I’m at that age where I’ve become a bit jaded. Let’s just say I’m over 40, A.K.A. dead in gay years. I get the sensation that I’ve seen it all before and done it all; more than once.

The thought of hanging about in a park all day whilst a lot of drunken people watch the latest celebrity boy bands whilst trying to get Grindr to work and buying cheap tat that’s had the word “gay” added to make it saleable, is my idea of hell.

Thinking back though, this wasn’t always the case. It was the late 1980s and aged 18, I got on a coach laid on by the local gay bar from the Midlands town where I lived, and came down to London to attend Gay Pride. I was intrigued by what it would be like and had no idea what to expect, media coverage of such events being largely non-existent then. I wasn’t expecting what I saw.

The huge throng of people was a sight to see. I’d also never seen so many gay people or even had any idea that they’re that many LGBT people in the whole of England. I’d also never seen men kissing in public or holding hands and thought that I’d landed on some strange planet where things were as they should be. There were many other things I hadn’t seen before: two women with their breasts pierced and chained together (Health and Safety hazard: one slip or trip and you’d lose a nipple), 30 men dressed as Wonder Woman charging along to the theme music from the show, drag queens in vertiginous heels and many many other weird and wonderful sights. The appeal wasn’t that alone though. There were also a huge amount of people just like me. Representatives from the emergency services, various social, political and career groups were all out and proud with a rallying cry of “We’re Here, We’re Queer and we’re Not Going Shopping”. I liked the more strident political side to it and the inventive banners as much as the comedic ones and the fripperies of the O.T.T. drag.

For once, I actually didn’t really want to go shopping. I passed Fortnum and Mason’s without as much as a twitch. I was amazed that we were so public and that we passed so many London landmarks and also staggered that no one was throwing bricks, spouting venom or condemning us to hell-fire.

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The festival on the park afterwards had a drag tent which kept me amused, as well as some bad pop and a wealth of people watching opportunities. I felt strangely empowered as the fireworks went off with a bang (as they do) and the bus set off for home.

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It’s hard to remember our youth and more innocent joy at things we now take for granted so maybe I’ll try again. Well, I may have to pop in Fortnum and Mason’s first. One needs a good picnic and a comfy rug if sitting on a park at my age.

About the author: Chris Bridges
Chris is a theatre and book obsessed Midlander who escaped to London. He's usually to be found slumped in a seat in a darkened auditorium.

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