In normal circumstances, Pride in London would be preparing to host its annual parade. Part protest march, part carnival, it has become a major tourist attraction and a key date in London’s cultural calendar, with around 1.5 million people turning up to take part in 2019.
But with the coronavirus pandemic putting a stop to large-scale gatherings, Pride in London has had to cancel this year’s event and postpone its celebrations until summer 2021. “Obviously it was a devastating blow that Pride in London got cancelled, both for our volunteers … and also for the whole community,” says director of marketing Tom Stevens.
While some organisers have chosen to move their events online during lockdowns – creating virtual festivals, art exhibitions and club nights – Pride in London has opted for a different approach, choosing instead to focus its efforts on promoting ‘allyship’ within London’s LGBT+ community and raising funds for grassroots organisations around the UK.
As Stevens points out, no digital event can quite capture the feeling of being part of a million-strong crowd in London’s Oxford Circus – so from the outset, the team at Pride in London decided to focus on reflecting the spirit of Pride in other ways.
“One of the initial challenges we came up against was how do we try and create that feeling [of Pride] … what is the objective of Pride, and how do we recreate that?” says Stevens. “The important thing for us [this year] is remembering that role that Pride plays in people’s lives, and remembering that for many people who come, it’s the only day of the year where they get to be truly who they are, and feel visible and valid and surrounded by other people like them.”