Pride London strangled with costs & restrictions

Westminster Council & Met Police sting organisers with huge bills

London, UK – 5 July 2019

“Westminster Council and the Metropolitan Police have placed a 30,000 limit on the number of people who can march in the London Pride parade tomorrow – the same limit as last year, when over 50,000 people applied to march and, of these, 20,000 were turned away. Only a fraction of those who want to march on Saturday will be allowed to do so. If there was no limit, probably 100,000 people would march, like in the 1990s,” said Peter Tatchell, a co-organiser of the first UK Pride in the UK in 1972, patron of Pride London and Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation.

He has marched in every Pride London since 1972. This year will be his 48th Pride London parade.

“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 in its Pride last year. London, with a population over eight times larger, will have half that number marching on Saturday. This is a 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 authorities.

“LGBT+ organisations have to apply in three months 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. Many of the companies have degayed 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? I was one of the organisers back then. I’ve marched in every Pride London parade since. This will be my 48th.

“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?” queried Mr Tatchell.