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A photograph of the Pride Parade at London Pride 2023 on the 1st July 2023

The history of Pride in London

As we gear up for another month of colourful festivities celebrating the diversity of LGBTQ+ communities in Britain’s capital, we take a look back at the history of Pride in London, and run through other major Pride events taking place across the UK.

Image Credit: Loredana Sangiuliano / | Above: A photograph of the Pride Parade at London Pride 2023 on the 1st July 2023

A milestone protest

The seeds of the social uprising that would lead to Pride in London were sown in 1970, with the formation of the Gay Liberation Front. This was an off-shoot of the American GLF, formed in the wake of the Stonewall riots – a mass uprising against police harassment by New York’s LGBTQ+ community in 1969, which is now widely regarded as the start of the fight for queer rights in the Western world.

The UK GLF was, like its US predecessor, an explicitly revolutionary organisation, inspired by radical movements like the Black Panthers. Its open and unashamed nature was unprecedented in Britain. As one of its first members, Ted Brown, would later say in an interview with Vice, ‘Walking into that first GLF meeting – just seeing hundreds of gay people together, without shame, just being openly gay – that was as astonishing as walking on the surface of the moon.’

A milestone moment came on 27th November 1970, when members of the Gay Liberation Front gathered in Highbury Fields, Islington, to protest the arrest of political activist Louis Eaks, who had been charged with ‘importuning’ (cruising) as part of a police entrapment operation. Around 150 gay and lesbian activists turned up with balloons, streamers and fireworks, in what was the country’s first ever public demonstration for LGTBQ+ rights.

‘Pride before Pride’

On 28th August 1971, another GLF demonstration took place in central London. Since dubbed ‘Pride before Pride’, it was held in protest of the unequal age of consent, which at 21 was higher for gay men than it was for straight people.

This paved the way for the first official Pride march, held in London on 1st July 1972. The date was chosen because it was the nearest Saturday to the anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, and it saw hundreds of out and proud people march between Hyde Park and Trafalgar Square. One of them was the soon-to-be prominent campaigner Peter Tatchell, who noted the ‘very heavy, aggressive police presence’, and how the revellers were ‘determined to have a fun time’ with big colourful banners proclaiming their pride.

‘We got mixed reactions from the public, but predominantly curiosity and bewilderment,’ Tatchell later wrote. ‘Most had never knowingly seen a LGB or T person, let alone hundreds of queers marching to demand human rights.’

The evolution of Pride

A photograph of the London Pride March 2017. Photo taken on the 8th July 2017.
Image Credit: Ms Jane Campbell / | Above: A photograph of the London Pride March 2017. Photo taken on the 8th July 2017.

Right from the start, Pride was about more than queer people being seen, in person, on a given day. It was about setting a new context for ongoing visibility. The first issues of Gay News were sold at that first march, effectively establishing the LGBTQ+ press in the UK.

The radical ethos of Pride was also highlighted in 1981 when London Pride became Huddersfield Pride, with around 2,000 campaigners decamping to the West Yorkshire market town. The reason: to protest constant police harassment of a gay venue called the Gemini Club, described variously as ‘the Studio 54 of the North’ and a ‘cesspit run to make money out of sexual filth’.

The London campaigners were joined by people from cities like Liverpool and Manchester, temporarily making the Huddersfield the epicentre of the queer liberation movement in Britain. In the words of playwright Stephen M Hornby, who created a theatrical event called The Day the World Came to Huddersfield, it engendered an ‘awareness that this is a thing that can work elsewhere. It doesn’t need to be in London. From that point onwards you see other Prides stutter into different forms of life around the country.

More than a decade later, in 1992, London hosted the first ever EuroPride, a pan-European LGBTQ+ event with more than 100,000 people attending. Pride in London has become ever more popular in the years that have followed, evolving from a radical, grassroots movement to one of the biggest days of the London social calendar.

In 2024, Pride in London will take place on 29th June, with associated events taking place across the city.

As Pride celebrations in London continue to evolve, the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham and Hammersmith BID will host their first Pride-themed Summer Street Fest on King Street on Saturday 1st June 2024.

Pride events across the UK

Members of the Brighton and Hove Council LGBTQ+ workers forum marching in the 30th Anniversary Brighton and Hove Pride Parade in 2022
Image Credit: eyematter / | Above: Members of the Brighton and Hove Council LGBTQ+ workers forum marching in the 30th Anniversary Brighton and Hove Pride Parade in 2022

Numerous other Pride events will be taking place across the country, including:

Brighton & Hove Pride: Billing itself as the country’s biggest Pride festival, this massive event takes place between 2nd and 5th August and features the annual community parade, street celebrations, and live performances from the likes of Girls Aloud, Sophie Ellis-Bextor and S Club.

Manchester Pride: Running between 23rd and 26th August, Manchester Pride will see droves of revellers descend on the city’s world-famous Gay Village, where stars like Jessie J and Claire Richards will be in attendance. There will also be the annual parade, as well as a candlelight vigil to remember those lost to HIV, and those affected by anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination around the world.

Pride Edinburgh: Scotland’s longest-running celebration of the LGTBTQ+ community takes place on 22nd June. Full details are yet to be announced, but revellers can look forward to a dazzling parade, epic march and an array of lively after-parties in venues across the Scottish capital.

Pride Cymru: Cardiff once again plays host to Pride Cymru, which takes place on 22nd and 23rd June. A mammoth parade will sweep through the city centre, an array of market stalls will be doing brisk business, and there will be live entertainment from plenty of performers, including the Vengaboys and Scissor Sisters’ Jake Shears.