World Pride, London 2012
World Pride 2012 was controversial. First it was announced that there was a £60,000 shortfall needed to stage the event, and the Pride committee was justly criticised. Then it became evident that City Hall was aware of the problems facing Pride but did nothing to intervene, despite Boris Johnson’s claim that City Hall supported the event. City Hall’s ambivalence was further exposed when they told the organisers that it was too late to stage the original planned extravaganza when Gaydar and event sponsor Smirnoff offered well in excess of £60,000 to cover the shortfall.
Westminster Council, who this year doubled the fee to use Trafalgar Square, must have been ecstatic. For years they have consistently made staging Pride as difficult as possible for the organisers, and this year they capitalised on the situation to force a large downscaling of the event with the collusion of City Hall, who announced the march would start 2 hours earlier than had been publicised. This decision was nothing less than an insult to the LGBT community, many of whom had already made travel plans to arrive in London for a 1pm start. It was later leaked that the change of start time was designed to discourage attendance to make the event more manageable. Westminster Council also sent a letter to the Soho bars threatening to revoke licences if they did not operate ‘as on any normal day’, which included letting punters drink on the street or playing music loud enough to be heard outside their premises.
All that said, nothing spurs on a marginalised community quite like the act of staring down adversity. The attendance on the march was far greater than I have seen in years, and the atmosphere was defiant and joyous. And as expected, despite the street party ban, over 100,000 people hit the district, effectively closing the streets of Soho.
Despite the inept organisation of the event, World Pride was a huge success. The ‘back to basics’ approach benefitted the event greatly, even if that decision came from necessity rather than design. This gallery is testament to the LGBTQ community who refused to stand down.
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