8 months ago
June is Pride month, and to celebrate we took a look at Clapham’s historical links with the Pride movement.
The history of London Pride started in 1971, two years after the Stonewall events that took place in New York that really kick-started the global movement around gay rights. The first Gay Pride March under that name was held on the 1st of July 1972 and was organised by Gay Liberation Front. Since that year there have been Pride celebrations in London every June, seeing parades, parties and campaigners colourfully take to the streets.
Clapham has strong historical links with Pride. In 1996 the Pride festival took place on the Common, acting as the gathering location for everyone after the parade was over. The 2 & 1/4 mile march finished at Westminster and then busses shuttled them over to the Common for the afterparty. It was estimated that 70,000 joined the march and a staggering 250,000 attended the festival and, it being the 25th (and therefore the jubilee year) Pride march in London, the colour theme of the day was silver. A shining, bustling day for Clapham! The festival itself was an impressive show. 6 stages, 6 dance tents, 100 food vendors, 350 stalls, 14 bars, 200 security guards and even a fully staffed creche… all for £3 entry!
Producer of the ’96 festival, Teddy Witherington, was interviewed by Pride ’96 magazine. Here’s what he said about obtaining the Common to host the festival: “I was dead chuffed to get Clapham Common as the venue… Flat, large and central, Clapham Common offers excellent transport links with the march… The London Pride Festival is now the largest annual free music festival in the world and will be the biggest outdoor event in the UK this year.”
The same magazine spoke a little about what they loved about Clapham Common as a choice for the Pride Celebrations. We especially love this quote from the cheeky publication: “Clapham Common, with its history of popular entertainment and sports, was once described as “a real People’s Park” and our assembling her for Pride is part of that tradition. It is also- day in, day out- a place of much beauty and now has an important environmental role. With its ponds, wildlife, trees and other plants, it is a thing to love, admire and cherish. Just like us.” We couldn’t agree more.
Clapham Common hosted the 1997 festival too, which saw 50,000 more attendees flock to the South West after the annual march. That year United Airlines was the main sponsor and invested £68,500 into the celebrations and big ticket acts like the Pet Shop Boys and Erasure took to the stage. Prime Minister Tony Blair gave a message of support for the event which was read out by Gay Heritage Secretary Chris Smith. It was the start of the Pride celebrations becoming part of mainstream, as they are seen today.