Christopher Joell-Deshields is the Executive Director of Pride in London. He tells us what we can expect from this year’s celebration in the UK capital
Hello, Chris, what’s your background, and what is your role in Pride in London?
I’m an Island Boy, born on the beautiful Island of Bermuda. I swapped the beach for London 30 years ago, and made it my home. I began volunteering for Pride in London in 2016 as part of the Operations Team. When volunteering for Pride in London, it’s always joked that you have a day job and a “gay job”. In my day job I lead on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion for a leading UK disability charity. In my “gay job” here at Pride in London, I am the Executive Director, leading a team of 200 volunteers to deliver the UK capital’s flagship Pride event.
We can argue that in the UK and most (if not all) of Europe LGBTQ+ people have gained the rights and freedoms we have fought so hard for. Why is there still a need for Pride?
The Pride Movement has grown tremendously throughout Europe and we have seen significant strides in legal and social reforms. Here in the UK we have evolved from the decriminalisation of homosexuality to almost full legal equality. We have seen the introduction of civil partnerships, equal marriage rights, and gender recognition legislation.
However, there is still much work to be done. In the UK trans people are still not able to self-identify, while LGBTQ+ people of colour face disproportionate discrimination.
In parts of Europe homophobia is on the rise. The recent pushback on LGBTQ+ rights in Poland and Hungary and the violence in Georgia, to list just a couple of current examples, shows why there is still a need for Pride. We have to be visible, we have to celebrate ourselves, and we also have to protest against the inequalities we face.
Obviously the current pandemic situation has altered your plans, but what do you have in store for this year’s Pride in London celebration in September?
The pandemic has had a major impact on Pride events around the world, with many either cancelled or postponed. In 2020, the decision was taken to postpone the Parade and associated events, as the health and safety of our communities was our top priority.
We continue to follow the advice of Public Health England and the UK Government, and this year we will hold Pride in London in September, once the Government has lifted restrictions on mass events and social distancing.
We are excited to see the parade and other activities return to the streets of central London on 11 September 2021.
Pride is a great event, of course. But how would you like to improve it? What could it do better?
Pride is at the heart of the LGBTQ+ calendar. It is a time for visibility, unity, and equality, and of course protest about the issues continuing to affect the LGBTQ+ community. As society’s understanding about the many nuanced layers within our rainbow family continues to evolve and broaden, so too does Pride in London’s work to represent all communities and identities. We are privileged to have the ability to march through our country’s beautiful capital city when so many others around the world cannot do the same.
As we head towards 2022 and Pride’s Golden Jubilee – our 50th anniversary – we will continue to seek to bring Pride to all corners of the city, boost accessibility, and invite all voices to be part of our movement. We are committed to delivering a Pride that not only represents our London communities, but which sets the benchmark for inclusion and equality.
What’s your best memory of Pride?
Upon reflection I have so many great memories of Pride, but I have to say my best memory is from 2018, when I marched as the first ever Black Director of Pride in London. It was a little bit of history in the making, and most importantly it was the moment that I cemented myself as a public role-model for the black queer community. Moments like that galvanise me to continue to champion this community whenever and however I can.
What would you like to say to the organisers of WorldPride in Copenhagen and Malmö?
To our Pride family in Copenhagen and Malmö, we wish you the best as you deliver WorldPride 2021. This is your opportunity to shine the light on the global LGBTQ+ community in celebrating all that we are, how far we’ve come, and the importance of standing in unity and fighting for those who still face persecution around the world. There is so much power to #YouAreIncluded!