Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Proud to have Pride in Hackney

Hung-over and sleepy, the post Haggerston jaunt to Vogue Fabrics had taken its toll, passing out around 5am; we barely flinched when Chloe poked her head round the door. Pulling ourselves out of bed, armed with Earl Grey, graze goodies and a fresh outfit, save my companion and headed out the door. The meeting point was Hackney Town Hall, just across London Fields, five minutes from my bunker, easy. Initially the gathering took the modest quota of circa 300 people, although difficult to tell. The vibe was friendly; we encountered a lovely guy from Melbourne - he's been in London for years and is currently testing a cure for a cancer. We wait around for direction and my housemate Chloe (who assisted with the planning and execution) pulls out her green microphone to organise the troops and we're off.

Instantly the march has grown, banners and a portable sound system have appeared - the sun pops out from behind the cloud. I had forgotten how uplifting a mass walk along a road can be, the freedom to shout as loud as you want and the camaraderie that comes from your fellow protestors, dogs, children, people of all ages. It was interesting to see how the climate changed as we walked through the grimier areas of Mare Street/Hackney Road. It felt safe being a massive group but it wasn’t all complimentary, on the whole the general vibe was resoundingly positive, interspersed with slight elements of bewilderment and confusion from onlookers. We weren't dressed in crazy attire save a small selection leading the charge, everyone was in there hackney day wear, which made it feel more genuine.

A particularly bizarre moment occurred when we passed what also looked like a caged group of extras from Cormac McCarthy's, The Road, the zombie like, crack ravaged men, angry with the world, shouted out obscenities and objections toward the crowd whilst a group of police created a barrier between us and them.

Despite continued efforts from the crowd marshals for chanting the march was reasonably tame, volume wise, with Queen's 'I want to brake free' blurting out from behind me and pockets of chanting from rousing participants.

Car horns tooting and passersby stirred a voluminous retort of appreciation; I was surprised by many; hot men lingering on balconies, young girls dancing and general nakedness from the houses along the route.

The rally continued inside Shoreditch Church with a stirring speech from Jasper a transsexual, whose grandma had paid for a name change age 12. He talked most importantly about the overall perception of gender and about the freedom to be an effeminate male or masculine female regardless of sexuality. Eloquently delivered it bought the house to a standing ovation, I left after, sensing we'd reached climax, that and the need for sustenance was kicking it. Apparently I missed a speech that rivaled Jaspers from a gay asylum seeker who had born the brunt of many homophobic wrong doings - when arriving in this country it was suggested that he pretend he was straight in order that his application for political asylum stand a stronger chance of success, he remained steadfast and continued his appeal as a gay man.

The police/organisers expected a maximum turnout of 300 people; the final figure was in excess of a 1000, including teenagers from local schools with teachers in tow. This was the first Hackney Pride since the 1980's, with only one arrest (a clash between an animal rights activist and a man with a fox round his neck) which in my eyes is a resounding success. Bring on Hackney Pride 2011; I hope it retains its ethos being all-inclusive and non-commercial.

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