As seen in the Queer Café of the Lush Summit, Pride Punx return to Gorilla Arthouse to divulge the method behind their collective. Tali Clarke explains the purpose for an alternative representation at LGBT+ events and the pinkwashing that has taken place
Pride Punx is a growing collective of people from the sprawling UK DIY punk scene and beyond. Its aim is to champion the open-armed acceptance and liberation of true punk, to represent LGBT+ communities within alternative music culture, to protest the pinkwashing and corporate takeover of LGBT+ mainstream events and to reclaim them as radical, politically charged celebrations, and to keep the conversation of LGBT+ causes and rights ongoing.
I’ve been a part of the DIY punk scene in London for nearly 20 years, and it’s safe to say that both the music and collective community run through my veins.
Pride Punx all started when I found myself crying amidst the booming sound systems of Berlin Pride 2015. I was so touched by the utter joy and feeling of freedom people were exuding, as I was myself, but also tinged with a sadness that this has ever been an issue that we have had to fight, and still have so far to go on.
But the one thing missing from this for me was the inclusion of live, raucous music, and the subsequent exclusion of a massive community of LGBTQI+ people. Where were all the queer punks? As well as many of them rejecting the mainstream events as they become ever more corporate and soulless, I’d also had many chats over the years with people that didn’t want to go to gay clubs or venues because of the music they played, and therefore feeling isolated from the people there.
People also don’t necessarily want to be defined by their sexuality, they just want to hang out in the scenes and communities that they love and enjoy. Punk rock can sometimes seem like an overly macho thing, but the truth is that it is all about acceptance, unity, solidarity, and passion – all of which come from love.
Even though the incredible punks of DIY scenes worldwide uphold these values, I wanted to create something that specifically celebrated and promoted this. It also makes for a really great party – focusing on positivity, fun and such an eclectic mix of music and styles. But the main aim of this project at first was to get a float into the official London Parade, which would not only showcase some of the finest DIY punk bands around, as they play on the back of the lorry steaming through the centre of the city, but also the outright beauty of the scene that they are a part of – the impassioned and dedicated crowd that follows the truck.
The energy of the crowd is such a massive part of live music after all. Us being at Pride is a protest – our act of ‘reclaiming’ the event is to treat it like a march; an honouring and continuation of the Pride Parade’s radical roots. As well as the live bands and traveling mosh pit, we have banners that communicate our aims and ideals to the wider audience. I invite people to bring their own that we can either attach to the truck or all hold together whilst marching behind it. Themes like the corporate takeover of Pride, or lack of diversity, or any other issue people may have – instead of boycotting it, the aim is to engage with it and protest from within.
It costs a lot to put on such a big float at the parade. Pride gives a heavily discounted rate for community and charity groups, which is great, but it is still a hefty sum to raise, as well as the added regular costs of lorry rental, insurance, equipment, etc. I always wanted Pride Punx to be larger than just the main event once a year, and so it works out that I am able to put together events and various other bits and pieces (merchandise etc) throughout the year to act as fundraisers. In fact, it’s a necessity!
Pride Punx parties are notoriously wild and liberating and fun, and I try to keep them totally eclectic and of course inclusive. Last year I got some t-shirts made up, and put together a compilation album of artists who’d been involved in some way, and made a little promo video, and this year I’m branching out into different styles of events involving more cabaret and drag performers.
Venues are also key; for the first couple of years we worked with a local punk rock venue that supported us greatly, but this year I want to branch out again to using autonomous social spaces, established LGBTQI+ venues and outdoor spaces.
Pride Punx is a community group if anything. It’s for anyone that wants to be involved; in whatever capacity they wish to do so. It already existed in the punk scene really.
I hope to be able to continue doing this, and see it expand across the UK, and perhaps internationally too! I’ve already had interest from overseas and am doing a promotional/fundraising tour of a few UK cities in April. It’s not a case of me or anyone else from the London scene going and doing it somewhere else, it’s Pride Punx worldwide taking it on and doing what they want with it in their local town, or at their local Pride. And if any other grassroots, small or unfunded group wants to do something similar, I hope it can serve as an inspiration or guideline on how to make it happen from the ground up. We have never received any funding from anyone other than generous individuals, and just knowing that makes me so happy.
We may get angry, run riot and lose our minds, but it all comes from a place of love.