Features - Pride in Folkestone

Taking PRIDE of place at Leas Cliff Hall

Pride Month is a yearly celebration of the outstanding contributions made by the LGBTQIA+ community to history, society, and cultures across the world. In most places, Pride is celebrated throughout June in commemoration of its roots in the Stonewall Riots of June 1969. However, in some areas – in particular the Southern Hemisphere – pride events take place at different times of the year.

Where did Pride Month originate? 

The gay rights movement goes back to the early 1900s when groups of individuals in North America and Europe formed various gay and lesbian organisations, such as the Society for Human Rights, which was founded by Henry Gerber in Chicago in the 1920s.

After World War II, a small portion of groups such as the Mattachine Society published gay-and lesbian-positive newsletters and grew more vocal in demanding recognition for and protesting discrimination against gays and lesbians. Despite some progress in the post-war era, unfortunately, basic civil rights were largely denied to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. However, that was about to change on the night of 28th June 1969 in New York.

The riots that sparked a movement

A common occurrence in many cities across the US, police departments raided bars and restaurants where gays and lesbians were known to meet. On 28th June, the New York Police Department raided the Stonewall Inn, a bar in Greenwich Village, Manhattan.

As police aggressively dragged customers and employees from the bar, several patrons fought back against the NYPD and as a result, a crowd of angry locals gathered in the streets. The confrontations quickly escalated and started a chain reaction of protests and violent clashes with the authorities lasting 6 days.

By the time the Stonewall Riots ceased on 2nd July 1969, the gay rights movement had gone from a fringe issue largely ignored by politicians and media to a key issue that had gained worldwide attention.

The First Pride Parade

A year later, during the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, activists in New York marched through the streets of Manhattan to commemorate the uprising. Organised by the Eastern Regional Conference of Homophile Organizations (ERCHO) and the Christopher Street Liberation Day Umbrella Committee, the march was named the Christopher Street Liberation Day March.

At the time, the celebration became known as the Gay Pride Parade, and the march on 28th June 1970 is considered the country’s first gay parade. The event was an immense success and saw 3,000 – 5,000 people take part – the march stretched for 51 city blocks from Greenwich Village to Central Park.

Recognition and Commemoration

Over the years, gay pride events have spread across cities, towns, and villages worldwide, even in places where repression and violence against gays and lesbians are commonplace. The atmosphere of the events varies, ranging from joyous, carnivalesque parties to more solemn memorials for those lost to AIDS or homophobic violence.

June wasn’t officially recognised as Gay and Lesbian Pride Month until 2000 when President Clinton designated the month in recognition of the Stonewall Riots and gay activism throughout the years. 9 years later, President Obama chose a more inclusive name for the month – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. Present Obama further honoured Gay Pride Month in 2016 when he commissioned the creation of the Stonewall National Monument, a 7.7-acre area including the Stonewall Inn and Christopher Park (also known as Christopher Street). The Stonewall National Monument is the first UA national monument dedicated to LGBT rights and history.

Pride in the present

Pride Month is celebrated around the world and stands against repression and isolation, a problem many of the community still face in some places.

Folkestone Pride

Folkestone Pride is an LGBTQIA+-led community organisation that hosts Folkstone’s annual town-wide Pride Festival, plus many other events throughout the year. They aim to celebrate the diversity of the local LGBTQIA+ community and to make the town an exciting and welcoming place for all. They seek to promote tolerance, inclusion, and community whilst acknowledging and celebrating diversity.

Folkestone Pride is a blanket term for the district’s whole LGBTQIA+ community. However, they are far more than an annual parade, they provide a safe space for people to meet, socialize, and learn. They spend their time raising awareness, educating, and advising on issues that face the community. The parade is particularly important for young people and those who are new to the community as visibility, acceptance, and inclusivity are the key aims of the event.

Stonewall Inn 1969, New York City
Statues in Christopher Park, part of the Stonewall National Monument. Photo by Pascal Bernardon on Unsplash.
Progress Pride flag, designed by Daniel Quasar
Folkestone Pride 2023
Leas Cliff Hall, the host of the Pride After Party on 29th July