After last year's debacle, Ken Livingstone and Graham Norton used a glitzy reception on Friday to announce the rebirth of Pride 2003 with a free parade followed by a ticketed party, held in Hyde Park for the very first time. OutUK's Adrian Gillan was at the launch.
"This is a historic day for gay pride," crows Mardi Gras Chairman John Miskelly as cameras flash and whir. "After much negotiation, London's Pride event finally makes it to Hyde Park on Saturday 26th July." Cue whoops from assorted well nigh hysterical gay hacks and glitterati. They're all here from Tatchell to Paddick, from Chris Smith to Jeremy Joseph.
Graham Norton parties in the park.
Gazing out over the Serpentine, I almost hear the whistles screeching as 60,000 people part with 20 (25 after 1st July) to converge for the newly-coined 'Pride in the Park' (1pm-10.30pm) at the most central and prestigious location in its 30 year history - following a free 'Pride Parade' starting at Embankment at 11am and passing Parliament and Whitehall en route.

Eyes twitching, Peter Tatchell whispers gently in my ear: "When we first tried to get Hyde Park we were given a flat refusal. Through the 70s and 80s we were rejected. And as recently as 1987 the reply I received was, quote: 'Hyde Park is for families, not for homosexuals.'"

Organisers claim the parade will continue to have a political focus with an increased number of Sydney-style floats - all promoting a political agenda. And, they claim, this will somehow spill over into the park, where you will witness the largest gay dance event ever held in the UK - in three huge marquees.
Headline artists are yet to be announced and there will also be line-dancing and same-sex registering.

"Last year was not the most successful year in Mardi Gras history," Chair Miskelly tells OutUK. "The decision to hold it at Hackney Marshes was a mistake. This year we have listened to the gay community and have an event in Hyde Park with the restored name of 'Pride'. And the parade is free. Of course, we would also like the park event to be free but with unavoidable set-up costs of 1.5 million, that is just not possible without sponsors and some kind of charge."

So the big questions: does the London bash claim to be the national Pride event? Unlike in say Brighton, does the fact we have to pay in London highlight a capital with a scene but no real gay community infrastructure happy to resource things? And will there be any politics amidst the partying?

London Mayor Ken Livingstone told OutUK: "This will become a major international tourist attraction as well as remaining for all London communities, both gay and straight - a balance a bit like Notting Hill Carnival manages."

"I believe Mardi Gras is now here in Hyde Park for generations to come and will rival and excel what Sydney has achieved."

Mayor Ken Livingstone fulfils his promise to bring Pride to Hyde Park.
"We like to think the Pride Parade is more national, going past Parliament and Downing Street," Mardi Gras director Jason Pollock told OutUK. "And Pride in the Park is more London. There will always be an emphasis on politics because we're not 'nearly there yet', despite what some might say. Pride is also a lifestyle celebration - which is actually a political statement in itself."

Host Graham Norton told me: "People from all across the country come to London whereas most other prides are regional. I'd agree it's less of a community feel but it's a bigger event and that's what so exciting: it's so high-profile and you're right here in the middle of London - especially this year."

Norton's PR girl then flusters: "Graham's got to get to Manchester." Of course, if you can't hack it down here either, why not follow his lead: for the massive EuroPride up there in August just a month later?

After last year's Mardi Gras we asked what you thought the future of the event should be - 87% of our respondents thought Pride was as needed now as 5-10 years ago, 63% thought it should be just as political as 5-10 years ago. The most popular reasons stated for holding a Pride were 'reinforcing a sense of community' (45%) and 'boosting visibility' (42%) Most (77%) of you had no objection to commercial sponsorship, half (50%) thought local and national Prides were of equally importance A majority (56%) thought the main annual Pride event should still be held in London. You can get full details of our Pride survey in our archive.

Pride in the Park tickets are already on sale for 20 (25 after 1st July) on 0870 1200 722. More details from the Pride website.

 

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