With London’s Gay Pride hitting the streets tomorrow, Sarah Gudgin, Curator of Oral History and Contemporary Collecting, revisits an interview with world-renowned gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.
“We were for the first time in history coming out in our thousands. It had never been done before. Not only coming out but proud and defiant.”
Peter Tatchell, born 1952
London’s Gay Pride event on 7 July 2012 will be a focal point for the LGBTQ community in the capital. This year, the annual event is given even more significance as it is also World Pride in London, proving an opportunity to show solidarity with LGBTQ people globally. The event will attract large numbers of overseas visitors, many coming from countries where they are facing danger, prejudice, persecution and even death for being gay. However, this year amid controversies around funding, and there are calls for Pride to be scaled back to a political march.
Material in the Museum of London’s collections are a reminder of Pride’s modest but significant beginnings as UK Gay Pride Rally in 1972, which was scheduled to commemorate the Stonewall riots of 1969.
The original rally attracted around 2,000 participants who marched together through London’s streets for the first time. The march has been described as a ‘watershed event’ in gay history, and came at a time when many LGBTQ people were suffering prejudice and inequality. The rally was an important step in helping to create a gay liberation movement which would go on to fight for equality and justice for the LGBTQ community.
Peter Tatchell was amongst the original courageous campaigners who were part of the march. His memories recall the event (link opens mp3 audio file).
Peter’s recollections show us the importance of Pride to past generations, and how its original remit as a vehicle for raising awareness for social and political change must not be forgotten.
Looking at the official magazine of Gay Pride, London 07 published in 2007, shows how Pride had evolved and changed, reflecting a more confident LGBTQ community. Its pages are full of articles, advertisements and listings of events organised to celebrate the annual event. By this time Pride had become a corporate-sponsored event attracting over a million people, and helping to make it one of the largest outdoor events in the UK.
London’s Gay Pride has developed to combine a mix of personal, social and political motivations and is much more than simply an excuse for the LGBTQ community to party. It also provides an opportunity to demonstrate, raise awareness, and celebrate in visible numbers in the capital. As an annual event, it has contributed towards putting London on the list of the most gay-friendly capitals in the world.
Peter Tatchell’s interview was carried out as part of the London Liberationists video oral history project and forms part of the Museum of London’s Oral History Collection. Additional content from the project can be seen in an audio visual interactive in the Galleries of Modern London. You can also hear other interviews with Peter Tatchell as well as Sue Sanders and Christine Burns on Collections Online.