A megaphone for the LGBT+ community, Pride in London is in full-ideation phrase as it maps out 2020 plans, with a new agency in tow, to ensure this year's parade is bigger and better than ever.
Though it is entering its 48th year, Pride in London is still a work in progress. While it fights for the rights for each LGBT+ individual who still suffer at the hand of anti-social behaviours, it simultaneously tackles accusations of allowing corporation 'pinkwashing' and failures to represent the whole LGBT+ community in the parade.
Pride in London jubilee
Honouring decades of queer revolt instigated by the Stonewall Rising, last year’s Pride in London theme was Jubilee. “Pride Jubilee was the year that we looked back at the past 50 years and celebrated the people and the moments that got us this far,” said Pride in London’s director of marketing, Tom Stevens.
"But it really acknowledged that we do need to keep fighting - we can’t just rest our laurels."
After years of relying on the ad industry’s charity, in 2018, Pride in London appointed its first-ever agency roster in creative from BMB and PR agency Eulogy.
At the end of last year, Pride in London announced it was switching its creative agency. “We always work at Pride at a year by year project basis, so we don’t have an agency of record in the same way, but it's good to get new eyes," insisted Stevens.
It has this year appointed Anomaly which Stevens said "really blew us away with the way it approached the brief" and the "in-depth consideration" of nuances that affects the community.
“It brought to the table a well-represented team, who clearly value diversity," he added.
Anomaly’s chief executive, Camilla Harrisson said the agency was drawn to Pride in London as it's an “important part of the social and cultural fabric of the nation with a complex context around it that is rapidly evolving.”
Given the strength of theme last year - a milestone in Pride and LGBT+ community - Stevens appeared unperturbed about topping it this year. “We need to take it in a slightly another direction - not one that necessarily looks at landmarks, but looking at where are now," he said on this year's theme.
"We're not trying to do something that is necessarily bigger or bolder than last year but something that goes back to telling the community stories like we did with 'Pride Matters' and 'Love Happens.' We want to think about the identity of our community and the intersectionality of the people."
“We’re looking to create an insight-led campaign to make Pride in London famous, but also act as a megaphone for the voices of the LGBT+ community,” added Harrisson on Anomaly’s ideas for 2020.
In the past, Pride in London has been criticised for not being inclusive of the whole community - something it hopes to avoid this year with Harrison stating that it wants to "proudly represent the intersectionality within it."
It plans to launch theme in Q1, and have full campaign run in the months leading up to Pride and on the 27 June.
As the biggest UK Pride event and the seventh-largest gay event in the world, there's a lot of pressure on Pride to get it right as a prototype for other Pride's to follow suit.
Staging a one-day event that pulls in over a million people on such a sensitive issue as LGBT+ rights isn't an easy job to get right, and Pride is still learning how best to approach certain challenges.
One challenge it faces is getting the right measure of party and protest in the mix, while issues over the cost of road closures, barricades, and parking suspensions around the parade has forced the free event to rely heavily on corporate sponsorship - leading to accusations of pinkwashing.
On top of this, given the green revolution that took to the world by storm in 2019, ensuring that its parade is sustainable as possible will be a major challenge for the event.
Party vs protest
Synonymous with the month of June, ‘Pride’ is so much more than a stream of vibrant floats chugging through air thick with rainbow coloured confetti. It’s a celebration of how far the LGBT+ community has come, and a marker of how far its got to go. But getting the right mix of party and protest - on such a sensitive issue - isn't easy.
“Pride means a lot of things to different people - it's still a live conversation," explained Stevens on Pride being both a party and a protest. "But for me, Pride will always be a protest. I will continue to have activism and campaigning at its heart.”
“But progress isn’t linear,” Stevens admitted. “We can’t assume that things are just going to get better, we need to keep fighting.”
Although it was born from protest, Pride is also a celebration of love. “Pride will always be a party for those who want it to be,” said Stevens. “It’s colourful and vibrant and people want to have a good time. We need to celebrate how hard we have fought for over the past 50 years to get to where we are now. Pride is about visibility."
Last year, Pride in London had to fend off pink-washing claims from those calling it “bureaucratic and regimented." Pride relies a great deal on brands sponsoring its event, to ensure it can pay for the high costs of putting on the one-day event.
In response to the criticism, Stevens said: “50% of our parade is made up of community groups. A lot of the criticism is from people watching the parades and seeing brands."
But he stressed that 99% of the time, those companies are led by LGBT+ people in their organizations. "It’s the coming together of people who want to be visible and they’re proud to march under the banner of the company they work for. If we look back 30 years - that would have been an extraordinary thing for brands to be out and proud, and allow their teams to do that," he said.
Following the publication of its 2019 Impact Report, Pride in London has endeavoured to become greener, announcing new commitments earlier this week on increasing parade sustainability.
As with any major event where people are generally less frugal with their resources, being green isn't always the easiest job to do.
With plans to make 2020 the most sustainable parade yet, Stevens said: “A particular focus for us this year is sustainability. We’re going to be discouraging single-use plastic and introducing a carbon offset strategy for groups using fossil fuel-based vehicles, encouraging people to use electric vehicles or none at all.”