Veterans from UK’s first Pride to mark 50th anniversary of ‘revolutionary’ event

Around 700 hundred people took part in the UK’s first Pride march (Picture: Jamie Gardiner/Simon Watney/PA)

On July 1, 1972, hundreds of members of the LGBTQ+ community and allies took to the streets of London for the UK’s first-ever Pride march.

The group marched from Trafalgar Square to Hyde park carrying placards, banners and chanting slogans.

There was a heavy police presence and a not wholly welcoming reaction from the public but the march, organised by the Gay Liberation Front (GLF), was Britain’s first Pride and in the words of one attendee ‘signalled a real change in British society’.

On July 1, 2022, veterans of the first Pride march will retrace the route of the original protest to mark the event’s 50th anniversary.

Among them will be today’s guest editor Peter Tatchell, who was one of around 30 GLF members who helped organise the inaugural march.

‘We came up with the idea of gay pride because mainstream straight society said we should be ashamed of who we were,’ Peter told

Homosexuality between men was partially decriminalised in 1967, but it did little to reduce discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community.

Gay Pride march 1972 (Picture: Simon Watney)
Attendees described London’s first Pride march as feeling ‘revolutionary’ (Picture: Simon Watney)

‘Gay bashing and violence was rife, including murders,’ Peter added.

‘Most LGBT+ people dared not come out and show their faces in public.

‘They feared arrest, rejection by their friends and families and being sacked from their jobs.

‘Organising the first gay Pride was a huge gamble, we had no idea if anybody would turn up.’

Two weeks before the march Peter and other members of the GLF went to Earls Court to spread the word about the march.

Peter Tatchell (centre) speaks during a protest outside Downing Street in London, over transgender people not being included in plans to ban conversion therapy. Picture date: Sunday April 10, 2022. PA Photo. See PA story PROTEST Therapy. Photo credit should read: Yui Mok/PA Wire
Peter Tatchell (centre) was present at the first Gay Pride in 1972, and still campaigns for LGBT+ rights today (Picture: PA)

‘We received a mostly negative reaction from gay men at The Bolton and Coleherne pubs,’ he said.

‘Bar staff and customers forced us out of the Coleherne and some gay customers threw bottles and coins at us.

‘They said things like you “Shouldn’t draw attention to us”, “Don’t make a fuss. We should keep our heads down”.’

However, when the day of the march came, around 700 people from across the UK turned up to attend.

Gay pride 1972 (Picture: Jamie Gardiner)
There was a heavy police presence in 1972 (Picture: Jamie Gardiner)

Marking the 50th Anniversary of the UK’s first Pride

On July 1, veterans, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and allies will retrace the route of the UK’s first Pride March.

The group will meet in front of St. Martin in the Fields at 1:00pm and walk by way of Charing Cross Road and Oxford Street to Marble Arch and Speakers Corner.

Peter said the march was heavily policed and got a mixed reaction from the public but felt like a moment of change.

‘It was so incredibly exciting, daring, you almost felt revolutionary,’ he said.

‘We were going against the homophobic traditions of centuries.

‘It was a carnival-style parade. Full of joy and exuberance. But it was also a protest.

‘We were demanding freedom. We were claiming our right to public space against the society that said we should be ashamed and hideaway, our very presence was an act of defiance.

‘The aim of that first Pride was to celebrate LGBTQ+ visibility, life and culture and also make our claim for dignity, respect and liberation.’

Gay Pride march 1972 (Picture: Simon Watney)
One of the many placards people carried at London’s first Gay Pride march in 1972 (Picture: Simon Watney)

Help us raise £10k for Kyiv Pride and a UK LGBT+ charity

To celebrate 50 years of Pride, has teamed up with Kyiv Pride to raise money for their important work in Ukraine.

Despite war raging around them, Kyiv Pride continue to help LGBTQ+ people, offering those in need shelter, food and psychological support.

We will be splitting the cash with a grassroots charity closer to home.

You can donate here

Peter said it was ‘amazing to witness the progress’ made in the five decades since the first march, especially since 1999.

‘Never have so many discriminatory laws been repealed in such a short space of time,’ he added. 

‘Never has a marginalised community been mainstreamed so quickly. 

Also present at the 1972 march and who will be attending on July 1 is Mair Twissel, 78, who became a member of GLF when she moved to London in 1970.

‘GLF was a protest, it used colourful means to express itself like street theatre and various things like that but it was a protest and it was inclusive for everyone,’ she said.

Gay pride 1972 - 1 - (Picture: Jamie Gardiner)
After the march people relaxed in Hyde Park, sharing drink, food, dope and playing party games. Peter Tatchell is pictured wearing a black jacket and purple trousers (Picture: Jamie Gardiner)

Mair said the 1972 Pride march was ‘just one of many’ events she attended with GLF members and other groups during the early seventies.

‘Some people just didn’t know what we were about, they had no idea,’ she added.

‘Some shouted abuse, some looked angry as if we shouldn’t be there, it was like you should be out of sight out of mind.’

Nettie Pollard, 72, also marched in 1972, and many other GLF marches in the early 1970s.

‘It was a pretty big thing to go and walk out on the streets in London, saying, “I’m gay and I’m lesbian” it was a pretty big decision,’ she said.

‘A lot of us actually, you know, were in some danger of something bad happening to us, apart from things like being beaten up or anything like that.’

Gay Pride march 1972 (Picture: Simon Watney)
Pride protestors marched through London chanting and carrying placards (Picture: Simon Watney)

Despite the risks, Nettie said she remembered the march itself being a ‘really happy’ and ‘exciting’ event.

‘It was solidarity. It was love. It was anger. It was fun,’ she said.

‘We all walked with arms around each other and kissing, it was just a wonderful experience to do that in public, not inside a hall at a GLF meeting.

‘A lot of tourists were sort of gawping at us wondering what on earth it was. I mean, I think a lot of them had no idea what gay meant in those days. 

‘None of the media actually covered it but then you see, that wasn’t really the point. The point was we wanted to say something for ourselves and to other gay people.

‘It was a seed that created a sort of revolution almost among LGBTQ+ people.’

Gay Pride march 1972 (Picture: Simon Watney)
Simon Watney (left) at the UK’s first Gay Pride march in 1972 (Picture: Simon Watney)

Nettie said marchers had some ‘great slogans’ including ‘Give us a G. Give us an A, give us a Y. What’s that say? GAY’, ‘what’s gay. Good. What else is gay? Angry?’

Simon Watney first became involved with the GLF when he met one of the movement’s founders Bob Mellors while studying at Sussex University.

‘GLF was a kind of explosion of enthusiasm, energy and anger, but also hope and optimism,’ he said.

‘The first Pride march was remarkable emergence of all of that.’

Simon said GLF was the ‘catalyst’ for a whole raft of changes which came in the wake of an ‘explosion of partying and confidence’ of which Gay Pride was ‘very emblematic’.

He said he remembered coming up to London for the march with his then boyfriend.

Simon Watney (Picture: Simon Watney)
Simon Watney said the London’s first Pride march in 1972 felt ‘astonishing’ (Picture: Simon Watney)

‘I can remember thinking at the time, this is remarkable, it was like a GLF meeting but a GLF meeting on the march,’ he said.

‘We had chants, “two, four, six, eight, gay is just as good as straight”, all sorts of typical march slogans.

Simon said to him Pride was about ‘having a sense of your own personal dignity, to make love with who you like and a sense of belonging to a social constituency’.

‘Neither of those things were available before gay liberation and they both come out of gay liberation and I think one can identify them both as being gay Pride,’ he added.

‘I think the 50th anniversary of Pride is good both intrinsically in itself but also just because it represents the sense that there is historical memory.

‘GLF signalled a real change in British society. That was the thing that was astonishing. It really was change and changes like that don’t happen very often.’

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at [email protected].

For more stories like this, check our news page. celebrates 50 years of Pride

This year marks 50 years of Pride, so it seems only fitting that goes above and beyond in our ongoing LGBTQ+ support, through a wealth of content that not only celebrates all things Pride, but also share stories, take time to reflect and raises awareness for the community this Pride Month.

MORE: Find all of’s Pride coverage right here

And we’ve got some great names on board to help us, too. From a list of famous guest editors taking over the site for a week that includes Rob Rinder, Nicola Adams, Peter Tatchell, Kimberly Hart-Simpson, John Whaite, Anna Richardson and Dr Ranj, we’ll also have the likes Sir Ian McKellen and Drag Race stars The Vivienne, Lawrence Chaney and Tia Kofi offering their insights. 

During Pride Month, which runs from 1 – 30 June, will also be supporting Kyiv Pride, a Ukrainian charity forced to work harder than ever to protect the rights of the LGBTQ+ community during times of conflict. To find out more about their work, and what you can do to support them, click here.

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