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LGBTQ covers of Time Out magazine
Photo: Time Out

Decades of love: the story of Time Out and Pride in London

From unhappy undercover police to radical trans activists

Written by
Nick Levine
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1972: The first Gay Pride Week takes place in London, culminating in a march from Trafalgar Square to Hyde Park on Saturday, July 1. Time Out’s Gay News editor Denis Lemon reports on the week’s events, noting that plain-clothes police officers in Hyde Park ‘totally failed to look part of the happy crowd of gays’.

1976: After just a few years, Gay Pride Week has become an annual fixture. A listing posted by the Campaign for Homosexual Equality in Time Out’s AgitProp section reads: ‘We are coming together for a public demonstration, in various ways, that we are glad to be gay, and to demand our rights as citizens.’ 

1978: Time Out reports that an argument broke out in a Bloomsbury pub during Gay Pride Week after a customer made an anti-gay remark. Two women who reacted to the comments were arrested for allegedly using threatening language and obstructing the police. They plan to plead not guilty, but the Gay Activists Alliance says ‘the gay movement will pay their fines’ if they’re convicted.

1979: Time Out puts a pink triangle on the cover to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots (which are generally considered the wellspring of the modern-day LGBTQ+ rights movement). It's a powerful statement reflecting the fact that where once the pink triangle was ‘a mark of oppression’, it’s now been reclaimed as a ‘badge of Pride’.

1987: As London gears up for Gay Pride Week, Time Out staffer John Gill reports on what London can learn from San Francisco's response to the HIV/AIDS crisis. ‘Progress on the AIDS front runs parallel with an unprecedented backlash,’ he writes. ‘At any one of the numerous voluntary organisations you'll be heartened by the extent and success of individual effort; at a hospital, you'll see just how much more money is still needed.’

1992: The first-ever EuroPride is held in London on June 27. A Time Out preview notes that a parade through central London will be ‘followed by eight hours of entertainment at a huge festival in Brockwell Park’. However, there are signs that Pride is losing its bite. ‘For all its banner waving and slogan chanting,’ it says, 'the day is not about making a party political statement, but more about celebrating the sheer diversity of lesbians and gays.’

1996: At this point, the commercialisation of Pride has become a hot topic within the LGBTQ+ community. Time Out's Gay & Lesbian editor Paul Burston addresses this head-on in a pithy column. ‘I do remember Pride... back in the days before it became a franchise,’ he writes. ‘Back then, [it] was simply a day when lesbians, gay men and their friends got together and felt really proud as they marched through the West End singing songs and scaring old ladies.’

2000: For the last few years, Pride has been rebranded as… Mardi Gras. In a preview piece titled ‘Fight for your rights – and party!’, Burston addresses its ongoing identity crisis. He notes that this year's march will be led by members of the Gay Liberation Front – instigators of the inaugural 1972 march – in an effort ‘to fend off accusations that last year's event was "apolitical".’

2005: Mardi Gras is out, Gay Pride is back. The event's chief executive Jason Pollock tells Burston that Pride has ‘definitely gone back to basics’ and outlines ways in which the parade has been revitalised. It's taking place on July 2, the same day as the global Live 8 concert series, but Pollock says ‘anyone who'd rather be at home watching Madonna on the telly really ought to question their commitment’.

2007: In a poignant three-page feature, Burston reflects on his own relationship with Pride and history of LGBTQ+ activism. ‘Why is Pride still important?’ he writes. ‘Because homophobia hasn't gone away. Because anti-gay bullying still exists. Because gay visibility is still an issue. Because you never have to tell the world you're straight.’

2016: The Orlando queer nightclub shooting claims 49 lives on June 12: less than a fortnight before London's Pride march on June 25. Time Out writer Nick Levine argues that Pride is more than vital than ever in its wake: ‘Pride is a time to celebrate the rights and freedoms we have and to remember those who fought so hard for them. It's a time to show homophobic terrorists we can't be cowed into crawling back in the closet.’

2018: Sink the Pink, the super-inclusive LGBTQ+ party starters, are Time Out's Pride Week cover stars. Crew member Grace Shush tells us: ‘Pride shouldn’t be about a man in a thong on a float full of white people. It should be a huge spectrum of colour, sexuality and genders, because as a community we’ve still got a long way to go’.

2019: By now, there’s greater awareness that a single monolithic Pride event can’t serve the entire community. Time Out writer Paula Akpan reports on how UK Black Pride has grown into Europe’s largest annual celebration for LGBTQ+ people of African, Asian, Caribbean, Middle Eastern and Latin American descent. ‘I’m seen as a Black woman before anyone knows anything about my sexuality,’ co-founder Lady Phyll says. ‘So creating this space was about being able to be present, visible and empowered with people who could understand your struggle.’

2021: Pride in London has been cancelled for the second consecutive year because of Covid-19. Time Out celebrates the resilience of London’s LGBTQ+ community by gathering nightlife icons including Jay Jay Revlon, Princess Julia and Baby Lame for a defiant cover shoot. 'It was never just about the parade,' the strapline reads. 'The real meaning of Pride is in our LGBTQ+ venues.'

2022: In a Pride special, trans activist Munroe Bergdorf becomes Time Out’s first ever digital cover star. ‘I don’t think things will be like this for ever,’ she says. 'The trans community is a couple of decades behind the gay community, but the way that time moves forward is an inclusive one.'

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