Pride in the UK in 2018 is officially the biggest it’s ever been.
We’ve shimmied, marched, partied, advocated, demonstrated, laughed, campaigned, loved, sung, and spread the message, and this year we’ve done it in bigger numbers than ever before.
As the Pride in the UK season drew to a close last weekend with two incredibly successful new Pride events in Scotland – Hebridean Pride and Proud Ness – we should reflect and look back on the UK’s Prides in 2018 and celebrate our successes. And I can exclusively reveal some new research that shows it’s been the most impressive year of Pride the UK has EVER seen.
Almost 10% of adults attending Pride in the UK
Somewhere between 3.4 and 3.7 million people attended a Pride in the UK this year, according to statistics based on local news reports. That means that somewhere in the region of one in twelve UK adults attended a Pride event in 2018 – not to mention those who attended EuroPride or another Pride abroad.
One hundred and thirty six Pride events took place across the UK in 2018, including more than twenty brand new Prides. Some Prides that this time last year were just an optimistic conversation in a pub have become a reality, enjoyed by thousands of LGBTI people and their allies.
Whilst we don’t have the most Prides in the world – that record goes to the US, unsurprisingly – nor the record for the most Prides per head of population – that’s Sweden’s record – we do have the most in Europe. A quarter of all European Prides are in the UK. And our Prides are innovating, ground-breaking, and testing new approaches to Pride.
At Cornwall Pride, the team – only in their second year of leading the event – broke new ground for Prides worldwide, by taking Pride to every town in the county, carrying a huge rainbow flag on an open top bus, all in one day. They then put on their amazing event in the seaside resort of Newquay a few weeks later. Prides around the world are looking at Cornwall’s model for reaching LGBTI people in rural communities, many of whom find it difficult to get to Pride.
This year’s highlights
Some other highlight’s from Pride in the UK this year include:
- After eight years as a static event in the city centre, Cumbria Pride had their first ever Parade, with more than 400 participants
- Hebridean Pride, on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland, generated huge media coverage including the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show
- Doncaster Pride became the latest Pride to introduce a second stage, increasing the diversity of their line-up
- The first Northumberland Pride attracted 2,500 people, with a march, a live radio broadcast, and even an event in the local prison, and the first Macclesfield Pride attracted more than 5,000 people to the town centre
- Pride in London doubled the length of its Festival to four weeks, and it was the biggest Parade ever with almost 500 groups taking part; the winner of Pride’s Got Talent performed at EuroPride in Sweden
- Tunbridge Wells showed it was far from disgusted, with 3,000 people taking part in their third Pride
- Liverpool Pride was the biggest ever, with 50,000 attending and the city’s Mayor declaring it one of the city’s most successful events
- Pride in Gloucestershire borrowed an original rainbow flag, created by Gilbert Baker in 1978, and young people carried it in their Parade
- New Prides took place on the Isle of Harris, Southend, Eastleigh, Swansea, Taunton, Macclesfield, Inverness, Northumberland, Peterborough and in many more towns and cities across the country
- Volunteers from BiPride, whose first event is set to take place in March, attended 26 Prides from Glasgow to the Isle of Wight to promote their event and bi inclusion
GSN brought Digital Pride to people around the world
Digital Pride, the campaign launched by Gay Star News to bring Pride even to those who can’t celebrate it, was a huge success.
Here’s what happened last April, during Digital Pride week:
- Digital Pride reached more than 85 million people
- Its #MillionsOfUs message for equality and freedom took the screens in Times Square, New York and Canary Wharf, London
- It has been rubber-stamped onto millions of envelopes and postcards put through the UK postal system
GSN will soon announce the dates for Digital Pride 2019.
Transphobia is not welcome at Pride
Pride Cymru, Manchester Pride and others highlighted the toxic hatred being directed at the trans community by putting trans people right at the front of the Parade.
The transphobic extremists who disrupted Prides in Auckland, London and Vancouver succeeded only in making the Pride community even more resolute in their support for the trans community, and even more determined to make sure their Prides are safe spaces for all who share our commitment to the whole LGBTI community.
Pride took to the beach
Two of the key volunteers behind Isle of Wight Pride, Matt and Joe, used the occasion of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) to walk the 72 mile coast of the island to highlight the 72 countries where homosexuality remains illegal. They were rewarded with congratulations from the Pride Minister, lots of blisters, and a brilliant kick-off for UK Pride 2018.
It was the second Pride on the Isle of Wight, and it followed a year of controversy and political opposition, but the organizers put the island’s Pride firmly on the map. As many as 25,000 people joined the UK Pride event, with crowds lining Ryde’s high street in such numbers that it became impassable. EuroPride 2019 Vienna’s ambassador Conchita Wurst entertained the crowds, and LGSM’s Jonathan Blake used celebrated his 69th birthday on stage, making sure the crowds understood the message that, with treatment, HIV can’t be passed on.
UK Pride 2019
We don’t yet know who will host UK Pride in 2019, but there are strong bids from Pride Cymru in Cardiff who’ll celebrate their 20th year, Pride in Newry who want to bring UK Pride to Northern Ireland for the first time with a very political message about equal marriage, and Northern Pride in Newcastle. Voting will take place at the UK Pride Organisers Network conference in Glasgow in two week’s time.
All of this is quite remarkable when we consider that it’s only two years since I wrote for GSN about the creation of the Network. The growth of the UK’s Pride movement speaks to the Network’s success: in October 2016 there were 72 Pride in the UK, next year there’ll be more than 150.
But there remain challenges. Pride in Gloucestershire had to campaign hard to get one of their local councils to display rainbow flags. Pride Cymru is facing an uphill battle with Cardiff City Council who could learn huge lessons from other councils around the country on how to support the local Pride, and with it the LGBTI community. The council’s intransigence is all the more puzzling given that this year, Pride Cymru was the biggest it’s ever been, with 15,000 people in the Parade.
Both Pride Cymru and Isle of Wight Pride hosted Queer Question Time (QQT) on its first outings from London, bringing the LGBTI community together with political and community leaders to talk about key issues of the day. The organizers of QQT hope to reach out to even more Prides next year.
The world’s Pride movement will be in focus in 2019 like never before. It will be fifty years in June since the uprising at the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan which led, a year later, to the first Pride in New York. On the shoulders of those brave LGBTI people we all stand today, and in June many of us will head to New York for WorldPride to celebrate Stonewall50, and to Vienna to celebrate EuroPride.
Next year the number of Pride in the UK will top 150 for the first time, including BiPride, taking place in London in March. New Prides including Swaleside, Calderdale, Banbury, Silloth and Surrey will help to confirm our place as Europe’s Pride capital, in the year that we may well struggle for any other European identity.
There’s one more Pride in the UK this year
But I need to end with an admission. We haven’t quite had the last Pride of the season. That honor goes to Trans Pride South West in Bristol from the 23rd to 25th November. And in the year that trans people have taken flak from the media, from public figures and politicians, from bigots on social media, and even from people supposedly within our community, we should all – wherever we are – give some focus that weekend to our trans siblings.
Trans people were at the Stonewall Inn on that night in June 1969. They’ve been with us ever since and they’ll be there next June. Trans people have been by our side from the start of our movement and now we must be by their side throughout 2019 and beyond. A Pride without trans people isn’t a Pride. It’s their Pride, it’s your Pride, it’s our Pride.
Let’s make sure it continues to be everyone’s Pride.
Steve Taylor is a Director of EuroPride, the European Pride Organisers Association, and Co-Founder of the UK Pride Organisers Network. Follow him on Twitter @danophile.
Statistics quoted above are from the author’s own research, based on relationships with Pride organizers across the UK, and news reports on the number of attendees at Pride events.