Pride at London Met
London Met joined the London Pride Parade for the first time in its 50-year history this weekend. Wendy Sloane, Associate Professor of Journalism reports from the celebrations.
Date: 4 July 2022
London Met staff and students came out to celebrate the 50th anniversary celebration of Pride on Saturday, including members of the LGBTQIA+ Staff Network, the Students’ Union, the LGBT Society, and their allies.
They were met by Vice-Chancellor Lynn Dobbs and Deputy Vice-Chancellor Julie Hall, who joined the enormous crowds laughing, singing, chanting and marching from Hyde Park Corner to Whitehall Palace. The crowds carried rainbow flags and posters and dressed up in outfits designed to impress, ranging from business suits to bodysuits, full-on drag to dog costumes, and tight shorts and leather waistcoats topped off with elaborate peacock feather headdresses.
“I’m proud to be here and show what London Met stands for, a university where everyone is welcome that stands for social justice,” said Hall. Other universities who came to show their support for Pride included Brunel, Westminster, LSE, Middlesex, and the University of Cambridge.
“I’m really enjoying the day,” remarked VC Dobbs, posing for a photo with a colleague, Dale Rees, who was dressed up as Captain Pride with a London Met t-shirt and rainbow flag cape. “It’s great to be here with so many fabulous colleagues and students.” Dobbs’ son Joe later tweeted: “Look at my lovely mum, Professor Mum, being the best ally with her lush colleagues. I am so lucky to have her.”
More than a million people were estimated to have taken part in the parade, the first one held since 2019 due to the pandemic. People decorated their faces and bodies with face paint and glitter in homage to the original UK march in July, 1972, organised by the Gay Liberation Front. London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who is a London Met alumni, made an appearance, telling crowds there was “still a danger” to the LGBTQIA+ community, referring to the two people tragically killed in Oslo during the Norwegian capital’s Pride events last week.
Signs such as “We’re here, we’re queer and we won’t disappear” and “Black trans liberation now” dotted the landscape, as marchers took to the streets amongst a backdrop of brightly coloured floats, dancers and steel drum performances.
Student Kerrie Draghi, who is getting her MA in Creative, Digital and Professional Writing, consistently received rounds of applause from the crowds watching from the sidelines as she held up a sign saying Abortion is our human right. Keep your bans off our bodies. “I'm here to celebrate freedom and equality. None of us is free until we all are,” she said, referencing the recent decision by the US Supreme Court to overturn Roe v Wade, a landmark legal ruling to legalise abortion which came into effect in January 1973, not long after the first UK Pride march.
First-year Counselling and Coaching student Karina Kirilova, who was wearing a brightly coloured tutu that was the envy of many, said that she wanted to take part to “feel part of the community, to feel free to be myself. It’s the feeling that I belong.” Commented Ron Cambridge, Head of Collaborative Partnerships for the Guildhall School of Business and Law: "I love that tutu! Next year I am dressing up!"
Captain Pride, who is also a Senior Lecturer in Health Sciences, pointed out that today’s Pride marked a significant moment for London Met. “I’m proud we’re here as it’s the first time we’re at Pride,” he said. “It’s important to have this ability to show that we matter, and that we are part of society.” London Met’s participation in the march was made possible by Brian Tutt, Head of Student Experience and Academic Outcomes, School of Social Sciences and Professions, and a Staff Network lead.
At one point a far-right group held up signs heckling the marchers, claiming to be quoting the Bible. “The PRIDE of thine heart hath deceived thee,” read one placard. “For even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature,” read another, held up by a greying, middle-aged man looking deeply uncomfortable – and very hot on the warm summer day - in a shirt tightly buttoned up his neck and a heavy jacket. While they yelled hatred into a megaphone, a young man in a purple bodysuit danced gleefully before them as the other marchers applauded.
“It’s great to be here for London Met’s first Pride march, and I’m especially glad that my niece could be here with me from Canada,” said Associate Professor Rishi Trikha, who works on London Met’s Theatre and Film and Theatre and Performance BAs. “She is the only member of the family who is supportive of my truth.”
As the marchers walked on Whitehall, the serious political significance of the event did not escape them. “From my personal perspective, it's so important to be protesting close to the centre of power in Downing Street where promises are being broken by Boris Johnson about the inclusion of trans people in legislation to outlaw conversion therapy," said Chris Lane, Interim Head of the School of Computing and Digital Media, as he waved a trans flag. You can’t have LGBT without the T.