Reclaimed Pride

It was back in 1993 that I first photographed Pride – or as it used to be called then, Gay Pride, and I returned to photograph it every year for quite a while – and you can see some of the pictures in ‘Ten Years of Pride‘, the second show of some of that work at the Museum of London.  My going there in 1993 was a part of a general growing awareness that gay rights was not just an issue for the gay community, but an important aspect of human rights.

Over those ten years there was a very clear change in the nature of Pride. What had been a protest clearly of great moment to many of those taking part – and for quite a few it was their first public ‘coming out’ – gradually became more and more corporate, at first mainly a reflection of the growing pink economy and later of the importance of the pink pound in the wider economy. In recent years it has become a huge sponsored parade, dominated by major companies, with large contingents from the armed forces, police and other public services, with just a few groups keeping up the tradition of protest tagged on to the end.

I’d continued to cover it most years, missing out only when I wasn’t in London, and it had become one of the few events for which I’d applied every year for accreditation, as it had become highly organised and this had become necessary.  But I was finding it less and less interesting, and in 2017 had decided not to bother with the actual parade, thinking that perhaps I would just photograph on the streets of Soho where things are more spontaneous and interesting.

In the end it didn’t turn out like that, and I started on Oxford St where the previous year I had photographed the Migrant Rights & Anti-Racist Pride organised by Movement for Justice for those who wanted to show their opposition to the corporate nature of Pride, with sponsors such as Barclays and BAE systems. In 2016 they marched to Oxford Circus and then joined the back of the official parade with other protest groups.

But for 2017 the organisers had decided on tight security, insisting that no groups who hadn’t signed up and got the official armbands would be allowed to join the parade. But it isn’t easy to stop several hundred determined protesters and the police had the sense not to try as they spilled onto the route at Oxford Circus in front of the official head of the parade.  Police tried to get the parade stewards to allow the protesters past but they refused, and for a while there was a stalemate, with the parade route blocked.

Eventually the main parade was held up and the Migrant Rights & Anti-Racist Pride went along the official route past cheering crowds leading the whole event – though the mainstream media colluded with the organisers to pretend they didn’t exist in their coverage.

There was another hold up at the end of the parade, where some of those who had been on the march from ‘No Pride in War’ decided to lie down and block Whitehall. Pride stewards held up the front of the main parade at Trafalgar Square and tried to clear the road without success, but after a few more minutes the police decided to take action, threatening those still blocking the road with arrest. They decided they had made their point very effectively and got up.

I decided too that I had my story for Pride and it was rather more interesting than most years, and decided it was time to go home. The crowds in Soho would have to wait for another year.

Anti-Racist & Migrant Rights reclaim Pride


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