (Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners) – who were recently immortalised in the film Pride – the left-wing ethos of the activist bloc stands in contrast to the more corporate, modern Pride.
However, for some Pride is less about partisan politics, and more about liberation for all.
On the steps of St Martin in the Fields, Dan and his companions had nothing but positivity to spread, said: “I feel liberated. I feel free.
It’s great, especially in light in current events in other countries, to wear this flag.”
(Photos: Megan Boyanton and Nick Duffy)