With a turnout of over a million onlookers and more than 30,000 taking part in the parade itself, Pride in London 2023 was more eventful than ever. Appearances ranged from that of Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, who marched alongside those in the parade, to the cast of Heartstopper, who for the second year running, gave religious protesters the middle finger.
Pride in London hosted a wide array of talent, consisting of a parade along with several stages exhibiting LGBTQUIA+ artists at the beginning of July. Headlining the event was Adam Lambert, joined by Rita Ora on the main stage at Trafalgar Square. Other acts were dispersed across the capital in Leicester Square, Golden Square, Soho Square and Dean Street.
Celebrations marked the 51st parade since London Pride’s inception in 1972, with this year’s campaign theme, #NeverMarchAlone, being an expression of solidarity with the trans and non-binary community who have been subject to increasing and, worryingly normalised, hostility from large sections of society.
Pride in London has stated on its website that the #NeverMarchAlone campaign is dedicated “to champion[ing] trans and non-binary allyship” amidst “increasing amounts of hatred and negative portrayals from politicians to the media”.
Historically, Pride is a celebration and a protest, with 2023’s gatherings marked by a strong streak of activism. Signs, speeches and chants throughout the day challenged the patriarchy, expressed dissatisfaction with the current Conservative government, protested anti-migrant sentiments and policies, and marked solidarity with the trans and non-binary community.
When interviewed at Pride, Sadiq Khan argued that the trans community had been “stigmatised, demonised and weaponised in a culture war”. In reaction to a recent audio file that exposed Rishi Sunak making transphobic jokes with other Tory MPs, Khan said he was angered and shocked, believing that Sunak should publicly apologise. Khan further questioned the Prime Minister’s judgement in “[making] the environment even worse by making fun of [trans people] to try and get a cheap laugh from your backbench MPs”.
Protests however not only came from event-goers but also from Just Stop Oil, whose members initially delayed the parade by sitting in front of the Coca-Cola float before being arrested by police on the premise of being a public nuisance. Just Stop Oil had indicated that they would take action at Pride, citing sponsors from “high-polluting industries” as the primary reason.
James Skeet, a Just Stop Oil spokesperson, stated that “these partnerships embarrass the LGBTQ+ community at a time when much of the cultural world is rejecting ties to these toxic industries”.
“It speaks to how far we’ve come as a community that high-polluting industries and the banks that fund them now see Pride as a useful vehicle for sanitising their reputations, waving rainbow flags in one hand whilst accelerating social collapse with the other.”
Sadiq Khan in a statement prior to London Pride expressed that Just Stop Oil is a “really important pressure group”, further stating he supported the right to lawful and peaceful protest. On the day, Khan called for respect for Pride in London’s parade arguing that Pride is a protest in itself and should not be deprived of its ability to protest.
“The irony where people on a protest could have a protest against them isn’t lost on members of this wonderful [LGBTQ+] community”.
Published Online: 16/07/2023