Women applaud a speaker at the rally before the march
I wasn’t quite the only man present when I arrived to photograph the Dyke March – London’s second in recent years – which was starting in a corner of Berkeley Square, but almost, and I did feel just a little intimidated. Not that I had any real need to worry, everyone I talked to was fine, and it had in advance been made very clear that this wasn’t an all-women event – as the interesting FAQ on the event site states:
“There will be no policing of gender or sexuality on the march, least of all due to the diversity of dyke gender expression and presentation. In particular, we do not want any women to be challenged on their right to be at Dyke March – whether due to an androgynous, ambiguous, masculine or feminine (or other) presentation.
Because our focus is on dykes, we’re not actively seeking to involve men with the march, but they are welcome if they want to march with us (as are all supporters of dykes).”
In any case I was of course there not as any kind of dyke or even as a supporter of dykes but as a photographer and journalist. And I was welcome to take photographs, though just a few people turned away or hid their faces when I raised my camera, but this isn’t unusual at public protests, curious and illogical it may be. I don’t really understand why I should have felt at all nervous (or any more nervous than I am at other events.) It really isn’t unusual for me now to walk into an event where I look or talk or dress different to everyone or nearly everyone present. But perhaps I was just a little shaken still after being pushed around a bit by the police (though not with any particular malice) at a previous event.
Of course I wasn’t quite dressed right for the situation, as you can see from the picture of one of the other photographers covering it. Though the dark waterproof jacket I had on was perhaps more practical for the twenty minutes or so of rain before the rally started. Even so, while it was at its heaviest I packed tightly into a doorway with half a dozen of so of the women.
In March 2012 I photographed the first Dyke March in London for over 20 years, and around 800 ‘dykes and their allies’ came. This year it was rather smaller, certainly at the start there were only around 200, although by the time I left it at Piccadilly Circus it had grown to around 300. Perhaps by the time it got to its destination of Soho Square it was larger still. Berkeley Square seemed a curious choice of a meeting place, as I’ve written ‘hidden away in the middle of Mayfair and about as far as it is possible to be from the tube in central London’. Last year too the event started later, and perhaps some who work on a Saturday were able to join it.
The web site welcomes as “all dykes, lesbians, bois, queers, andros, femmes, butches, inbetweenies, lipstick lesbians, leather dykes, dandies, drag kings, bisexuals, transwomen and their allies “to the march and although I couldn’t claim to identify all of these types, there certainly were some interesting looking people, and some of them appear in my pictures.
The Dyke March retains some of the atmosphere and spirit of the Pride marches of perhaps 20 years ago, before it became a parade. Organised by volunteers, it describes itself as “a grassroots, non-commercial, anti-racist, community-centred, accessible, inclusive event” all of which endears it to me. I was sorry to leave it as it went through Piccadilly Circus on its route to Soho Square, but by then I was tired and needed to get home.
The route was based on that taken by a Suffragette march – many of the leading suffragettes were lesbian or bisexual, although at the time this was generally not commented on in public, and certainly not in the press. But perhaps much of the strength of the movement came from the close bonds between many of the women involved.
All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated are by Peter Marshall and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.