On 1 July 1972 a crowd of people gathered in London’s Trafalgar Square and marched to Hyde Park chanting “Gay is fun! Gay is proud! Gay is beautiful!”.
It was not the first march for LGBTQ+ rights in the UK, as similar protests had taken place in Highbury Fields, Islington, in 1970 and Trafalgar Square in 1971. But it was the first rally in the UK with the name “Gay Pride”, inspired by Pride events in the US.
Fifty years on, Royal Mail is commemorating the landmark event with a set of eight illustrated stamps, art-directed by NB Studio and illustrated by the award-winning artist Sofie Birkin, whose work has featured in campaigns for brands such as Nike and Apple.
The stamps carry vibrantly coloured illustrations of typical scenes at Pride events, which are now an annual fixture at cities across the world. One stamp depicts a banner reading “love always wins”.
One of the demands of the first Pride rally in the UK was greater legal equality for gay people. Homosexuality was partially decriminalised in England and Wales in 1967 yet police arrests of gay and bisexual men remained common in the years following.
However, a climate of homophobia only increased in the 1980s as the Aids epidemic led to a rise in attacks on LGBTQ+ people. The health crisis sparked new Pride events such as Manchester Pride, which began as an Aids fundraiser.
Throughout the 1990s, Pride spread across the UK. Pride Scotia launched in Scotland, with annual marches alternating between Edinburgh and Glasgow, and the first Cardiff Pride followed in 1999.
In the 2000s, attendance at Pride in London grew alongside increasing support for LGBTQ+ rights, and more events were launched under the Pride banner. By 2015 Pride in London was attracting 1 million people, and it continued to grow until the Covid pandemic forced cancellations in 2020 and 2021.
David Gold, the director of external affairs and policy at Royal Mail, said: “The vibrant, colourful Pride events that take place in towns and cities across the UK today trace their origins to a small number of people who marched through central London half a century ago to raise awareness of discrimination and inequality.”
The stamps are available to pre-order from 23 June and go on general sale on 1 July.