In this week’s post, ACCENT London’s Intern Plamen Momchilov describes the city’s vibrant Pride celebrations, its long struggle for LGBTQ+ equality, and the truly informative retrospectives on display this summer throughout London’s museums. We hope all of our staff and students in London have a Happy Pride!
People tend to say that London is a colorless urban jungle that can be painted only in grey. However, each summer, its busy high streets become decorated in color to mark a most joyful celebration of diversity and equality.
Back in 2016, the biggest ever Pride in London took place, gathering together the LGBTQ+ community, their families, and friends. Around one million people celebrated by attending the wonderfully colorful Pride Parade, making their voices heard while showing support for various groups and campaigns. If one was to venture through the London streets today, they would see numerous stores, buses and tube stations decorated with the rainbow pattern. Support for the LGBTQ+ community has never been so widespread in this busy capital, in which it does not matter who you are or whom you may love, because everyone is equally deserving of the right to be themselves. Pride in London presents a series of events and festivals that aim to raise awareness to LGBTQ+ causes, promoting a more caring and diverse society through education and entertainment alike.
This year marks an especially colorful summer as it is the fiftieth anniversary of the 1967 Sexual Offences Act, which was the first decriminalization of homosexuality in the United Kingdom. This was a significant victory for human rights in the country as it paved the way for further legislative changes. Nevertheless, history has taught us that causes worth fighting for take time. The Sexual Offences Act was not an extensive one, as it only applied to men within England and Wales initially. In the last fifty years, legislative and social change has gradually swept throughout the United Kingdom in a successful effort for legal and social equality.
Here in London, visiting students can explore LGBTQ+ themes, which contribute to the narrative of social change, gender roles, and sexual identity. On July 8, the always-colorful Pride Parade, the centerpiece of a series of celebrations, will take place. However, throughout this summer, exhibitions, tours, and various other events are organized with the aim of raising awareness of LGBTQ+ issues.
This summer, the British Museum is running a display called “Desire, Love, Identity.” It offers an exploration of LGBTQ+ history with exhibits from various places across the world. Some of the objects displayed date back to Ancient Greece while others present parts of seventeenth-century Japanese culture. The Victoria and Albert Museum has relevant exhibits throughout the year, though they also occasionally offer free tours of their vast LGBTQ+ collections through which stories of notable individuals can be traced. Under one roof can be found the former lovers of Emperor Hadrian and the scandalous designs of Leigh Bowery. In the V&A, discussions of LGBTQ+ stories, gender, and sexual identities are strongly encouraged. Furthermore, to mark fifty years since the 1967 Sexual Offences Act, Tate Britain has set a landmark exhibition: “Queer British Art,” the first such collection at Tate Britain, focusing on LGBTQ+ history from the splendor of the mid-nineteenth century up until Civil Rights movements of the 1960s. Through paintings and photographs, one can explore the way artists have expressed themselves in a period when their identities were under harsh criticism. Lastly, samples of sporting activities including football, cycling, synchronized swimming, and others will be taking place around central London. Sports tend to bring people together and there will be several opportunities to team up with diverse groups of people.
With numerous joyful events and activities scheduled this summer, London is to truly take pride in its colorful history. The last fifty years have witnessed many battles for legislative and social equality and although much more is to be changed home and abroad, this vibrant city is strongly defying hate while supporting love, diversity, and its rich LGBTQ+ history.
~Plamen Momchilov, ACCENT London
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