Each year, Pride in London fills the capital with rainbow illuminated celebrations; a platform to raise awareness of LGBT+ issues and campaign for equality for all parts of the community. The two week celebrations will culminate in the Pride in London Parade this weekend, when a procession of members and supporters of the LGBT+ community will take over the West End.
Our heritage project, Pride of Place combines images, archive materials and research to map the places and stories that are important to LGBT+ history.
Feature Image © Matias Altbach. Courtesy of Pride in London
Using information from the project, we have mapped 7 fascinating LGBT+ landmarks to look out for on the parade route this Saturday:
Starting at the junction of Duchess Street and Portland Place, Marylebone.
Broadcasting House Grade II* listed
From the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s, the UK’s oldest transgender support group, The Beaumont Society (founded 1967) held its annual dinner at the home of the BBC, Broadcasting House. The Art Deco style building is now Grade II* listed.
The parade turns down Regent Street…
The Cave of the Golden Calf
Once the basement of a cloth warehouse at 9 Heddon Street, just off Regent Street, is the former site of what was considered to be the first gay bar in Britain. The Cave of the Golden Calf was opened by wealthy bohemian Frida Strindberg in 1912 as an ‘artists cabaret club’, decorated with murals and works commissioned by local artists. The Cave went bankrupt in 1914, but paved the way for the generation of nightclubs that came after it, and the following 104 years of West End revelry. The site is now occupied by Gordon Ramsey restaurant, Heddon Street Kitchen. While on Heddon Street, check out the doorway of number 23, famed for featuring on the front cover of David Bowie’s iconic Ziggy Stardust album and now marked by a commemorative plaque.
Continue down Regent Street with a hop off on Argyll Street…
The London Palladium Grade II listed
A jaunt through the West End wouldn’t be complete without a look into one of its decadent, grand theatres. The London Palladium, Argyll Street, is listed Grade II* and has been delighting audiences with cabaret, musicals and theatre since 1910. Notably it saw a string of ‘Diva’ concerts in the 1950s to 1980s, featuring such stars as Shirley Bassey, Judy Garland, Marlene Dietrich and Liza Minnelli attracting a huge gay following. In the 1970s, Bette Davis performed and the streets became the scene of the largest public gathering of LGBT+ people to be seen anywhere in the country, before the Pride marches gathered pace in the 1980s.
From here, the Parade route continues down Regent’s Street towards Piccadilly Circus. We’ve taken a short diversion to a very different kind of theatre.
The Almost Free Theatre
The Almost Free Theatre was set up in 1971 by American social activist and actor, Ed Berman, in Rupert Street, Soho. It was an experimental fringe theatre, which pioneered the lunch time performance, and famously staged the first ever season of gay plays in Britain, in early 1975. The season, entitled ‘Homosexual Acts’ featured three plays by gay writers and directors, with the intention of shedding a realistic light on the mainstream gay stereotype. The season was initially scheduled to last until April, but was extended to June due to popular demand.
Back on the Pride route, through the bright lights of Piccadilly Circus…
The London Trocadero Grade II listed
Under the one-time guise of the Lyon’s Corner House, in the early 20th Century the now Grade II listed structure represented a grand baroque example of exquisite Edwardian dining. An area of one of the floors was informally reserved for the use of gay men, and known as ‘the Lily Pad’.
Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain, Eros Grade I Listed
The Piccadilly and Haymarket area was a notorious centre for prostitution in London from the 1850s to the 1970s, with both male and female sex workers operating on the streets and in nearby pubs and clubs. The Shaftesbury Memorial Statue was moved there in1892, its full name being somewhat contested. It started as Anteros ‘The God of Selfless Love’, and then changed to The Angel of Christian Charity in a bid to temper local outcry that the statue was sited in a vulgar part of town (the theatre district). The statue was (and is still) referred to as Eros, the god of sensual love, a moniker which was hailed by some as an ironic representation of the more carnal side of the neighbourhood.
The Pride in London Parade ends in celebrations at Trafalgar Square. On your way home, be sure to pay a visit to this famous face near Charing Cross Station…
A Conversation with Oscar Wilde
Designed by artist Maggi Hambling, the prominently placed green granite and bronze statue is the first public monument in London to famed literary icon Oscar Wilde. Hambling said about the piece ‘The idea is that he is rising, talking, laughing, smoking from this sarcophagus and the passerby, should he or she choose to, can sit on the sarcophagus and have a conversation with him’.
Make Your Mark on History
England’s most significant historic buildings and places are listed so they can be understood and protected. The List has almost 400,000 entries on it, from palaces and pigsties to cathedrals, windmills and rollercoasters.
For the first time, we are opening up The List and asking people to share images, insights and secrets of these special places to capture them for future generations. Can you help us #List England?