Pride marches take place annually in cities across the world, fighting for LGBT+ liberation and celebrating the community. The first official march in the UK was held here in London, and for LGBT+ History Month we are looking at its history and impact.
The first Pride march
While community marches and demonstrations had taken place prior to this date, the first officially coordinated UK Gay Pride march was held in London on 1 July 1972. This took place soon after the Stonewall Riots in New York City in 1969, which were a response to continued oppression and harassment from the city and police forces. The first London march both celebrated LGBT+ individuals and demonstrated the need for improved representation and rights. The march was made up of many prominent organisations which represented LGBT+ people across the UK, with around 2,000 people in attendance.
Challenges and fighting back
While the Pride marches became an annual tradition in London, there was still significant work to be done. Prominent activists such as Peter Tatchell have highlighted how the movement staged sit-ins in discriminatory pubs, picketed at homophobic conferences, and collaborated with movements such as those for the liberation of Black and working class people in what we would now understand as intersectionality.
The visibility of the Pride marches was central to the movement—at a time when homosexuality had only been partially decriminalised a few years before in 1967, the marches demonstrated that attendees were not afraid nor ashamed. The devastating AIDS crisis developed in the 1980s and homophobia ran rampant in the press and government with legal restrictions such as Section 28 which banned “promoting” homosexuality. But the Gay Liberation Front which was integral to the demonstrations and numerous other community organisations continued to advocate tirelessly for LGBT+ rights. The Pride marches in London were joyous and celebratory—but at their core were protests against injustice.
Pride in London today
Pride in 2019 commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots which were crucial to the development of the movement and focussed on unity and hope across the community. Due to COVID-19, annual London Pride events were cancelled for 2020 and 2021. But Pride has grown from humble beginnings to nationwide and global events and campaigns, increasing visibility and support for the LGBT+ community across the UK.
For sources and further reading, see the links below:
Hidden Pride: London's LGBT history - Museum of London
These Are the Radical Roots of British Gay Pride - Vice
Pride in London: What Is the History of the Annual Parade? - The Independent
My memories of Britain’s first LGBT Pride in 1972 - Peter Tatchell Foundation
In pictures: Pride in London through the years - BBC News
Pride in London
LGBT+ History Month runs for the entire month of February. See more about the events and initiatives we're running to mark the month here: kclsu.org/lgbt