In my work as the Founder & Director of The Chateau, an underground LGBTIQA+ bar and cultural space for South East London, currently sadly closed as a physical space since the pandemic, I’m sometimes approached by community members for support on various projects. Last year this included bringing together the production needs for London Trans+ Pride, a vital pride event for our trans+ and non binary communities, and operating as a radical alternative to the now heavily commercialised main Pride in London event.
And so in September 2021, still in the thick of the pandemic, myself and my partner Jeremy strapped two vastly underpowered battery operated speakers on wheels and lead the London Trans+ Pride march down Piccadilly and into Soho. With two weeks notice and little resources it was the best we could manage, but completely unsuitable for the 5,000 – 10,000 people who gathered on that day.
Fast forward one year and when the London Trans+ Pride committee approached me again to support this year’s event, and for 2022, it was clear we needed to do better. Cue an unexpected phone call from Dom Thomas-Smith, Smyle’s MD, and an offer of support on the community focused LGBTQ+ projects I was currently working on. It couldn’t have come at a better time, and pairing Smyle’s skills and knowledge, their stock of equipment and general determination so support with the diverse needs of London Trans+ Pride, felt like a perfect fit. This was particularly poignant for me, having worked as a freelancer on and off for Smyle over the best part of 8 years, to have the opportunity to bring my two worlds together, in order to help create the kind of change I passionately believe in. It was an emotional moment.
London Trans+ Pride’s brief wasn’t a simple one, with unpredictable attendance numbers and a deeply embedded DIY approach. We needed a nimble system, with enough punch to get the vital speeches heard, but still able to fit into a compact Soho Square at the culmination of the march. Enter the formidable Andy Macdonald (Technical Director at Smyle) and his Production team to design a solution for the day, who with care and patience brought together not only the equipment, but a team of the best to help pull it all off.
As we met by Wellington Arch on the morning of 9th July, to begin building and dressing our flatbed 3.5 tonne vehicle, with an impressive sound system and silent generator kindly provided at cost by our friends at Green Voltage, we couldn’t have known that within hours 20,000 people would be following us, with rousing chants punching out of the line array PA system, calling on our government to support our trans community, and calling on society to stand by our trans brothers, sisters and siblings. It was a sight I will never forget, as we lead the march down Piccadilly, the truck decorated with flowers and banners, people with flags and placards stretched further than the eye could see. An electric atmosphere spread across central London as queer & trans people celebrated in the streets, protested injustices and mourned those we have lost along the way.
As the day drew to a close, with emotional and powerful speeches delivered from a makeshift stage the Smyle team built in under 15 minutes in Soho Square, I reflected on Smyle’s part in supporting the event, and how we all have a duty and responsibility to uplift the voices of these communities. There can often be an uncomfortable relationship between business and activism, but on this day Smyle proved that they are willing to step up to the table and make a difference, with the resources they have available, a commitment that I hope will continue into future years. Thank you Smyle, and thank you Dom, Macca, George, Ben, Joel, Becky and all who helped to make the day such a huge success.