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03
Jul

Review: Pride in London 2014

pride2014aDespite the fact that the early afternoon of 28 June was blighted by near constant drizzle, this year's Pride in London main parade and festivities were hailed a huge success. A record-breaking 30,000 people took part in the actual parade, which included around 30 floats and 200 different groups. Many, many more thousands lined the parade route, which began in Baker Street and made its way down Oxford Street and Regent Street.

pride2014dThere was concern at the 1pm start of the parade, when the heavens decided to open and a rainstorm briefly raged – leaving the London Rubbermen contingent looking surprisingly smug and dry in their figure-hugging, waterproof attire! Thankfully, the rain eased and the parade commenced. Notable walkers included a large group from Stonewall, led by the charity's co-founder, Sir Ian McKellen, while headline sponsors Barclays had a bright blue bus that was impossible to miss. All the armed forces were represented, along with a large contingent from the civil service.
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There were many sports groups, charities, health groups, unions and employee networks, while Square Peg Media – publishers of Out in the City and g3 magazines – had one of the most popular floats on the parade – even if we do say so ourselves! We recruited singer Sinitta [pictured right] to perform on the float for the duration of the parade, performing hits from her back catalogue ('Toy Boy', 'So Macho') and countless renditions of her latest single, 'So Many Men, So Little Time'.

pride2014cThe parade made its way to Trafalgar Square, before dispersing in Whitehall. The main stage in Trafalgar Square enjoyed huge audiences throughout the afternoon, and the entire area actually became packed out – with others having to queue to gain entry to the market stall area. Part of this was due to some of the headline acts. Although Pride festival in previous years have been criticized for offering few top name performers, this year's line-up included recent X Factor winner, Sam Bailey, 80s favourites Sam Fox, Katrina and the Waves and Sinitta, and a headline performance from Conchita Wurst – the Austrian bearded drag queen who controversially won this year's Eurovision Song Contest.
"Let us be proud about who we are and let us give a statement for love, respect and tolerance," Conchita told the assembled throng, to much cheering and applause.

pride2014gSome may knock Pride for not getting bigger acts, but Conchita performed to an estimated audience of around 10,000. This left some people were queuing for up to 30 minutes to gain entry to the Trafalgar Square enclosure – highlighting one of the problems of running a festival of this size in what is, in effect, a limited space in the heart of the West End.

Fortunately, the festivities were not reserved for Trafalgar Square, and most people made their way up to Soho, where there was a second stage on Dean Street, plus road closures to allow outdoor drinking and partying. Golden Square was decked out in a huge rainbow carpet and turned into the Out with the Family Rainbow Fete, complete with its own bandstand and family activities, while all the bars appeared to do a roaring trade.

pride2014bAfter taking over the running of Pride in London in 2013, the LondonLGBT+ Community Pride team really hit their stride this year. In association with the Pride festival, they ran a high-profile social media awareness campaign entitled #FreedomTo – which also helped to generate much publicity around the event and was supported by a host of celebrities. They also notably secured plenty of corporate sponsorship and support – from the likes of Asda and the aforementioned Barclays – which, ultimately, is essential for the festival's continued survival. Tesco stores around Trafalgar Square showed visible support for the festival with promotional banners, while cash machines in the West End offered pride-related messages to all those withdrawing cash. It's great to see an increasing number of companies wishing to show such visible support for the festival.
Of course, away from the sponsors, the festival relies on an army of volunteers – something that its Chair, Michael Salter, was keen to point out after the event.
"I want to thank the hundreds of volunteers who, together with everyone in the Parade, all those lining the route or celebrating in Trafalgar Square, Golden Square and Soho, gave our great city the fun, exciting, surprising and inspiring Pride it truly deserves. We at Pride in London want to go on delivering events of, by and for the entire LGBT+ community. This year again we saw how powerful that can be."

To become involved with Pride in London, or to find out more details, go to prideinlondon.org

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Photos © David Hudson

Posted: 3 July 2014

 

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