Community News

Peter Tatchell calls for back to basics at Pride marches

Besi Besemar July 6, 2019

Pride in London strangled by costs and restrictions, as Westminster City Council and the Metropolitan Police sting Pride organisers with huge bills.

HUMAN rights campaigner, Peter Tatchell calls for no limit on numbers marching, no corporate floats and a “political march with a party atmosphere.”

At London Pride today only a fraction of the people who wanted to march were able to as Westminster City Council and the Metropolitan Police placed a 30,000 limit on the number of people able to march – the same limit as last year, when over 50,000 people applied to march and, of these, 20,000 were turned away.

Peter Tatchell, a co-organiser of the first Pride in the UK in 1972, patron of Pride London and Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation says: “Only a fraction of those who want to march today were allowed to. If there was no limit, probably 100,000 people would march, like in the 1990s.”

Tatchell has marched on every Pride London march since 1972, with this year being his 48th year marching at Pride in London.

Tatchell continued: “The limit on the size of Pride feels like anti-LGBT+ discrimination. There are no similar restrictions placed on the numbers at the Notting Hill Carnival, which is many times larger than Pride. 

“Tiny Dublin, with only a million people, had 60,000 people march on its Pride march last year. With a population over eight times larger, London had half that number marching today. This is an LGBT+ and national embarrassment. 

“The size and spontaneity of the parade is being strangled by regulations, bureaucracy, red-tape and the unreasonable dictates of the city’s authorities.  

“LGBT+ organisations have to apply three months in advance, pay a fee and get wristbands for all their participants. The parade feels increasingly regimented, commodified and straight-jacketed. 

“The city authorities are enforcing punitive costs for road closures, pavement barriers, policing and security. They cite safety concerns and the disruptive impact on West End businesses if the parade was allowed to be bigger. It seems that commerce comes first. 

“Over a million people marched for a ‘People’s Vote on Brexit’. The organisers did not have to pay a penny in costs for the march. 

“The current parade set up needs commercial sponsorship to pay for it but corporate floats now dominate the event. They’ve got the money, so they have huge extravagant floats that outshine and overwhelm the LGBT+ community groups. The parade looks like an almost endless motorcade of corporate promotion with many of those companies degaying their floats. They don’t mention LGBT+, just Pride.

“The dedicated, tireless Pride committee is held over a barrel. They might be permitted to increase the numbers on the parade but only if they stump up loads more cash to the council and police. Westminster council seems to think that the democratic right of the LGBT+ community to use its streets should come at a price. It even demands compensation for the suspension of parking bays.

“Royal Parks is no better. They won’t allow Pride to use Hyde Park. We are being shafted.

“Compared to 20 years ago, Pride has been dumbed down. For many people, it is now mostly a gigantic street party. Big corporations see it as a PR opportunity to fete LGBT+ consumers with their flashy floats. The ideals of LGBT+ equality are barely visible. Last year I counted only about 15 parade groups with an explicit LGBT+ human rights message. 

“If Pride has gone adrift, we are all partly to blame for not being more involved with the organising committee and not standing up to the city authorities. Perhaps it’s time to revert to the LGBT+ liberation ethos of the first UK Pride in 1972?

“1972 was a carnival march for LGBT human rights. It was political and fun; without all the restrictions, costs and red tape that are strangling Pride today.

“It’s time to put liberation back at the heart of Pride; to reclaim it as a political march with a party atmosphere. No limits on numbers and no motorised floats. This would dramatically cut costs and bureaucracy; and return Pride to its roots. We can still have a fabulous carnival atmosphere. It worked in 1972. Why not now?”