While nightclubs and mass sporting events are allowed to go ahead, the official Pride event was cancelled for a second year in a row – so attendees took matters into their own hands
In August, it was announced that London’s official Pride event would be cancelled for the second year in a row, thanks to rising COVID cases across the country. The annual celebration was initially planned for June, but had been postponed to September 11 before its cancellation last month. Many have criticised the decision to cancel Pride – an outdoor event – while nightclubs are open and mass sporting events are allowed to go ahead. With this in mind, thousands decided to take matters into their own hands and throw a DIY Pride party in Soho Square.
Complete with music, dancing, and – of course – glamorous fits, the event was an inclusive gathering with a celebratory atmosphere. Many carried Pride flags, others brought homemade protest signs, and one wore a t-shirt that read, ‘Alexa, play Steps’.
Aside from two sheepish-looking policemen, who warned people that the partying would be shut down when the park closed, the day went on with no trouble from officers or the public. As Dazed photographer Bex Wade reported, “People were gladly left to their own devices”.
Below, Dazed speaks to Pride attendees about the DIY party, the official event’s two-year cancellation, and what the annual celebration means to them.
“I feel complex about London Pride being cancelled – from what I hear it was quite a complicated situation. To be honest, in the midst of the pandemic I think there’s a lot more swirling around, so I feel ambivalent about it... but I feel ambivalent about a lot of things going on. The potential of today brought me to Soho Square. Once I found out there was a ‘Pride but not Pride’ event, I was hoping to get some queer solidarity.”
“I care a lot that Pride was cancelled. I’ve been living here for eight years, and every year it’s been going on. We didn’t have one last year, and now this year again. Everything else is open, and people are allowed to do other things like protest, but we’re not allowed to have Pride.”
“I think that while Pride is a celebration, it’s very emblematic of what we’ve gone through before, and there’s still so much that needs to be done. We see that nowadays there are still problems with homophobia, queerphobia, and transphobia, and having a large-scale event that promotes us as being the same as everyone else is necessary. They say, ‘Why do we still need Pride?’ – because there are still changes that need to be made.
I came here today because I always associate Pride with Soho Square – it’s the meeting point for everyone. Even people who’ve just moved to London know Soho Square. You could come here on your own and meet others and talk to people; with Pride that’s just amplified.”
“It’s a shame that London Pride was cancelled, but it’s really beautiful how the whole community has come together today in Soho Square. We’ve filled out Soho and Old Compton Street, and everyone is just celebrating each other and being there for each other. In a way, this is a Pride where I don’t feel as pressured to be going to things and doing stuff. I can just be with my chosen family and see everyone. Roll on next year though!”
“At the moment, we still live in a society that is deeply and inherently homophobic, and there are still so many issues surrounding people who don’t feel safe or open enough to be their true selves. Pride is one of those events that really helps facilitate people to spread the love, and celebrate themselves and the diversity of the many ways in which people choose to love and choose to show up as the truest version of themselves. To have that taken away is not very cool; it feels like people are being silenced and not able to celebrate, or express themselves and how they want to live unapologetically.”
ATHENA, 23, SAVANNAH, 24, AMELIA, 26, OLI, 24
“Everything else was allowed to go ahead – people are licking each others’ shoulders in clubs, but we just want to have some rights! The official London Pride has a lot of problems, but the sad thing is that we weren’t able to organise anything as an alternative. There were a lot of people trying to do lots of things today, but there wasn’t an opportunity for people to come together. It’s just such an important day for the community. This could have been such an opportunity to create something better.”
“I think we need Pride to boost the morale of LGBTQ+ people, especially for a lot of vulnerable members in the LGBTQ+ community, specifically trans people. It’s really important for us to have a sense of community, to come together, and to celebrate our history and our legacy. Today that seems like it’s been taken away. We lost out on an opportunity to celebrate that this year, which is really not good. Pride and ‘Pride season’ is one of the few times when we can actually show love for each other, because I feel like our community can also be very toxic.”