London Gay Pride 2004

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London Pride 2004

Saturday 3rd July was the date and yet another great day out for the gay community. It kicked off with the usual Gay Pride Parade through the central streets of London. Then you could choose between the more political free festival in Trafalgar Square or make your way up to Finsbury Park to enjoy a spectacular, no expense spared, afternoon at Big Gay Out, a massive gay festival organised by Face Party. In the evening all the bars & clubs were heaving. The biggest was Ruby at Canvas in Kings Cross, a joint venture from DTPM, Fiction and Trade, what a wild night!!

When 700 people marched through central London in 1972 to hold Britain’s first Gay Pride event, the participants suffered homophobic taunts and heavy-handed policing. More than 20,000 joined forces to the capital’s streets once more for Pride London in circumstances that organisers of the first march 32 years ago would barely recognise. Rather than the “protest” by a barely tolerated minority of the past, this year’s event boasted sponsors ranging from Ford to the Metropolitan Police and for the first time became designated as a parade rather than a political demonstration. Organisers hope the change of terminology, which has cost them an extra £100,000 towards the requirement of road closures through to street cleaners, will have given Pride the ability to transform into a full-blown carnival that will rival Sydney’s Mardi Gras and draw thousands of tourists to the capital.

Jason Pollock, the chairman of Pride London, said: “The fact it is costing a lot more money was a bit of a shock but we’re convinced this will help achieve our goal - to make this an international event.  “Certainly it’s a quantum leap from the early marches. They were protests at the start of gay liberation. People would boo from the pavements and you could be arrested at the drop of a hat. Now it is a party by the gay community for everybody.”

When the parade left Hyde Park for Trafalgar Square at midday, it included 30 floats, 10 samba bands, two double-decker buses and a phalanx of lesbian bikers. Participants included gay employees from the police, fire brigades and Prison Service through to Battersea Dogs Home, which sent out its dog ambulance to drum up interest within its work. A separate £1.5m concert called Big Gay Out, was staged at Finsbury Park, north London, and enlisted performances ranging from Sugababes and Jamelia to Marc Almond and Peter Andre.

Ken Livingstone, the Major of London, led the parade and afterwards gave a speech to the rally that had formed in Trafalgar Square. He stressed that he would like Pride London to rival that of Sydney’s, the latter drawing an attendance of 500,000 last year.

In answer to critics who say the event is too commercialised, Mr Pollock said: “Those who want to go and have a party can do so. But Pride is also still a political event because however much progress has been made; there is still a lot to be achieved for the gay rights movement.”

Photo above also include Soho Pride, a separate event held around the streets of Soho later in the year.