The rainbow flags are out, and the street sweepers are prepping their brushes for an avalanche of glitter. Yep, it’s Pride weekend, the culmination of Pride Month that started on 8 June, and will finish with the famous, London-wide parade on 6 July.
But there’s so much more to it than just the parade. This year, the celebrations have been bigger and better than ever, with businesses, bars and restaurants putting on a smorgasbord of Pride events across the city, and pledging their support to the LGBTQ+ community. Here’s some of the best festivals, performances and exhibitions to take part in over Pride weekend.
LGBTQ+ themed ZSL London Zoo Nights
Head down to London Zoo for a LGBTQ+ themed late night event, which has been put on to celebrate its several gay penguin couples. There’ll also be dedicated talks and tours of the zoo, including gay animal facts, as well as live acoustic music, animal lanterns and street food stalls.
£20, Friday 5 July, Regent’s Park. London NW1 4RY, zsl.org
Founded in 2005 by Phyllis Akua Opoku-Gyimah and members of online social network Black Lesbians in the UK, Black Pride was created to recognise and raise awareness of the different experiences of LGBTQ+ people of colour. Fourteen years later, and it’s grown from small beginnings into a one-day festival in Haggerston Park, and is endorsed by the charity Stonewall. This year’s event is headlined by singer and Grammy-winning songwriter and record producer, MNEK, along with Aaron Carty’s Beyoncé Experience, Toya Delazey and Nate Ethan.
Free entry, Sunday 7 July, Yorkton St, London E2 8NH, ukblackpride.org.uk
The Glory on the National Theatre’s River Stage
This Pride weekend the National Theatre’s River Stage is taken over by The Glory, the east London drag collective. Billed as the ‘Alternative Pride Weekender’, its three-day residency has an eclectic bill of live music, cabaret performances, comedy and epic lip-sync battles.
Free, Southbank, London SE1 9PX, nationaltheatre.org.uk
Family Pride at Royal Opera House
This year the Royal Opera House is taking part in the Pride festivities with a special edition of its Family Sundays. The day will include performances that celebrate gender fluidity in opera, a dance inspired by the story of two male penguins who fall in love at Central Park Zoo in New York City, and Drag Queen Story Hour, read by Adam All and Apple Derrieres. A culturally inclusive way to introduce kids to the Pride celebrations.
£8, 11.30am, Sunday 7 July, Bow Street, Covent Garden, London WC2E 9DD, roh.org.uk
Arrows of Desire: For The Love of Saint Sebastian
Saint Sebastian (painted above by Guido Reni in 1615), who was martyred circa 288 AD, has become a queer icon over the centuries, inspiring artists from Oscar Wilde to Derek Jarman. This weekend marks the start of two weeks of exhibitions, art classes and film screenings, all exploring and celebrating the influence of Saint Sebastian on the art world.
5 July to 20 July, The Horse Hospital, Colonnade, Bloomsbury, London WC1N 1JD, thehorsehospital.com
Sink the Pink: Icons Ball
The flamboyant, ever-entertaining Sink the Pink crew are putting on the ultimate Pride afterparty at Troxy this weekend. The theme is icons, with guests invited to dress up as their favourite pop culture legend, and there’ll also be a performance from Spice Girl Melanie C. Expect glitter by the bucketload.
£34, 6th July, 490 Commercial Road, London E1 0HX, dice.fm
Diversity In Manga at Japan House
London is manga-mad at the moment, with the largest exhibition ever currently on at the British Museum, and Japan House also showcasing its own collection. For Pride, its putting on an exhibition exploring how gender and sexuality are portrayed in Japanese manga culture, both historically and in the present day. Visitors will see how manga has also played a key role in challenging the often rigid social norms of conservative Japan, and has helped generate more acceptance of the LGBT+ community.
Free, until 31 August, 101-111 Kensington High St, Kensington, London W8 5SA, japanhouselondon.uk
Tales of Saucy Soho
Soho has always been the heartland of London’s queer nightlife scene, and as such many curious and entertaining tales have grown up in the famous streets. This walking tour is run by Emmanuel and Sheldon, who will introduce you to the remarkable people and stories that have come to make Soho what it is today – and also the challenges facing the area, with increasing rents and social lives lived out online.
From £10, 9:15 AM to 10.45AM, 6 July, Pavilion, Soho Square, London W1D 3QP, prideinlondon.org