Well, Pride in London finally arrived, and after last year’s damp squib (World Pride, too, if you remember), it can only be accounted a huge success for the new team in charge. The theme of the parade this year was, rightly, love and marriage, for it won’t be long now before gay men and women will be able to marry their partners, whatever delaying tactics our opponents use. The tide is surely in our favour.
No doubt those opponents were praying for God’s vengeance on us, for, if not fire and brimstone, at least torrential rain to spoil our day, and, let’s face it, given the miserable June weather we have had so far, it wouldn’t have been that surprising. In the event, it seemed God smiled on us. London basked in the first true summer weather of the year. The sunshine brought out the smiles and, with it, one of the biggest and happiest Prides in recent memory. By report this was also the biggest and most heavily attended Pride in 10 years.
My friends and I were marching, leather clad, in the first section of the parade, alongside members of MSC London and Bluff, London’s two most prominent leather and fetish wear organisations. We were followed by the most disarming group of LGBT Filipino dancers, whilst ahead of us were a group of fetish dogs and felines, so there was definitely something for everyone. It is absolutely a tremendous experience to march in the parade, but the only problem is that by marching, you don’t get to see the range of people in the parade, nor get a feeling of just how big the it actually is. Years ago, I remember we used to march down Piccadilly, and that was one of the few times one could actually get an idea of the huge size of the event, a truly exhilarating experience. However, there were plenty of photos around on facebook and the like, and some on the net (a wonderful series in The Guardian) that give a great impression of the sheer diversity of our community.
One of the most enjoyable parts of marching, though, is just seeing the thousands of people, gay and straight, lining the parade route, enjoying the spectacle; waves of positivity and love. People with their families and friends, all there to cheer us on. For those who say that Pride is redundant, that we no longer need it, this is their answer, and this is why we need it.
Before the parade started I was chatting to one of the guys selling whistles and rainbow flags, an affable born and bred Londoner.
“You won’t be needing one of these, mate, will ya? Won’t go with your outfit,” he joked.
“Hardly,” I replied.
He then went on chat to me about how important he thought Pride was, telling me about his best friend, who had just come out.
“I think it’s wonderful. He’s marching today for the first time,” he said. “I can’t tell you how important this is for him. I love him, you know. He’s my mate. Makes no difference to me who he fancies. I just hope he can marry some bloke he falls for one day. Have a great day and wave to me wife and kids if you see ‘em. Oh no, you won’t know’em will ya?” he laughed, and went back out into the crowd as I moved off to join my buddies in leather.
It must have been unbearably hot for those of them in full Bluff leather gear. I had shoehorned myself into my leather trousers, but had elected for just a waistcoat and armbands on top. The sun certainly came as a bit of a shock and I now have white rings round my arms where the armbands were and white patches on my body where the waistcoat went. Ah well, one has to suffer for one’s art.
The only dissent I witnessed all day was a small bunch of god botherers, waving anti-gay marriage placards. The police had kept them well back and out of the way, and, to tell the truth, nobody, not the revellers, not the marchers, not the spectators, were taking a blind bit of notice of them. You have to wonder why they even bother.
Once the march broke up in Whitehall, we made our way into Soho to see if we could bag a table outside at our favourite haunt, Balans Cafe, for some lunch. The management and staff had all dressed up for the occasion, and they all looked fabulous, particularly, Rohan, my favourite waiter in all of London, who looked hot as hell in a hard hat, plaid shirt, denim shorts and boots. Sitting was not exactly easy in my ultra-tight leather trousers, but we attracted a lot of attention in our leather gear, with loads of young men wanting to have their photo taken sitting on my lap. I wasn’t complaining.
As we already had tickets for Summer Rites Pride in the Park, we missed the celebrations in Trafalgar Square, which were apparently superb. I really must get down there next year.
So, having got changed into rather more comfortable shorts and trainers, we arrived at a busy Shoreditch Park at about 6pm for what was an extremely well planned and organised event. Shoreditch Park is just about the perfect size. Not too big and not too small, and, with an incredible selection of no less than 7 Music Arenas, showcasing an array of London’s finest DJs and Performers, who were representing some of the cities hottest club brands, there really was something for everyone! Aside from the Music Arenas there were also 5 licensed bars, a Fun Fair and a Community Market. Most importantly bar staff and toilets were plentiful, so there was no real queuing. So often at these events, one ends up spending hours in toilet queues or struggling to get a drink at the bar.
We popped into most of the various tents to see what was going on. Most weren’t over busy to begin with. No doubt, it being such a beautiful day, the majority preferred to be outside soaking up the sun, and indeed that is where we found ourselves for the most part, catching up with friends we hadn’t seen for ages. Later on, the dance tents began to get much busier, as revellers soaked up the music, and danced the night away. I was also impressed with how clean the park was. Either, they had an army of cleaners running around, though I never saw any, or people were making sure they dropped their plastic glasses and bottles in the plentiful bins that were provided.By around 9pm, I had had enough. It had been a long day, my legs and feet were killing me and I decided it was time to go home. I had planned to go to the Hustlaball, but I was just too tired to manage it, and ended up having an early night. I’m sure I missed a great night, but it was nice to wake up at a reasonable hour on Sunday and actually get to enjoy what turned out to be the warmest day of the year so far.Over the next couple of days I scanned the internet for news of the event, but was rather saddened to see that the mainstream press had largely ignored us.
When, a couple of months back, a few crazy Frenchmen turned up in Trafalgar Square to protest equal marriage, the press was full of it, but thousands marching through the streets, celebrating the diversity of our community, approvingly egged on by thousands of spectators, both straight and gay, they completely ignore us. One does has to ask if there is some sort of agenda going on here. As far as I could make out, only The Guardian on line printed a series of fabulous photographs of the event. I was surprised to see nothing from our usual ally, The Independent.
It was also rather disappointing that the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, chose, yet again, not to attend. He pledges his support for the LGBT community, but has, as far as I’m aware, only put in one, rather uncomfortable, appearance. Time to get over it, Boris.
What was not dispiriting is that this year’s event has risen, Phoenix-like, from the ashes of last year’s near fiasco, and has been an incredible success. Roll on 2014.