As someone who had only experienced Pride in smaller cities – though admittedly one of those was Brighton – Pride in London was a bewildering experience. The event sprawls across the city, with stages in Trafalgar Square and Soho and a parade that weaves its way around central London. Whether on the tube or in the streets, at every moment it seemed you could spot another Pride celebrant bearing rainbow patterned face paint or clothing. At the same, with so much going on, it’s hard to know where you want to go or when you want to go there.
— manjinder virk (@manjinder_virk) June 25, 2016
So it seemed I saw London Pride in snapshots. At Trafalgar Square I watched the big screen from behind the barriers with my friends; we might be British but the queue to actually get into the square was just a bit too long for us. We then wandered along the route of the Parade, getting thoroughly lost in the process but soaking up the enthusiasm and energy of those marching. Most of our Pride was spent meandering through the streets – which were a party in themselves – occasionally sheltering from the thunderstorms in bars or stocking up on considerably cheaper alcohol in supermarkets. With roads shut, revellers wandered down streets normally packed with cars, heightening the sense festivities had taken over the city.
Cutting through the joyous abandon of the parades and parties was also a streak of anger and defiance which I hadn’t expected from a Pride I’d always heard was over-commercialised. Coming the weekend after the Brexit result of the EU referendum people waved rainbow patterned EU flags, whilst placards in the parade itself expressed solidarity with the victims of the Orlando shootings, as well as other attacks worldwide on the LGBTQ community.
Source: US Embassy London via Flickr
As the evening pressed on we journeyed to Brixton for the Smirnoff Pride at Night official after party. It was another London first for me, as I’ve never been clubbing in the capital, but fears of scary bouncers and intimidating dancefloors were swept away by the friendly atmosphere of the night. Everyone seemed in a good mood and the sense of camaraderie which I’ve often felt in LGBTQ venues was pronounced here. The venue, Electric Brixton, is a converted theatre, which made for a very cool location and I appreciated that, in the spirit of Pride, the scantily clad dancers on stage were of all genders.
My London Pride was a wonderful weekend, the perfect antidote to a week in which the world has seemed insurmountably divided. It was exciting, it was hectic, at times it was quite overwhelming, but ultimately it was marked by a feeling of community and freedom of expression which should be the cornerstone of every Pride event.