Making its return to the city’s streets after a two-year Covid hiatus, the Bristol Pride march brought tens of thousands of people out in support of LGBTQ+ rights.
A river of flags, banners and costumes, Saturday’s parade marched a route from Castle Park through the city centre, Harbourside and on to Lloyds Amphitheatre. The column of people was so vast it took over an hour to pass a single point.
This year’s Pride had special significance as the 50th anniversary of Pride.
Eve Russell, Pride Festival Director, said: ‘It feels even more important than ever to be able to bring the community back together to celebrate and protest.
‘We mark the 50th Anniversary of the first Pride march in the UK and LGBT+ rights are still being fought for, not only does the march serve as a reminder of that but it also gives the community the visibility to say, loudly and proudly we are here and we’re not going anywhere.’
Despite many advances in LGBTQ+ rights in the last half century, there are still many battles to be fought. In this year alone LGBTQ+ rights and freedoms have been attacked and threatened.
In Bristol this year there have been heated confrontations when trans rights activists have protested controversial speakers and events, such as the recent rally by Posie Parker.
There is likewise cause for concern on the national stage. Earlier this year a potential ban on conversion therapy was watered down in the Queen’s Speech. An outright ban on practises that aim to “cure” LGBTQ+ people of their sexuality and gender was replaced by a ban that only convered lesbian, gay and bisexual people and only banned therapy for children and when practised without consent.
Campaigners have also sounded the alarm about proposals to reform the 1998 Human Rights Act which threaten ‘to limit the potential for [rights-based] cases to be brought and to succeed in the UK courts in future. At worst they pave the way for LGBT+ rights in this country to be rolled back.’
Most recently, anti-LGBTQ+ dog whistles are being sounded as leadership campaigns begin to replace Boris Johnson as Prime Minister following his sudden ousting this week.
Saturday’s parade was not without its own controversy. As the main column arrived at the west end of Baldwin Street it found its path onto Anchor Road blocked by counterprotesers from anti-capitalist, anarchist and trans rights groups calling for an end to corporate involvement in Pride. The group’s blocked the parade route for 15 minutes before dispersing.
Although it began as not only a protest demanding recognition and rights but also as a radical challenge to the very notion of heteronormative society, Pride has in recent years been accused of becoming too corpoate, a vehicle for big companies to boost their brand.
In a statement released last week the anti-capitalist protesters said they were taking a stand because: ‘we are fed up of companies and politicians draping themselves in rainbow symbols while their system drives us into poverty.’
The statement continued: ‘now, more than ever – as GRT [Gypsy, Roma, Traveller] communities, BIPOC [Black, Indigenous and People of Colour] folks, trans people and sex workers come under attack from new laws, schemes and bigotries that make us all less free, while the rich try to make us all pay for their system’s crisis – we need to come together to organise and build the connections and confidence that will allow us to fight back.’
The main parade continued towards Lloyds Amphitheatre from where buses carried attendees to the festival on the Downs which continued into the evening.