Reports: Cycle ride marks the history of gay rights


By Charlie Kiss

tatchellOn Sunday 14th September I joined the bike ride out in Camden and Islington – a fund raiser for the Peter Tatchell foundation and to commemorate the first gay rights demonstration held in Britain in 1970.

I had seen the film Pride the night before and was therefore especially motivated to go on the ride. Pride marches didn’t start until 1972 though and were very small until the 90s.

We met near the Gandhi statue in Tavistock Square, appropriately, as he was an icon for freedom and equality. There were stewards from Camden’s cycling team and also a DR bike (bike mechanic). I was impressed to see the mechanic do a very fast bike cable change whilst in deep conversation.

After waiting for some people to try and get some cycle hire bikes, handing out pink ribbon whistles and maps we were off! Although most of the cyclists were men, I met one woman who joined the ride later who had been to the famous Lesbian nightclub of the 60s and 70s-Gateways, which was something else.

plaque outrageEventually we stopped at the memorial plaque in Highbury Fields in Islington to mark the first every gay demonstration, which took place on 27th November 1970, when about 150 members of the newly-founded GLF- the Gay Liberation Front held a torch lit rally against police harassment and intimidation.

The background to this is that a young Liberal by the name of Louis Oakes was arrested for ‘gross indecency’ for asking men on the Highbury fields for a light. He denied he was homosexual and denied he was looking for sex.

The GLF held the demo and demanded an end to discrimination, and an equal age of consent. Discrimination is far less prevalent than it used to be which is positive but to think that we had to fight until 2001 before the equal age of consent was achieved!