London Pride Parade returns after 3-year pandemic hiatus

Pride flags representing the LGBTIQ+ community hang across Regent Street on June 26 in London, ahead of next week's parade. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (BLOOMBERG) - The Pride Parade returns to the streets of London on Saturday (July 2) after a hiatus during the pandemic, with thousands of people expected to march through the city to celebrate 50 years since the movement's protest-rooted inception.

Britain is a changed place since the last big event in 2019.

A surge in hate crimes helped dent its image as a haven of tolerance and equality, while the Conservative government's refusal to reform the gender recognition law and completely ban conversion therapy has stoked fierce debate.

The country is now not even in the region's top 10 most LGBTQ-friendly nations, according to one ranking, having topped it nearly a decade ago.

Pride itself has been rocked by controversy, including by worries that it has not dealt properly with allegations of racism and bullying of volunteers that surfaced last year.

Citigroup decided not to provide sponsorship, while Barclays is missing from the raft of firms named as partners on the organisation's website.

The campaigning group has apologised and vowed an overhaul, including to draw at least half its leadership team from minority and ethnic backgrounds.

"Pride in London exists to bring the community together, which includes people from every race, ethnicity, background, sexuality and gender," its organisers said in an e-mailed statement.

Seeking a fresh start, it is also promising to return to its history as grass-roots activism - by pushing the government to reform to the Gender Recognition Act to allow self-ID of gender, provide equal protection for LGBTQ communities against hate crime and ban so-called conversion therapy for transgender people, as well as for homosexual or bisexual people.

The first pride parade in London took place in 1972 and was organised by the Gay Liberation Front, a short-lived political group that fought for equality.

This year, some 300 floats and crowds will follow that same route, from Hyde Park Corner to Trafalgar Square, before eventually finishing in Whitehall.

Stars such as Ava Max, Eurovision-winning singer Netta Barzilai and Samantha Mumba will perform on stages set up across the capital.

Dozens of other events will also be held, including a tour of the British Museum and a boat party on the Thames.

The cost of running the London march and wider festival is estimated to run into the seven figures. Gold sponsors include BT Group and Coca-Cola.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.