OUT, PROUD AND LOUD
CHRISTOPHER JOELL-DESHIELDS IS THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF PRIDE IN LONDON. ON THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE FIRST PRIDE IN LONDON, HE TALKS ABOUT THE SPECTACULAR PROUD & LOUD CELEBRATORY CONCERT AT THE ROYAL ALBERT HALL, WHAT PRIDE MEANS TO HIM, AND WHY PRIDE IS STILL RELEVANT TODAY
You’ve been working on a concert at the Royal Albert Hall to celebrate 50 years of Pride in London. What can we expect from Proud & Loud?
This is going to be an absolutely unmissable concert taking place on Saturday 4 June with special guests and surprises to be announced shortly. It’ll be a night of spectacular music performances and our LGBT+ icons in one place to celebrate the past 50 years of Pride. Importantly we will also be looking at what the future holds for the LGBT+ community.
What are your goals for Proud & Loud?
We want to celebrate the journey of the Pride Movement in the UK, to mark where we are at now and to inspire more people to campaign for the rights of the LGBT+ community. The event will also raise money for the Pride in London Unity Fund which was created to build stronger communities by providing one-off grants to grassroots organisations, which address the needs of the UK’s LGBT+ community. I’m proud to say that the Unity Fund has already raised over £100,000. LGBT+ organisations to have benefited so far from grants include: Out & Proud African LGBTI, FTM London / TransM London, Black Trans Alliance, London Gay Symphony Orchestra, House of Rainbow CIC and many more.
What do you think still needs to be achieved?
As much as we have achieved there is still much to be done and we call on the UK government to:
• ban conversion therapy for all LGBT+ people
• reform the Gender Recognition Act
• provide equal protection for LGBT+ communities against hate crime
• end the hostile environment toward LGBT+ migrants
• establish a national AIDS memorial that acknowledges the impact of HIV and AIDS and honours and remembers those who we have lost
• take a leading role in tackling violence and discrimination against LGBT+ people around the globe
Who would you consider to be the most iconic LGBT+ activists and allies?
My admiration goes to these unsung heroes in the LGBT+ community for the work that they do and the LGBT+ communities they impact
Rob Berkeley – BlackOut UK; Faizan – Imaan; Aderonke Apata – African Rainbow Family; Dr. Ellie Barnes – Educate & Celebrate
What does 50 years of Pride in London mean to you?
The first Pride march in the UK took place on 1 July 1972. It is remarkable that Pride has become a formidable platform in campaigning for LGBT+ rights over the past 50 years, particularly for a movement that has continued to evolve. When hearing stories from those LGBT+ trailblazers who ignited the first march and whose shoulders we stand on today, we realise that their activism has been key in helping us to achieve some of the milestones along the journey that we celebrate today.
What are your hopes for the future with Pride in London?
Pride has unique meanings to each and every one of us in the LGBT+ community and also to allies. It is with deep hope that Pride in London can continue to provide a platform for LGBT+ communities, particularly those communities who continue to be marginalised. It is important that we can focus on raising awareness of the importance of our mantra, which is visibility, unity and equality, and encourage people to campaign and stand for each within the community. Everything Pride in London does has LGBT+ communities, queer history and activism at its heart.
How do you think people could help more to reach Pride in London’s goals?
This is very simple, become involved! As we move forward as an organisation and a movement in the continued fight for LGBT+ rights, collective solidarity is important.
Tell us a bit about your background. What were your experiences before Pride in London and how did they lead you to volunteering for the organisation?
I grew up on the beautiful Island of Bermuda, so consider myself an Island Boy. I arrived in the UK in the early 90s to study and London has remained my home ever since. Forging a varied career in tourism management, foreign affairs and more recently leading on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in the charity sector. Volunteering has always been a backbone of my character; however, in volunteering for Pride in London, I have been able to become stronger in my intersectional identities and build on my community activism.
What have been some of your highlights of volunteering at Pride in London so far?
Pride in London is a completely volunteer-led organisation and offers such a rewarding experience. For me, it’s being able to see the delivery of the event on the day and its vibrant impact on the community. On a more personal and organisational level, it has been the footprints that I have created as the first Black Director of Pride in London and also the first Black person to lead the organisation. I am humbled to be a marginalised voice leading a world-class Pride on the global stage.
Proud & Loud takes place at the Royal Albert Hall
on Saturday 4 June
Pride in London is on Saturday 2 July