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50 years of London PRIDE

By Sophia Wood-Burgess

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This weekend, LGBTQ+ communities across the UK held Pride parades. We interviewed Eric Ollerenshaw, who marched in London’s first pride parade 50 years ago, and some of the Foxtons team who marched in Saturday’s parade.

Memories of the first march

When we interviewed Eric, he was standing in the same exact field he had begun his march with the Gay Liberation Front (GLF) in 50 years ago, to the day.

In 1972, Eric had just graduated from the London School of Economics. He joined the GLF (Gay Liberation Front) and remembers the meetings fondly. “There wasn’t a plan, everyone just showed up and decided what to talk about at the meeting. You can imagine how that went.” He described the chaotic but exciting atmosphere.

This time eye opening for him, “I always knew I was gay, but, coming from the north, down for university in London, I just didn’t know. I mean, people find it hard to understand these days, but there was nothing in the newspaper, nothing in the libraries, nothing on television,” he said, “It was obviously a huge step to make in those days, but GLF was about not being afraid to say who you are.”

Eric doesn’t quite remember how the parade idea came about, but this was about three years after the Stonewall Riots – which sparked an international conversation about awareness for the LGBTQ+ community.

About the parade, Eric said, “There were lots of police, I remember, who were obviously clearly embarrassed about having to attend the march, but they were not rude or anything. Going down Oxford Street, there were a few nasty shouts from odd people.” However, what Eric remembers most is the upbeat, celebratory atmosphere of the people who were marching, “Lots of long hair, and of course I had lots of long hair. Once you were there with lots of other people, it just seemed like a great party.” The parade had a big impact on Eric, “Something I’ve always taken with me from the whole thing is, as I said, to be proud of who you are and be who you are.”

So, Friday 1 July, half a century after he first marched through London for his rights, here he was again. “I mean, it’s actually the first Pride march I’ve been on since 1972. It’s a completely different…” He looks around and amends, “Actually, it’s a similar atmosphere. Lots of people dressed up, a mixture of exotic and more conventional dress, and a lot of noise. It’s going to be good fun.”

Eric has had a lot of life lived in between the two marches. He was a history teacher. He became an MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood and had a productive political career. He’s seen so much change since in the world since that first march, “Life has moved on, hasn’t it? There’s still lots to do, but this? I don’t know. It’s just a different world than it was, and it’s better for it.”

Foxtons in the 50th Anniversary Pride Parade on Saturday

“A fantastic way to round off Pride Month. It's wonderful to be working for a company that is incredibly inclusive and diverse. Being out with my wife and colleagues, the support felt overwhelming. It’s the way we should celebrate our community always.”

~ Tas, Divisional Manager at Foxtons

A group of Foxtons employees and their family attended the 50th anniversary Pride parade on Saturday. We joined and sponsored Pride in London to help inform people that all 57 of our offices across London and the Home Counties are LGBTQ+ safe spaces.

“It was great that our company went out of their way to show up, not a lot of companies will do that. Before I joined the company, I saw Foxtons commitment on the website, and it was a big selling point for me when I applied. The event this weekend was fun, it was really busy and a really happy day.”

~ Tate, Rare Short Lets Negotiator at Foxtons

The parade had been cancelled for the last two years, and it returned this year with incredible enthusiasm. According to organisers interviewed by MyLondon, there were over 1.5 million people in attendance – the most well-attended Pride parade in this city’s history. The streets were lined with so many people, cheering, dancing and holding up signs. Walking with the Foxtons team meant standing right in the middle of the thoroughfares at Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square. Seeing London from this angle, and its LGBTQ+ support, was a thrill.

“We had an absolute blast attending pride. Seeing crowds sharing the same values and supporting a peaceful protest against oppression made it even more worth attending. As a fervent ally, I am pleased to see Foxtons promoting diversity and inclusions while ensuring our actions reflect our message at all times. There is still a lot to be done but we are definitely on the right track.”

~Safia, Compliance Team Leader / Deputy MLRO at Foxtons

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