VSboy in seven-inch metallic silver stilettos, a shimmering gold bodycon dress, flame-shaped glasses and a multi-tone weave as his drag character Eva More, 18-year-old Noah Colton was ready to party so as tens of thousands marched – and danced – through the capital for Pride in London, the UK’s largest LGBTQ+ parade.
“I try to focus on fun and see it as a community gathering where you can be whoever you want to be,” he said.
After following the parade for a few hours, the plan for her first Pride was to head to Trafalgar Square to listen to live music and have a drag night in Clapham, south London. “I have more comfortable shoes in my bag,” he admitted.
With the parade led by the Gay Liberation Front, which staged Britain’s first protest in 1972, the event celebrated its 50th anniversary – it was also the first Pride for two years after a Covid-forced hiatus.
“It’s amazing to be back, everyone is happy,” said Patricia Rocam, 29, who was accompanied by a jack russell with a Pride bandana. “For me, it’s about visibility and representation, seeing people like you – it’s like a safe space.
“It is both a protest and a celebration. We are here today to celebrate, but it is on the backs of those who have campaigned before and it is important to remember that.
Amber Whiting, 27 – watching the parade from Haymarket with her friend Connor Mathews, 29 – first attended Pride in London 10 years ago.
“At the time, I didn’t even know the terminology of bisexuality,” she said. “Over the years I’ve realized I’m actually pansexual, but I’m still stigmatized by friends who ‘jokingly’ say I’m just indecisive. Here I feel represented.
After attending three other annual Pride events, she noted that this year felt less “commercial,” with more emphasis on LGBTQ+ groups marching together than marquee floats led by underage celebrities.
“It’s bigger. I feel like everyone here is enjoying it and missing it – it’s nice to be back,” she said.
While the crowd of young people, dressed in the best festival finery, was unmissable on Saturday, many proud veterans were also present.
Winston Woodfine, 59, wearing a Nike cap, Ralph Lauren tracksuit and trainers, said this year would be a more “moderate” affair for him.
“I used to dress with friends, but some of them are no longer with us and some have moved on,” he said.
But he added that he felt the event itself was no less significant. “With any birthday, it’s nice to say thank you [the campaigners] for what they have done, recognizing that there is still a long way to go. We think of Pride as this big gathering, but there can also be people who are alone or just hanging out, and it’s a place where they can meet people or find out about support,” he said. he declares.
Uniformed Metropolitan Police officers did not take part in this year’s parade following investigations which concluded police misconduct ‘probably’ contributed to the deaths of young men murdered by the serial killer Stephen Port. Woodfine called the decision “shameful.” “It’s important to be inclusive. We need them and they need us,” he said.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said there was always a “danger” for the LGBTQ+ community of “discrimination, prejudice and violence”, and warned against “complacency”.
He said: “This year is Pride’s 50th anniversary, celebrating this community, celebrating progress, but also continuing to campaign and never being complacent.”
As the event dominated the center of the capital, with floats blasting dance music, groups of passers-by watched from the sidelines.
Adam, 60, an NHS worker, said he and his friend Marcus, 55, who works in construction, came across the event while on a day trip. “It’s just fantastic. Everyone is having a good time. I come from rural Lincolnshire and you just wouldn’t see something like this in a small town,’ he said.
Many of those the Observer spoke to at the event noted that there is still room for improvement when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights.
“It’s really good to see that almost all floats and flags include the trans flag,” said a 25-year-old who declined to be named. The main thing he missed about the event, he added, was being able to wear glitter on his face in public.
Rosy, 23, a bisexual student attending her first Pride parade, pointed to a group of anti-LGBTQ+ Christian protesters across the road. “It’s a bit depressing, but it shows how important it is,” she said, adding that a gay couple defiantly “kissed” in front of them.