The dark clouds which have been hanging ominously over this year’s troubled World Pride event in London finally broke today (7 July), but participants marched on despite the heavy showers.
Although the parade had been turned into a procession with only walking groups and no cars, buses or floats, thousands of people from LGBT organizations, charities, unions and political groups put on a brave face to process through the UK capital’s center.
The number of spectators was also noticeably less than previous years and the march was restricted to one side of the road.
London Mayor Boris Johnson has faced criticism for not stepping in to save the event, which had to be scaled down at short notice last week due to a cash crisis.
Gay Member of Parliament Chris Bryant said the event was an ‘embarrassment’ to London.
The Labour politician told Gay Star News during the march: ‘I just think that Boris Johnson could have sorted this so easily and for next to no money to be honest.
‘If you had a mayor who cared about this kind of event and brings in millions of pounds to businesses in London.’
Former mayoral candidate for the Liberal Democrats, Brian Paddick, said he would have done things differently if he had taken office in May.
‘My understanding is we did have sponsors come forward at the last minute to save the event and if Boris had taken action we could have had World Pride as it was originally intended to be,’ he said.
A street party in the gay district of Soho also had to be axed.
Other marchers were less pessimistic.
To mark the 40th anniversary of Pride London, veteran protesters from the first event in 1972 led the rally for global LGBT equality with gay rights activist Peter Tatchell.
A nostalgic Luke Fitzgerald says it was great to be marching with friends he hasn’t seen on the streets for four decades.
He said: ‘The difference between then and now is that 40 years ago the bystanders looked so bemused and didn’t know what hit them. But now they’re supportive. We’ve done something.’
Anna Grodzka, member of Parliament of the Republic of Poland who, apart from being an established LGBTQ activist, is also the first Polish transgender MP in the office, was also marching with the UK’s Polish Rainbow group.
She told GSN she hoped to see an event of this scale happen in Poland soon.
She said: ‘I am really happy to see the police don’t have to cordon off the marchers and that there are no militant groups throwing stones or grenades at us.’
Grodzka made a plea for support and solidarity among LGBT organizations and businesses.
She added: ‘There is a need for businesses to support the LGBT community. But also politics should be changing and becoming more inclusive and this is what I have been struggling for.’
Mari Rice, 64, was said it was the first time she had been to pride in London.
‘It’s colorful and fun, but most of all it makes me feel quite emotional,’ she explained.
‘Most of the people who are here probably wouldn’t feel so strong about about showing their sexuality in another environment. It’s great they can express themselves without feeling embarrassed. It’s a feeling of solidarity.’
One of the march’s biggest corporate presences was Ernst & Young.
Beth Brooke, lesbian global vice chair of public policy at Ernst & Young, stressed the importance of supporting all LGBT people.
She said: ‘It is so important to reinforce our commitment to inclusiveness but also to send these messages around the world. It is something we care about desperately.
‘We under appreciate how important companies can be to help advance the rights of everyone. We have our own cultures, we are respectful of country cultures of course. But they blend and we can be a real leader and we need to be a real leader on these issues for people all over the world.’
Organizations taking part include Stonewall, Terrence Higgins Trust, Albert Kennedy Trust, Food Chain and Out and Equal.
Google, Smirnoff, British Airways, Ernst & Young, KPMG, Barclays, Co-Operative and PwC were some of the companies who joined the march.
While Out to Swim, Gay and Lesbian Underwater Group and Pink Singers joined the rally.