For LGBT History Month in 2011, there was some actual bi-bi-bi content! At the Conway Hall in Central London, three of us gave talks: I can remember Sue George being another participant, but I can't currently remember the third person.
The photo on the front of the flyer / postcard advertising the event is a BiCon group photo..I can't currently remember which year it's from, but it must be 1996 or later – I'm just under the '0' of '20th' with a beard.
.. and on the back, it turns out that the third speaker and I aren't named on the flyer.
Mine was on the bi community's involvement in London's Pride event and this and the following post is recreating and expanding that talk from the photos I scanned for it…
I did say at the start that because of some of the history, I am clearly far too bitter and twisted to be a impartial historian of this and, twelve years later still, that remains true.
(I probably need to explain to some readers that "Hello boys" was the tagline for one of the most iconic ad campaigns of the mid-1990s and Rachel House adapted it for her banner in the first 'bi tent' – this wasn't being all gender binary.)
Lesbian and Gay Pride 1988
The first London Pride event I went to was the one in July 1988.Having said that, I have just found a badge for "Lesbian and Gay Pride '86" and, now I think about it, I remember recognising that one of the performers in a (dreadful) show at the Edinburgh Fringe … Continue reading I took a day off helping the Lib Dem campaign for the Kensington by-election. It was the year 'Section 28' came into force which helped boost numbers as well as anger: this was a political march not a 'parade'.
I think that was also the last time the festival was just across the river in Jubilee Gardens, by County Hall. As well as having the London Eye plonked in it, it's since lost a bit more of its size and been landscaped rather than just being mostly grassed over, but even then it was still a small venue in comparison with what would come.
One consequence of that was that although the main acts playing on the stage included Erasure, the organisers hadn't publicised that for fear of too many young presumed-straight female fans of the group turning up, because there simply wouldn't be the space to accommodate them and the people who'd been on the march.
I can find a couple of sources reckoning that this was the Pride where Tom Robinson was booed off the stage for having been 'outed' as being in a relationship with a woman. I don't remember that, and it looks like it was a month before The Sunday People had their 'Britain's Number One Gay In Love With Girl Biker' headline.. but Birmingham's Daily News had run a "Gay singer wants a family / Lucky lady captures Tom's heart" story back in January 1988, so it might have been. Other sources give different years, so someone needs to look through the gay press from the era.
In the end, the estimate was that about 40,000 people took part in 1988.Obviously, the police's estimate was much lower for this and all the other years.
A couple of years later, the front page of Capital Gay screamed "100,000!": their estimate of how many people had attended the festival that year in Kennington Gardens.
From the autumn of 1992, London's "Lesbian and Gay Pride" event was run by the Pride Trust, a company 'limited by guarantee'. It had succeeded another company, LAGPOC,An acronym of 'Lesbian And Gay Pride Organisers Committee/Company'! that had gone bust following the unexpected success of the event in 1992, the first 'EuroPride'.If many more people turn up to your event than you were planning for, the bills for things like the post-event clean up are much higher than you expected too.
Lesbian and Gay Pride 1995
Up to and including Pride in 1995, the limit of the London Bisexual Group's role in the event was to try to push into the march towards the front rather than standing around waiting to join it at the back. (Especially from the early 90s, that could mean waiting a long time.) The group's banner from some point in the late 1980s said 'London Bisexual Group – and proud to be – Lesbian and Gay' and in 1993, the new committee that ran the LBG decided to cut off the bottom corners, so that it became 'London Bisexual Group – and proud to be bi'.Who knew that having 'bi' in the middle of 'lesbian' would be so useful?!
(What we failed to do was add some weights to the 'bi' bit at the bottom – in all of the few photos of it that I have, the wind has blown the 'bi' up so it's not really visible.)
Certainly around then the group also paid to have a stall in the commercial marketplace or community area at the festival part of the event. We moaned about the cost of that, about a hundred pounds, but in 1995 it provided one of the few bits of media coverage of the bi community: Charlotte Raven, then in a relationship with professional writer of "arrant crap", Julie Burchill, wrote about visiting our stall at a Pride festival a couple of years earlier and not liking what she found.If it was Pride 93 or 94, I was certainly on the stall at numerous times that day, and unless she was disguised even I would have recognised her given how often her photo was appearing in the … Continue reading
Here's that stall, designed and created by Giles, being set up:
The holes in the back were an adaptation made to cope with the wind the first time it was used in 1994's Pride festival in the rather nicer venue of Brockwell Park. The 'bi' on the back wall was done with black tape, probably some gaffa tape. The orange newspaper delivery bag close to the back wall was a souvenir of having worked at that 1988 by-election – I still use it and its yellow equivalent! The motorcycle in the background is because we were sited next to the Gay Bikers' stall.
A short while later, three folding wallpapering tables had been unfolded, set up, and array of leaflets, badges, t-shirts etc were on them, waiting for the crowds who had been on the whole march (or who had skipped the march and just gone to the festival!) The ones underneath the black circular weightsAlmost certainly a pair of magnets from an old TV that I had had from the early 1970s. are copies of 'Ungagged', the magazine of SM Bisexuals.
A bit later on, here it is with genuine Pride attendees browsing it! I've concealed the faces of the two people staffing it – if and when I get permission to show them, I will do so.
The previous year, we'd been between two other stalls and unless you were trying to go through the small gap between them, there were no problems. Here, this year's wind – look at the way the pink balloons on or near the bikers' stall are leaning over towards our stall – meant we had setup side-on to one of the main paths on the site to minimise how much it affected the leaflets on the table. We'd quickly realised that the supporting guy ropes could be a hazard, so copies of the "Sex? With a woman? With a man?" leaflet were stapled or taped to them to make them more visible.
My main other memory of the festival that year is going back with the tent to its 'home' at London FriendThe London Bisexual Group hired the space for its weekly meetings from the late 1980s to the end of the group in 2002. in Kings Cross on the canal boat that the late Malcolm Stephenson co-owned – Victoria Park has a canal on two sides of it and he'd moored there overnight. It was very pleasant journey, including going past the site of the Fallen Angel pub, the second home of the LBG, and avoided having to carry the tent and tables on public transport.It took a..g..e..s though! Possibly two hours.
The next week, the front page of Capital Gay screamed "200,000!": their estimate of how many people had attended. Sadly, that would be its last ever edition.To give you an idea of the joys of deciding what to trust when looking at old sources, the webpage that has a photo of that front page insists that it was published on 31st June 1995…
The official Pride Trust figure, based on the local council's staff count of people entering the festival was 197,500 with at least 60,000 on the march. It was, again, the largest Pride ever in Europe and the fifth largest anywhere.
One of the plenary sessionsi.e. the only thing in its (end of Saturday afternoon) slot, so everyone could attend. at 1995's BiCon in September was a chance to talk to "the glorious" Adam Jeanes, Chair of the Pride Trust, and Tom Brookes, then – I think – its Treasurer and who wasn't particularly out about having formerly identified as bisexual and having edited the London Bisexual Group's Bi-Monthly newsletter / magazine.
One of that year's organisers was Kate n'ha Ysabet, who's been an activist in both the bisexual and trans communities. When talking with her in 2010 to make sure that I'd got everything she wanted to say about her work when giving her a Cake Award, she mentioned that she'd been the one responsible for inviting them. Another reason for having awards: you learn stuff.
From the 13iCon programme:
"Each year, a hardworking group of people get together and organise the Lesbian and Gay Pride march and festival in London, plus a whole range of other activities. Your chance to come along and talk to them about how Pride could be more bi-friendly."
Adam and Tom had come to see if, amongst other things, we wanted the name of the event changed to be inclusive of bisexuals and trans people and were left in no doubt that, yes, we fucking did.
Pride Trust was a true membership organisation: anyone who identified as lesbian or gay, supported its mission statement, and were prepared to pay a pound if the company went under could join. (Bisexuals could join "as far as they celebrated their homosexuality"!) As well as cheaper (or free if you paid more on joining) entry to the 'Winter Pride' fundraiser,Held at the University of London's student union building, it was a combination of a market and party. The success of their first one in 1992 had given the Pride Trust enough money to enable them to … Continue reading they'd then get a vote on various things – in the podcast I've linked to, Adam mentions themes for the event, but it would also have included who was a director of the company – including a motion on the name of the event.
So a bunch of us joined, and when the vote happened in January, it passed. (As well as the name change, bi and trans people could now become members without the previous nonsense.) My memory is that it passed quite comfortably, but that there was some whinging in at least the letters columns of the GGGGL media from the sort of gay man who had objected to adding the words 'and lesbian' to the title years earlier, but not much. Ah, having found the results, it was 134 votes to 34 on the main motion to add 'bisexuals and transgendered persons' to who the Pride Trust was for, and 128 votes to 41 for adding 'bisexual and transgender' to the name of the event.
Even before the vote, Pride Trust's assumption was that it would be passed and if it was to be 'Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride', some bi people had to decide what to do about the 'bisexual' bit of that. So after a call for bi volunteers, a meeting of eighteen or so people was held at the offices of Pride Trust in Brixton, SE London, in October 1995, and after a couple more meetings, I and Lisa C ended up as the male and female coordinators of the 'Pride Trust Bisexual Working Group'.
One of the meetings of the group turned out to be the night of the 1995 Brixton riot. I remember coming out of Brixton underground station and passing a small but significant gathering of clearly angry people on the small lawn by the nearby cinema when going south to The Link Business Centre serviced offices that was Pride Trust's home.Other tenants included gay men's health activist charity, GMFA.
After the meeting, we came out to discover a full-on riot was in progress. It turned out that the earlier gathering was due to the death in custody of a young black man, Wayne Douglas, in the police station on the north side of the tube station and things had escalated. Smoke was coming out of the underground station and it was obviously closed to passengers, there were no buses running anywhere near, and a department store amongst others had had some windows smashed.
There were also loads of police around, but the rioters were a LOT more helpful to neutrals like myself than the police were – they pointed out the best route to the next station on the Victoria line avoiding any of the dangerous bits, which the police I talked to completely failed to do.The next station also turned out to be closed – you can only turn trains around and send them the other way at some of London's underground system stations – so it took quite a while for … Continue reading
Several months and several more meetings later – at some points, we were meeting once a week – it was time for LGBT Pride 96…
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride 1996
I went to the start of the march, not to participate – as well as being needed to help set up the festival bits on Clapham Common, many more people meant more people blowing fucking whistles by my ears – but to take some photos.
I probably have a photo of the whole official banner, but for the talk and this page, it's the word "bisexual" that's finally on it that needs highlighting. First in the march are people from the Gay Liberation Front – if the cheap 35mm camera I had thenBought from someone on cix, which was also where I heard about the second call diversion system the London Bisexual Phoneline used. was any better, I'd probably be able to confirm that it's Peter Tatchell holding up a 'no register of convicted queers' sign with a red London bus behind him, and Angela Mason, formerly chief exec of Stonewall next to him.
Not much further back – no more having to push into the march!! more of them!! – were the bisexual contingents…
Once they'd gone past my viewing point by Marble Arch, I left for the festival in Clapham Common. It would be about two hours before the end of the march even left Hyde Park and, as well as wanting to be at Clapham Common to help setup the bi tent before the crowds arrived, London Underground tunnels are much nicer when people aren't blowing fucking whistles in them…
That year's programme was produced by Thud, a gay scene free paper. It's a 'bit smaller than B4, so too big for my A4 scanner' but I hope you can see that for the first time, bisexuals are literally on the map at Pride!
It also included blurbs for the various attractions including the bisexual tent:
Welcome to Pride's first-ever Bi tent! The Bi Tent will provide everything you ever wanted to know about bisexuality (even if you weren't afraid to ask), with presentations, discussions, information stalls, music, and generally all things Bi. Events run four till nine – call by the tent for full listing. Assume nothing…
Note that the blurb for the women's tent only talks about women being 'dykes' though. Equally fascinating to me, the youth tent says 'dental dams will be available .. by prior arrangement' – this was after it was realised that there is realistically zero risk of HIV transmission via cunnilingus.
Even without using the map, finding the tent wasn't particularly difficult, thanks to Jo David's fabulous 'pink Toblerone' floating banner:
The small but historic 'bisexual tent' was actually two smaller marquees put side by side,At one point, we were guaranteed a 30' x 30' marquee, with the possibility of a 45' x 45' one, but that didn't happen and when we had the chance of the 30 foot square one with an additional 20' x … Continue reading with a gap in their sides where they joined so you could easily go between them.
No zoom on my camera and not wanting to be too far away to make it appear even smaller than it was, I took two photos intending to make a (tiny) collage from them:
Lens distortion means that the lines don't match up, and I haven't tried to conceal the shadows created by having one printed photo on top of each other, but this was on a wall in my home for several years afterwards.
You can judge the size of the bi tent by looking in the far background on the right: that would have been one of the commercial club dance tents. Ah, looking at that map of LGBT Pride 96, it's the tent for 'popular with many bi people in London' indy club Popstarz. They didn't have a 'pink Toblerone' floating above it though, ha!
Inside some time later, not long after people who did do the whole of the march had arrived..
Lisa C, the amazing Female Coordinator of the Pride Trust's Bisexual Working Group. You can just see the corner of the London Bisexual Group's new-ish banner on the wall. Also on the wall are cartoons by Rachael House – having helped with the take-down at the end of the day, I have a set of those and will scan them when I find them again.
I can't remember who it was sitting there selling their t-shirts – if you do, put them in touch and I can name them and post their face if they'd like.
I bought one of those "butch bi babe" t-shirts from them…
Other stalls included SM Bisexuals, BiCon 96, quite possibly Bi Community News and the London Bisexual Group. I can't remember who the "Bi.. H.. .." who were going to be next to SM Bisexuals were.
The best t-shirt / sports top I saw that day was..
.. a brilliantly subtle reference to the Kinsey Scale. Congratulations to the anonymous wearer who got it printed.
At some point in the afternoon, the generator powering the PA system failed..
.. and Jo David and an unknown engineer went out to get it to restart.
Sue George, author of Women and Bisexuality, was one of those who gave talks. All had BSL interpretation.
Thorn had recently hurt their arm, but with the help of someone else playing the guitar they'd normally have played still went on.
By the tent's entrance, you can just about see a list of sponsors who'd helped pay for the bits that Pride Trust hadn't paid for: the London Bi Women's Group, bi club night The Fencesitter's Ball, and the London Bisexual Group.I think that's in declining order of generosity. Looking like it's taped to one of the PA speakers is probably the programme for the afternoon, but the combination of the cheap camera with its plastic lens and the cheap 35mm film I was using means that I can't make it readable.
Kath and Jennifer get ready to perform their sets. Kath was one of those featured in the programme:
I think this is Melissa Carr who performed "Bettie Page is bisexual and has a hairy chest", previously seen at London's ICA, during the afternoon.
One favourite moment was when a gay man came in the tent claiming loudly that bi men didn't kiss other men. At least one bi man present was happy to prove otherwise to him:
Unlike most of the tents at LGBT Pride 96, the bi tent was distinctly family friendly.
This three year old visitor will have their thirtieth birthday this year…
So instead of paying for a few square metres of space in the marketplace, bisexuals were literally on the map with our own tent, an integral part of what had become Europe's biggest free festival.
I'm obviously biased, but I think that day was a milestone of the entire history of the UK bisexual community. I remain proud of helping it happen and enormously grateful to everyone who made it happen: an address list for the working group has thirty four names of people who came to at least one meeting.
During the afternoon, there was a launch of red balloons from alongside the main stage to remember those with HIV/Aids. It'd have been about 27,000 balloons, one for each person diagnosed with HIV in the UK, and a couple of thousand more than the previous year's balloon launch.
The very next day, the 1996 AIDS conference would open in Vancouver, Canada. Attendees would be told that the trials of combination therapy – taking three anti-viral drugs to stop people with HIV developing Aids – had shown that it worked. This would transform the lives of people with HIV: this was the first treatment for HIV shown to work rather than just slightly delay the onset of Aids.
By August 1998, the San Francisco newspaper the Bay Area Reporter could say on its front page that, for the first time since the start of the Aids epidemic there, there were no obituaries for people who had died from Aids. When they covered the first national US conference on bisexuality in 1990, there had been two pages of them.
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride 97
Lisa C stepped down as the Female Coordinator of the Bi Working Group after the triumph of Pride 96. [Name to be remembered!] took over that role, while I continued as the Male Coordinator. There were more meetings in Brixton.
On the day, I skipped all but the start of the march again, and went down to help set it up, buying some ice creams for everyone else who would be there nearby – it was a hot day.
Some of the people about to set up the inside of the much bigger 'bisexual community' tent at LGBT Pride 97.
We had impressed the Pride Trust in a variety of ways and, as you can see, we got a much bigger tent for LGBT Pride 97!
Just inside the front cover of the A5 programme, produced by the Pink Paper and not saying LGBT anywhere on it as a sign of things to come..
.. was the fold-out map. Once again, the bisexual community was literally on the map for Europe's biggest free festival:
I don't remember the bi community tent being smaller than the trans one, and certainly not as much smaller than the map makes it appear. I wonder who did it: the notoriously bi-avoiding Pink Paper or the Pride Trust?
We were in the A-Z of Pride though:
The bisexual tent makes its second appearance at Pride, offering information about bisexuality and various community groups.
The tent will provide a focus for bisexual activities at the festival, including a number of performances from bi singers and cabaret acts throughout the day – including a celebrity guest – and discussions about bisexuality. There will be an alternative disco in the evening. Events run from 3 to 9.30pm. For more details, drop in at the tent.
You may also recognise a some of the names of the performers on the women's stage elsewhere in the park from the bi community..
'Single Bass' is Jennifer, for example. She had originally put us in touch with the 'celebrity guest'. Another name on the list was on the committee running the London Bisexual Group for a while.
Back to the bi tent.. I've got a collage of photos giving a 180 degree view of the inside after the crowds had arrived, but as well as the work needed to cover faces before publishing it here, it needed so many photos from that camera that it won't fit on my A4 flatbed scanner in one piece!
Despite that extra size, we were closed down at least once for overcrowding.
Me and my partner outside the tent during the intermission. We had got together at the same BiCon 13 in 1995 that Adam and Tom had attended.
When we were allowed in, the acts included that celebrity guest: Tom Robinson, complete with his "the artist formerly known as gay" t-shirt from Don't Panic:Memory is telling me that Marcus worked in Don't Panic's Soho shop at one point in the 1990s
This was his first performance at Pride in many years, and he's been mentioning it in interviews since then.Even if he does sometimes say 'bisexual stage'!
There was also a disco and one photo of a couple of members of the London Bisexual Group will always remind me of how much everyone was enjoying themselves…
.. in a space that was more diverse than any of the 'dance' tents I saw inside that day.
About my only moan was that, in the 'Pride Survey' in the middle of the programme, the printed options for your sexual orientation were "Gay Male / Lesbian / Bi Sexual (sic) / Heterosexual / Other". Sigh.
I'm obviously still biased, but I think that day was another of the highlights of the entire history of the UK bisexual community. Given the capacity of the tent and just how many people came in during the day, it would have been the biggest UK bi community event ever, a title it would retain until at least the first Bi Pride event in 2019 (and possibly even beyond that triumph of its organisers). I remain proud of helping it happen and enormously grateful to everyone who made it happen.
In September, Adam Jeanes – by now an ordinary director of the Pride Trust having been replaced as its chair by Rachael Beadle – replied to Outrage's complaints about the event. He robustly defended certain decisions and accepted other things would be changed for next year's event.
|↑1||I can't currently remember which year it's from, but it must be 1996 or later – I'm just under the '0' of '20th' with a beard.|
|↑2||Having said that, I have just found a badge for "Lesbian and Gay Pride '86" and, now I think about it, I remember recognising that one of the performers in a (dreadful) show at the Edinburgh Fringe that year had a Pride '86 t-shirt on under her white shirt, so I may well have gone to that one – I don't remember. Looking, I can see that the festival that year was in Kennington Park and it rained. A lot.|
|↑3||Obviously, the police's estimate was much lower for this and all the other years.|
|↑4||An acronym of 'Lesbian And Gay Pride Organisers Committee/Company'!|
|↑5||If many more people turn up to your event than you were planning for, the bills for things like the post-event clean up are much higher than you expected too.|
|↑6||Who knew that having 'bi' in the middle of 'lesbian' would be so useful?!|
|↑7||If it was Pride 93 or 94, I was certainly on the stall at numerous times that day, and unless she was disguised even I would have recognised her given how often her photo was appearing in the Guardian / Observer. When the article came out, I certainly thought that visit hadn't been while I was staffing it.|
|↑8||Almost certainly a pair of magnets from an old TV that I had had from the early 1970s.|
|↑9||The London Bisexual Group hired the space for its weekly meetings from the late 1980s to the end of the group in 2002.|
|↑10||It took a..g..e..s though! Possibly two hours.|
|↑11||To give you an idea of the joys of deciding what to trust when looking at old sources, the webpage that has a photo of that front page insists that it was published on 31st June 1995…|
|↑12||i.e. the only thing in its (end of Saturday afternoon) slot, so everyone could attend.|
|↑13||Held at the University of London's student union building, it was a combination of a market and party. The success of their first one in 1992 had given the Pride Trust enough money to enable them to run their first Pride event in 1993. I have fond memories of them, not least because I bought my first silicone dildo from a Winter Pride in the early 90s.|
|↑14||Other tenants included gay men's health activist charity, GMFA.|
|↑15||The next station also turned out to be closed – you can only turn trains around and send them the other way at some of London's underground system stations – so it took quite a while for me to get back to my then home in Harrow, NW London.|
|↑16||Bought from someone on cix, which was also where I heard about the second call diversion system the London Bisexual Phoneline used.|
|↑17||At one point, we were guaranteed a 30' x 30' marquee, with the possibility of a 45' x 45' one, but that didn't happen and when we had the chance of the 30 foot square one with an additional 20' x 20', we would have jumped at the chance.|
|↑18||I think that's in declining order of generosity.|
|↑19||Memory is telling me that Marcus worked in Don't Panic's Soho shop at one point in the 1990s|
|↑20||Even if he does sometimes say 'bisexual stage'!|