Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Gay Pride in London in 2008

Gay Pride in London in 2008, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Last year, the first weekend of July meant the start of the Tour de France in London, the Wimbledon finals, a day trip to Paris and a Marc Almond concert. Oh! Happy Birthday, Marc! Must be 51 this year, seeing as we were celebrating 50 years last year. The weather was kind as well as one’s luck as after queueing for just about two hours and paying five pounds we managed to get in and watch the Federer v Nadal final from the comfort of Henman hill.

This year, and it was another weekend in London, staying with Fiona. No Tour de France or Marc Almond, but Gay Pride in London, the Wimbledon finals and a trip to Grenoble the following Monday. I did not make it to Wimbledon, despite my intentions. It rained most of the day and I had a hangover from Pride having drunken too much on an empty stomach… Still, had a great time though…

This was my first London Pride since 1995, a year I remember because it was the same summer that Pentire was winning all his races as a three year old, just missing out on the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes by getting to the lead just a bit too soon…. But that is another story. Fred and I were staying at Mum’s and we came up for the day. There was a big march, meeting at Hyde Park and winding round past the Houses of Parliament (remember we were only just a few years off Clause 28 and the Tories were still in power…). It was a real march and anyone could join in and it was very much a political march, as could be seen by the route taken down past Parliament. There were still some pink triangles but the rainbow flag was already in its ascendancy and various people were giving out promotional whistles for us to blow on and make as much noise as possible…

Not exactly sure where the march fizzled out but then there was a big party in Brockwell Park in South London, where lots of pop acts from the charts would perform (amongst other things) – and in those days people still bought singles and pop groups still properly existed, the world not having been taken over by downloads, the American multinationals and big name DJ’s… Anyway…. One thing which had not changed was my liking for talking photos, particularly of good looking young men, and there were many on that warm sunny day back then.

We were good boys back then and I can’t remember us having more than a drink or two or doing anything other than returning to Mum’s (or Fiona’s) at a reasonable time.

Move on thirteen years and how things have changed. Pride became even bigger, got commercial, started charging a lot of money for people to attend the party, which eventually came to be dominated by the big London clubs, the entrance fee kept increasing and one year people stopped going. Pried was bankrupt, victim of its own success and greed. I think they tried a gay Mardi Gras a few times but now Pride was back and quite different from its predecessor.

The March became a procession of floats and interest groups, such as gay firemen, gay footballers, gay Sunday walkers (that’s us), no Gay Birding (which we had in 1995, I remember), Amnesty International, gay civil servants and gay youth groups. The March had changed its route, starting in Baker Street, going along Oxford Street and Regent Street and ending up at Trafalgar Square. No political march, but a celebratory one and an opportunity for groups to promote their activities. OK there was not exactly a great deal of inventiveness, and we had the Asian princes and princesses, the Brazilian samba dancers, the black people with animal make-up (made up to look like a leopard, zebra and so on) and so forth…

No Pride party in the park, but a stage in Trafalgar Square. No commercial pop groups, just a few singers and mostly from the ‘gay community’ – we had gay rap and transsexual pop amongst other things. No entrance money, but speeches from the Lord Mayor, the leader of the Lib Dems and a government Minister, Harriet Harman who, with her large handbag in tow, reminded us what the Labour Government had done in the 11 years since they came into power, some of the things one could only have dreamed of back in 1995, like civil partnerships, the right to adopt, asylum seeker and immigrant rights, anti-gay hate crime law and so on…

There was a lot of activity in Soho, commercial companies setting up stalls around Soho Park, a tint Black, Asian and Minority Groups (BAMG?) stage and lots of pubs selling beers in plastic glasses, at were probably inflated prices. A place to hang around, hang out and meet your friends.

The weather was warm and mostly sunny, it was a beautiful day and a day to feel out and proud in one of the world’s most happening cities.

I took my photos, many to be uploaded and I met some new friends, mostly Brazilians, having stopped to ask one of them if he was happy with the photos he had taken. We eventually found our way to the drinking haunts of Soho, having first quenched our thirst with some canned beer from an off-licence… and it was only the next day that I realized I hadn’t eaten since a quick falafel for lunch and that I was suffering as a result. Still, a great fun evening and a great way to end Pride 2008. Roll on another thirteen years and it will be 2021 and, all being well, I will have turned sixty. Where will we be then?

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