Sunday, 26 June 2016
What a fantastic Gay Pride day!
Despite the grey weather, and despite the bureaucratic nightmare of the parade arrangements this year (everyone marching needed a wristband, issued by a registered marching group - which meant I had to traverse the West End to meet up with what I thought was going to be Camden LGBT Forum's group from whence I had been promised ten said items, only to find that I had to beg them from the London Irish LGBT Network branch of the Forum instead, whose allocation was fast running out), we were once again in the thick of it. This was particularly important as our cousin Lauren and gay son Braden had crossed the Atlantic from Toronto specifically to take part!
But it all worked out in the end.
Our gang - Me, Madam Arcati, Hils, Crog, John-John, Baby Steve, Mark and Jim, as well as the Canadians - dressed to the nines in our best "Decadent Dandy/Victorian Whore" outfits, and, overflowing with champers and bacon butties, soaked up the buzz and the atmosphere of being surrounded by thousands upon thousands of eclectic party people: drag queens, twinks, bears, dykes, all the armed forces and emergency servicemen and women, dancers, campaigners, fashionistas, Muscle Marys and queers of all ages, cultures, classes and creeds among them. The Irish network crowd was exceptionally jolly [it helps when you have two genuine Oirish - Crog and Mark - with you] , and even sandwiched as we were between the Bisexuals, the Latvians and the staff from Nandos (who were rather annoying, much like their restaurants really), we were in a good spot - near enough to the start of proceedings so that we didn't have to stand around for too long before moving off. Of course, the disadvantage of having to line up in one's pre-designated spot is that, unlike previous years, we didn't get to see any of the parade itself, bar the bits closest to us.
And it was huge this year.
Opened as it was by yer actual Honorary Gay Royalty "fash-mag slag" Patsy Stone and "I was hip; I was dangerous" Edina Monsoon (Joanna Lumley and Jennifer Saunders), the parade accommodated tens of thousands of individual participants, 65 floats, the US Ambassador, the Mayor, and various other "notables"; more than a million people in total, including spectators and those at Trafalgar Square - a record number according to official estimates. Whether this was the "Orlando effect" or merely the fact that more people than ever were looking for a bloody good party (after the EU referendum), who knows? [And to be honest, when having such a good time, why spend time thinking about it?]
There was apparently a minute's silence in solidarity for victims of the massacre, but maybe we missed it, or maybe it only happened in the Square. What we did get, however, was an impromptu version of the London Gay Men's Chorus' version of Bridge over Troubled Water - released as a charity single in the wake of Orlando - outside the Ship and Shovel pub, which was very moving. Here's their rendition at the Soho vigil:
Not one, but two serving policemen proposed to their boyfriends during the festivities, but we saw neither. And we were in the pub by the time the much-vaunted Red Arrows flypast happened, so we missed that too. Hey ho.
We cheered, we waved, we posed, we kissed, we held hands, we whistled, we danced.
Most importantly: WE WERE THERE.
PS scroll through this video to around 3.33 for our "screen debut"...