During Pride, only one rainbow deserves to be seen. That’s why SKITTLES® has given up its rainbow to re-colour moments from Pride’s history. In partnership with GAY TIMES, Switchboard and Queer Britain, the Recolour The Rainbow campaign has breathed new life into archive imagery to acknowledge and celebrate those who have come before us in the fight for LGBTQ+ liberation.
Alongside the recolouring of four black and white images, we have delved deeper into the stories of the people featured in the photographs to find out their memories of the moment, and to spotlight and preserve queer history for a new generation.
It’s London in 1971. The sound of Simon & Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water echoes through the streets, glamorous photos of Barbara Streisand were released and her rise to gay icon status was well and truly on its way. But despite this, there is an overwhelming silence towards all things LGBTQ+. Andrew Lumsden, the man with the mustache in the photo uses the Italian word ‘omertà’ to describe it: ‘Don’t say a word, keep silent.’ Despite the changing of the Sexual Offences Act in 1967, there were still about six different laws which could negatively affect the community, Andrew explains. “Gay men were the obvious ones because there were two specific laws against sexual conduct by gay men at any age. But there were other laws to do with indecency and behavior in public which could affect anybody LGBTQ+. Lesbians suffered from that awful thing: silence.”
Through this dark period, there were moments of light. Radical drag was finding a place in the consciousness. It wasn’t the same as commercial drag; radical drag was reclaiming the right to wear any kind of clothes. “On one occasion I spent seven weeks wearing a skirt wherever I went,” Andrew recalls.
Andrew, who was 28 at the time, was not a member of the Gay Liberation Front youth group, but was asked and encouraged to come along on the day. He was due to speak after Michael Mason, the man in the picture at the microphone. “I wasn’t nervous, I’d done a lot of speaking in public at meetings,” he says. “I decided to be brief and it was something along these lines: ‘You may have often seen demonstrations in Trafalgar Square. You may have often seen demonstrations against the bomb campaign for nuclear disarmament, and you will have seen that there are always MPs up on the platform, lending their support to the campaign for nuclear disarmament and occasionally other causes. There are no MPs on this platform. There are no out MPs. You won’t see an MP on this platform.’”
The Gay Liberation Front began to change everyone’s attitudes towards LGBTQ+ people. Upon its beginnings, a manifesto was written with demands on how things could change. They did fight for their own liberation, but also the liberation of others. Through the ideals of being proud and open about who you were, you could create a ripple of change amongst those who knew you. “We often worked out that between 8 and 10 straight people’s lives would be altered by having a relative who joined the Gay Liberation Front. Unless they never heard that it had happened. But if they knew it had happened, then they learned what had been concealed from them for all previous centuries about the reality of queer people.”
Andrew found great delight in seeing the photo, acknowledging that it was wonderful to see evidence of what they had done and achieved, as photographs and selfies weren’t as common then. However, he also felt a great sense of loss. “I haven’t seen some of those people for so long that I don’t even know who they are anymore,” he says. “Others I know all too well who they are and they are dead. Sometimes it’s HIV and sometimes it’s other causes. So the death toll is very high on that plinth.”
Looking at his 28-year-old self, he adds: “I quite respect that young man – if I can say such a thing. He thought he was straight until he was about 25. Then he had hilarious and not-so-hilarious experiences trying to become acquainted with being gay. And after all that, he tumbled into the Gay Liberation Front and loved it.”
If you have a black and white photo from Pride’s radical beginnings, you can submit it here for the chance to have it recoloured and donated to the Queer Britain Archive.
Queer Britain is the national LGBTQ+ museum that is preserving queer history for generations to come. Click here to find out more about the work Queer Britain does and to support their mission to build the first national LGBTQ+ museum in the UK.
This is the fourth year SKITTLES® has been a key supporter of Switchboard, helping to raise awareness of the crucial service they provide to the LGBTQ+ community.
Since 1974, Switchboard has run an LGBTQ+ helpline that has supported millions of people in need of someone to talk to. They continue to help LGBTQ+ people every single day – no matter what the question. Switchboard’s LGBTQ+ helpline can be reached on 0300 330 0630. Click here to find out more about the services Switchboard provides and to help support their mission.