Images: Kerri Walter (Instagram: @kerriwalterphotography)
My first dalliance with London Pride was last year. Standing at the corner of a very cramped bar, surrounded by some of the most beautiful men I've ever seen, I leaned over to my (incredibly drunk) flatmate and asked: "is it always like this?!"
Now, I'm regularly in Soho, but OMG I've never seen so many people in my life. Bodies poured out of every doorway, window and street corner, and it took about half an hour to even enter a bar - don't get me started on the actual act of buying a drink. Not that it was really an issue though; everyone was absolutely wasted. Why? They'd been drinking the whole day, of course.
This year, I am heading to the parade for the first time and I'm not too sure what to expect. Is this going to be yet another Heaven experience (a struggle to get in, but amazing once you're accepted... the irony)?
Sarah, 33: "In one word, it is fabulous! It is full of energy and *pride*. Every float and performer is just having an amazing time and is so full of spirit - it makes you want to join in!"
Marc, 29: "It's a fun-filled event for the whole family, and a time to celebrate the equality between sexual preferences. There are lots of costumes, floats, and it is a great event to get involved in."
There are over 100 Pride events that take place across the UK between May and September (oh HAY Britney in Brighton) and, in London alone, Pride Festival started on 9th June and culminates in next weekend's parade on 7th. Pride in London is actually run by a group of volunteers, who are all dedicated to fighting for complete equality, and against the prejudices faced by the LGBTQ+ community.
The parade, which kicks off at 12pm (check out the official route here), is made up of regular folk, businesses, unions and other incredible peeps, dressed in glorious costumes, marching, dancing, and singing. This year marks 46 years since the official first gay pride rally in London, 50 years since the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in the UK, and three years since the UK voted to legalise same-sex marriage. This year's theme is #PrideMatters, prompting the question: 'what does Pride mean to you?'
George, 24: "I’m lucky enough to live a life where I can just be who I am and be accepted by my family and friends, but even so, pride reiterates that for me."
He added: "It also reminds me that not everyone is so fortunate; not everyone is able to live their truth as comfortably as many of us are and there is still a lot of horrific stuff going on in the world when it comes to the LGBTQ+ community. We are marching for those who are unable to and making ourselves heard."
Sarah, 33, said: "Everyone comes to pride - all colours, shapes, sizes, and genders - and gets on! I've never witnessed any issues at Pride [that you'd expect from such a large crowd]. I've never walked away feeling anything, but a buzz of happiness. The festival really puts into perspective that everyone, no matter who they are, should be proud to be themselves."
Marc, 29, added: "I feel so proud to have had people fight for our rights through thick, and thin, to ensure we are all treated with respect regardless of our preferences. Being gay isn’t a choice - and that is the most important message to share."
He added: "It's a fun time to celebrate with friends, being gay, straight, bisexual, transgender - whatever! We have come far in life over the past 100 years, and it's exciting that it is now acceptable to be different. And this is London! A diverse city where you can wear whatever you like, hold hands with whomever you like and no one bats an eyelid..."
And what about us pride-virgins? I, for one, am excited to set foot in Soho on 7th July, covered in glitter to just let loose and have fun. I love the Notting Hill Carnival vibes of everyone coming together in the streets for a happy carnage of sorts, and I'm hoping it will be the same at Pride. I recognise the significance behind the day and, although I have never had to experience judgement for my own sexuality, I have borne witness to prejudice towards some of my closest friends - and it just ain't on.
Stephen, 26, said: "Equality can not be achieved if only one group is actively striving towards it. It's important that members of the straight community also support LGBTQ+ causes - which is why I want to attend."
Stephanie, 26, added: "There is so much negativity and hate in the world that, for one day, I am really looking forward to being a part of a truly inclusive, accepting environment. I'm fortunate in that when I hold my [male] partner's hand in public, I am not judged, discriminated against, or physically attacked. The same can't be said for some in the LGBTQ+ community - and I find that completely abhorrent. Love is love, and it is important for us ALL to stand together in the fight against discrimination and intolerance."
Again, George, rounded it off nicely: "It’s not everyday you can dance around Trafalgar Square with an alcoholic beverage, surrounded by thousands of like-minded people. You get to dress up as outrageously as you want - or, if that’s not your style, you still get to admire the people who do from afar - and mingle with people you’d otherwise never have even met."
"It's just amazing seeing so many people turn up to something that’s so personal to so many people around the world, and knowing that there’s support from people not only within the community, but also on the 'outside'."
What about you? If you're heading to the parade, Trafalgar Square or Soho, hit me up. Bring rum.