The Origins Of Pride

On the morning of Saturday June 27th, 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn (a rare gay bar/tavern in the Greenwich Village neighbourhood of Lower Manhattan).  Such raids on gay bars were sadly commonplace at the time but on this occasion, the officers involved lost control of the situation which quickly devolved into chaotic and violent protests, in what is now known as the Stonewall Riots.  Following several protests over the following nights, Greenwich Village’s gay community quickly formed activism groups in the next few weeks, focussed on creating safe spaces for gay and lesbian people to simply exist and express themselves openly and freely, without fear of arrest or harassment.   These brave actions cemented the foundation of the gay rights movement, which within just a few years saw groups established across the US and throughout the world.

On Saturday June 28th, 1970, the very first marches took place in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles and other cities, also being commemorated in Chicago and many other cities around the world.  Early marches were met with resistance from authority bodies, notably the Los Angeles police placed fees of $1.5m on as a condition of grant for a permit to hold the first march on Hollywood Boulevard.  This fee was subsequently lowered due to involvement of the American Civil Liberties Union to $1,500 and then squashed altogether when the state Supreme Court ruled that the group was protected by a “constitutional guarantee of freedom of expression”.  Nevertheless organisers faced repeated death threats and bigotry in attempts to stifle the protests, further underlining the need for the continued fight for gay and lesbian rights.
Since this time the movement has transformed and grown from strength to strength and continues to promote awareness, acceptance and create safe spaces on a global scale.  Whilst gay rights protest groups existed prior to the Pride movement, it is Pride which has become the enduring and unified face of the gay rights (latterly LGBTQ+ rights) movement.  This is a very brief overview of the origins and a full reading on the subject is highly recommended.  Wikipedia has very good articles on Pride, Stonewall Inn and the Stonewall Riots.

About Pride In Ely's Pride Day

Pride organisations use a range of tools and activities to achieve their aims however a Pride parade or march day is arguably the most visible and impactful.  People living in rural areas can often be quite isolated in modern society and this is even more so for LGBTQ+ people.  Our organisation was in part founded to build a cohesive LGBTQ+ community in Ely and the surrounding areas, as well as to help break down the barriers between LGBTQ+ people and the wider community.  The reports of isolation for LGBTQ+ populations in rural vs urban areas has been measured at 47% vs 23% and there is a massive mental health impact from this and other factors, including homophobia, bullying and the closeting effect of living in an area where homosexuality is not often seen or addressed.  You can read more about the mental health impacts in this report.
Since our establishment in 2016 we have held two incredibly successful “Pride Day” events in Ely, centred around the Jubilee Gardens / Maltings complex at Ely’s riverside.  Our second Pride in Ely day fell on the 50th anniversary of the very first marches and we celebrated this with speakers recalling their experiences over the decades as the struggle for LGBTQ+ rights progressed and walls were broken down.
Pride Day events are generally colourful expressions of the various aspects of the LGBTQ+ community where they take place but also from further afield.  In larger cities this often takes the form of marches and festival type events.  Very early on we decided that Pride in Ely should reflect the character of the area and having looked at successful events from the annual calendar here such as Eel Day and Aquafest, we decided on a family-friendly event which facilitated organisations as well as food and other vendors to gather together to connect with the public.  We have placed an emphasis on education over trading stalls in our events, affording organisations both national and local to come and educate the public about their work.  Previous attendees have included Stonewall, Bi Pride, Unite, The Kite Trust, Amnesty International, LGBT+ Policing Cambridgeshire and many more besides.  These have been complemented by fun activities for all ages, including face and rock painting, various live acts and speakers, lots of delicious food and drink and of course, our incomparable compère, Felicity Flappes!
The events’ impact is undeniable with thousands from all walks of life having attended – LGBTQ+ people and those from the wider community all coming together to celebrate with us and to learn from each other.  What has really hit home for us as an organisation however is the direct and also anecdotal feedback we’ve had, much of it quite moving.  We’ve heard from people who had never felt safe enough to explore their sexuality, who have been able to come and learn about LGBTQ+ lifestyles and issues, to speak with peers and support organisations, many for the first time.  We’ve heard from people and parents of children who’ve finally felt able to come out to their family and friends as a direct result of the awareness we’ve raised.  For others the effect of seeing their community supporting LGBTQ+ people has opened doors and brought them closer to a place of self-acceptance, many who have always felt “other”, outcast or that their lifestyle was wrong.  This feedback above all else echoes the deep inequalities which initially fuelled the Pride movement over 50 years ago, highlighting the fact that the work is not yet complete and the important role organisations such as ours still must play in developing a fair and tolerant society for all LGBTQ+ people.  We look forward to meeting you at a future Pride in Ely event!