If you live in London, this year’s ‘Pride’, held on Saturday 27 June, would have been hard to miss. Corporate sponsors were falling over themselves to attach rainbows to their logos. Adverts lined tube escalators proudly declaring this or that company’s sponsorship of the event. Media coverage was extensive.
The London of 1972 was rather different. Being gay may not have been illegal – it had graciously been decriminalised in England and Wales five years earlier with the passing of the Sexual Offences Act, 1967. (It took Scotland until 1980, and Northern Ireland until 1982.) But kissing your same-sex partner in public was likely to result in getting your collar felt. And not in a sweet, sexy kind of way.
But on this day in 1972, the Gay Liberation Front organised a Gay Pride march from Trafalgar Square to Hyde Park. Around 700 people turned up, and, despite being “swamped by a very heavy, aggressive police presence”, according to Peter Tatchell, marched through the streets and had a picnic in the park.
The date was chosen because it was the nearest Saturday to 28 June, the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York, sparked when police stormed the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar.
Since then, Pride London, as it is currently called (‘London Pride’ having already been taken) has ballooned into a huge party with 750,000 people. And there are now some 40 separate ‘Pride’ events across the UK.
It’s big business, too. The organisers get £100,000 of public funding, but corporate sponsorship makes up the rest – £600,000 this year. And it’s not just out of the goodness of their hearts. The ‘Pink Pound’ – both its spending power and the propensity to shun companies seen as not queer-friendly – is worth something in the region of £70bn-£80bn, according to Retail Week.
Also on this day
On this day in 1874 the world’s first commercially successful typewriter, the “Sholes & Glidden Type Writer”, went on sale. Read more here.