Words: Alastair James; pictures: Peter Tatchell Foundation
The LGBTQ campaigner Peter Tatchell has criticised the cancellation of Pride in London, saying the reasons given by organisers are “implausible” and that a recent alternative Pride march, organised by Tatchell, proves this.
Pride in London announced on Friday (6 August) that the event, which had been due to take place on 11 September, had been cancelled for a second year in a row due to logistical difficulties caused by ongoing coronavirus and public health guidelines.
In a statement, bosses said that restrictions meant the event would be reduced from the traditional march and free outdoor events to a series of smaller ticketed stages across the capital - and that they were unwilling to put on the event without the parade.
Meanwhile, Tatchell's “Reclaim Pride” event in July saw around 2,500 people take to the streets of London in protest of government inaction on LGBTQ rights.
An important update from Pride in London about our 2021 event: https://t.co/37fskp8A50— Pride in London (@PrideInLondon) August 6, 2021
Speaking to Attitude, Tatchell disputed the need to cancel Pride in London given the success of his own event only weeks ago, arguing the reasons given were “implausible”.
“There are no Covid regulations or guidelines against outdoor parades,” he says.
“The Reclaim London Pride march was attended by thousands of mask-wearing people on 24 July, with no objection from the government, health authorities or police.”
Tatchell also points to information that seemingly contradicts the Pride in London statement.
“I was informed by a Pride insider that the parade route had been agreed and approved. Residents on the route had been reportedly notified of the parade and possible disruptions. These preparations would not have happened without official approval for the parade to take place.
“A reason for the cancellation may be because big sponsors like Barclays and Tesco, and some LGBT+ organisations, were allegedly not supporting this year’s parade. This comes in the wake of damaging allegations of racism and bullying within the Pride organisation, which have still not been investigated and which may or may not have been a factor in their decisions.”
Peter Tatchell claims he has tried speaking to Pride in London’s Executive Director, Christopher Joel-Deshields, regarding these issues, but says he only received a response from Deshields saying he wasn’t willing to answer questions or engage with Tatchell.
Mr. Tatchell says it was a disappointing response and argues that there has been a lack of transparency and accountability from Pride in London.
“We have to get back to what Pride was originally about”
Mr. Tatchell organised July’s “Reclaim Pride” as an alternative event to Pride in London’s planned event on the basis that pride events have been commercialised and depoliticised, according to Tatchell.
2,500 people attended the march through London which aimed to highlight inaction over a ban on conversion therapy, a lack of reform to the Gender Recognition Act, as well as LGBTQ rights all over the world.
Tatchell, who’s marched in every Pride since the UK’s first in 1972, says people have had enough of the corporate-sponsored events, such as Pride in London, and are also angry that they have to pay for an event at all.
“People are angry that the number of marchers is limited to 30,000, which every year results in thousands of people being turned away from the parade. It’s wrong that no one can participate without a paid-for wristband and that Westminster City council forces Pride pay £60,000 to march on public streets.
Thanking Pride in London volunteers for their work, Tatchell says “a major rethink” is needed, and that, “we have to get back to what Pride was originally about,”: LGBTQ visibility.
You can watch a film on “Reclaim Pride” below:
Attitude has approached Pride in London for comment.
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