The Origins of UK Pride
Queers Through the Years is the section curated by Molly Saxby.
As we pass through Pride Month, let us look back at the origins of these celebrations and Pride marches in the UK!
The first ever British Pride March was held on the 1st of July 1972 in response to the 1969 Stonewall Riots and resulting changes in the American LGBTQ+ scene. The Stonewall Riots of late June 1969 took place in New York City after police raided a gay club in Greenwich Village named the Stonewall Inn. The Stonewall Inn had grown to house drag queens, runaways and homeless gay youths who were looked down on at many other gay bars. During the raid, police roughly handled employees and patrons out of the bar; in response, neighbourhood residents and bar patrons rioted and protested for 6 days on the street and in surrounding areas. The Stonewall Riots erupted as the community was fed up with consistent police harassment and social discrimination, and these events triggered the US and worldwide gay rights movements.
1- Protestors in Lower Manhattan following the Stonewall Riots
Following the Stonewall Riots, the Gay Liberation Front first formed in New York City in 1969 and fought for LGBTQ+ rights. The Gay Liberation Front was named such to mimic the provocative political titles of groups such as the Algerian National Liberation Front. The NYC GLF began its political career by organising a march against the persecution of the LGBT community and broader political notions such as racism. A few years later the UK followed in the footsteps of the US, creating its own GLF in 1970; the UK GLF became widely recognised in the national press by 1971 with weekly meetings gaining 200 to 300 attendees. The first official UK Gay Pride Rally was held by the Gay Liberation Front in London on July 1, 1972: the closest Saturday to the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. The march began as a political protest for equal rights for the LGBT community and started with as many as 2000 participants. The Pride March, as it became to be known, was not originally held every year but began to attract wider participation alongside the Section 28 controversy in 1988. In 1992, London was chosen to hold the first Europride (a pan-European pride celebration) which received over 100,000 participants and again in 2006, a wonderful 600,000 participants.
2- UK GLF Manifesto 1971
Overtime, Pride has become increasingly commercialised, receiving large donations from corporations; as the protest moved away from its original political focus, its label as a march required greater funding and organisers turned toward commercialisation as a result. As you may know, large Pride events now often require purchased tickets and feature large, extravagant events and performers, far from the scene of the original marches. Consequentially, many argue that Pride has now become more of a party than a protest. Here, if Pride labelled itself as a protest, it would not have to fulfil the monetary requirements of marches which are demanded from local authorities. Nonetheless, Pride continues to hold political meaning in its fight for LGBTQ+ rights despite its party-like and celebratory atmosphere. Pride events take place in multiple cities across the UK and the world every year and provide a place for the community and its allies to celebrate LGBTQ+ people and experiences, whilst intrinsically reminding the world of the fight for equality and acceptance.
Happy Pride Month everyone!
3- UK Pride celebration