London Live journalist Sasha Spratt will broadcast Pride in London from backstage at Trafalgar Square this year. Here he explains why Pride is more important than ever.
It’s been a tough year for London. Working with London Live I’ve found myself covering the darker side of humanity far too many times. I’m not going to linger on the tragedies the capital has faced over the past five months, but I will say this: it’s clear that no matter what happens, London carries on, and this year’s Pride celebrations will be another example of this.
Pride in London have chosen this year’s theme as #LoveHappensHere, advertising London as a shining beacon for the LGBT+ community across the world, and yes, arguably we do have it good here in London. But that’s not to say we have it easy. Pride in London carried out research in May this year and found nearly half of LGBT+ people in the capital have experienced hate crime at some point in the past year, a startling figure if you think that this is a country where the majority of us enjoy equal marriage rights and have done for the past three years. If hate crime is treated with a laissez-faire attitude, it will become the norm. It is up to us to stamp out hate crime and the police are on our side. There’s a website that has been set up especially for the LGBT+ community who have experience hate crime – hatehappened.com. There you can find out how to report hate crime, and if you experience it, report it. To quote RuPaul, “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you going to love somebody else?” So London isn’t perfect, but we can make it better.
Later this week I will be speaking to London’s Night Czar, Amy Lamé. She’s tasked with fixing the city’s struggling nightlife. The LGBT+ community has been on the frontline of the issue. We’ve seen a huge number of our venues close, some managing to reopen, but many are now for the queer history books.
There is hope though: Amy is hostess and producer of the world famous Duckie, Saturday nights at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, a venue Amy herself was key in saving before she took up her new role at City Hall. Some argue that the decline in LGBT+ venues is down to greater acceptance in mainstream venues; do we really need to segregate ourselves if being LGBT+ is no longer seen as a crime or a disease in the capital? Attitudes our forefathers and mothers experienced 30, 50 years ago and beyond. However, if hate crime is on the rise as statistics from the Met Police and Pride in London suggest, LGBT+ venues may be needed more than ever. The return of the safe space.
This year we celebrate the 50th anniversary of partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in the UK, the first step in a long journey towards equality – a journey that for some of our brothers and sisters is not yet over. In Northern Ireland equal marriage is not yet recognised. So what has changed in the last 50 years? Apart from a change in laws, we still face hate crime and our venues are under threat. The answer is simple: we are now on the winning side. Pride is a celebration of how far we, LGBT+ and otherwise, have come. It’s also a reminder of how far we have come, we send a message that we will not go back. #LoveHappensHere may say we have it good here in London, but also highlights that across the world many people are still faced with hatred. Stories from Chechnya were a chilling reminder of how vulnerable the LGBT+ community still is.
Last year was my first ever Pride and my mind was blown. There are very few moments that bring millions of people to one space to make noise and share love and stories simply because they want to be proud of who they are, and it happens every year, and will – no matter what.
I’m so looking forward to presenting London Live’s coverage of Pride in London this year because I get to hear your stories and give you the opportunity to share them. See you there!