Keeping it in the room: health, happiness and living in Berlin
The organisation of this year’s gay Pride, which was also World Pride to coincide with London 2012, was, quite frankly, a farce. A few days before the event, all the major events in Soho were cancelled. Bars were warned not to have any outside sound systems, and that drinking must be kept within their normal allocated spaces on the pavement. To describe the organising committee as anything less than incompetent would be kind to them.
It was even announced that the parade would be moved back two hours, to 11am, in order to reduce the number of people attending.
In the 20 or so years that I’ve been going to Pride, I’ve never walked the whole parade before. I’ve always joined half way, or just watched. This year, I decided, almost entirely as a result of the enforced move to 11am, I was going to march the entire route. I’d been invited to join the THT group, who I volunteer with already, so joined them at 10:15 on Baker Street.
Despite the earlier planned start, we didn’t get moving until about 12:30. I was given a roll of stickers, and slapped one on anyone I passed along the route who didn’t have one already. It rained briefly a couple of times, which I thought would do Boris’s job for him and keep crowds down, but it didn’t seem to – and, as BBC commentators would say, it didn’t even dampen their spirits!
I was enjoying myself so much stickering people, as a brass band marched with us, that I didn’t really pay much attention to where we were. Every so often, I’d notice I was in Oxford Street, or Regent Street, or Piccadilly Circus.
In Soho, a couple of things were noticeable:
I went straight to Soho Square, which, for the first time, wasn’t closed off with security controlling the entrance. The gates were all open and no-one was having trouble with crowd control. People were sitting, chatting, drinking and enjoying the square.
The routes to the square, which are normally barriered off with security people enforcing a stupid one way system, were all open. Again, there was no problem with crowd control.
By having no outside sound systems, there was no single place for everyone to congregate – which meant people just wandered around or sat down. And with no over-officious security to deal with, everyone was significantly more relaxed than they’d been in previous years.
Despite the Pride committee’s incompetence – or perhaps thanks to it – I had my best Pride ever. I enjoyed both the march and the gathering in Soho afterwards. Running out of money was a blessing; it meant we were all able to enjoy Soho just as it is on a normal day; but with a lot more people around.
The police said they’d close the streets to traffic if they felt they needed to, on health & safety grounds – it’s a shame that they didn’t do that.