Pride in London: What is the history of the LGBT parade?

Francesca Specter
Yahoo Style UK deputy editor
Members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community take part in the annual Pride Parade in London on July 7, 2018. [Photo: Getty]

Pride in London, formerly known as Pride London, is an annual festival held in celebration of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans) community.

This year is known as the Pride Jubilee, as it recognises the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, a series of demonstrations by members of the LGBT movement which took place in New York City in 1969.

It will take place on Saturday 6 July at 12pm, setting off from Portland Place in Marylebone and finish at Whitehall.

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But what is the history of the festival, which is wholly run by a group of volunteers and attracts an estimated one million visitors to the city of London?

History of London Pride

The beginnings

The first official UK Gay Pride Rally was held in London on 1 July 1972, and was attended by approximately 2,000 people.

In an ongoing tradition, the date was chosen because it was the nearest Saturday to the anniversary of the Stonewall riots of 1969.

Revellers pass along the Victoria Embankment in central London, as the Gay Pride Mardi Gras 2003 parade begins. [Photo: PA]

However, an unofficial march – consisting of 150 men who marched through Highbury Fields in North London – took place in 1970.

Changing names

In 1983, the Gay Pride Rally march was renamed “Lesbian and Gay Pride”.

Participation increased from 1988 onwards in reaction to the controversial Section 28, a law affecting England, Wales and Scotland which prevented local authorities from “intentionally promot[ing] homosexuality or publish[ing] material with the intention of promoting homosexuality”. Promoting the teaching of homosexuality in school was also forbidden.

It was subsequently named “the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride" event in 1993 – and became the largest free music event in Europe.

Pride London 2008, the country's largest gay and lesbian carnival. [Photo: PA]

Organising Pride

The task of organising the Pride parade has changed hands several times in the festival’s history.

It was first organised by the Pride Trust, until it became insolvent in 1998. The same year, an organisation called ‘Pride Events UK’ took money for a ticketed event, which ultimately did not take place.

Another commercial organisation, London Mardi Gras, took over in 1999, but was run into debt when it failed to pay a bill for the use of Hyde Park in 2003.

‘Pride London’ was formed in 2004 to organise the annual event, in addition to several others including the Big Gay Out music festival in Finsbury Park in 2004, and the 2006 ‘Drag Idol’ in Leicester Square.

Its last event was ‘WorldPride’ in 2012, an event to promote LGBT Pride on an international level.

Present day festival organisers London LGBT+ Community Pride, a registered community interest company, was formed in late 2012.

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It was awarded a contract to organise Pride in London by the Greater London Authority, and organised its first Pride in London festival in 2013.

The Pride in London board now consists of 10 people. Some 1,000 volunteers are also involved on the day of the parade.

Pride in London patrons

Pride in London patrons include Sir Elton John, David Furnish and Sir Ian McKellen.

In the past, it has had patronage from the likes of George Michael, Nicola Adams and Stephen Fry.