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London's Queer Punks Are Making Themselves Heard

Up the LGBTQ+ punx!
The Pride Punx float at London Pride 2016. Photo: Colin Clarke

There's not a lot of crossover between the punk world and mainstream LGBTQ+ culture. Which is odd, because there are plenty of queer punks and punk bands, and actually many of the figures we now view as revolutionary gay icons – Leigh Bowery, Boy George, Divine – essentially came out of the punk scene, or at least embodied the punk spirit in the way they went about their lives.

When London filmmaker Tali Clarke realised the punk scene wasn't getting its fair share of visibility in the LGBTQ+ world she came up with Pride Punx, a float at the London Pride parade that would see live bands playing to a brigade of pogoing punks. That idea came to fruition at last year's parade, and went down so well that Tali's been asked back to this year's event, in central London this Saturday.


I caught up with Tali for a chat.

Filmmaker Kim Ford documented last year's fun in this short film.

VICE: Hi Tali. Where did Pride Punx come from?
Tali Clarke: I went to Berlin Pride and was overcome by how joyful and how amazing it was, but there was just one thing missing for me: music that connected with me on a deeper level than just party music. I'd been chatting with my queer punk mates in London – especially my bandmate Lawrence, who had been gradually coming out for years, about his place in the queer scene. He told me it was quite separate from the rest of his life and he didn't really feel a part of it. You've got queercore, which is really important, strong and has a loud voice, but it's still kind of separate from hardcore and punk. I think punk is queer in its essence, and it's so accepting. I felt I wanted to showcase and promote that, and have it become part of the biggest queer celebration that we currently have in this country and in most countries – the Pride parade. I feel really happy to have been part of the DIY punk scene for so long, and I feel it's really special and accepting, which I think fits really well into Pride.

Did it cost money to join the parade?
The Pride people gave me a month deadline to get together £2,000 for a place in the parade. So I put half of my personal savings into it, then thought I'd take a chance and try to raise the other half before, or after, Pride. Amazingly I managed to raise the half back with GoFundMe, and my friend Andy Howells helped me put on a fundraiser gig at T Chances in Tottenham. I wanted it to be an event that promotes a whole feeling of love, because punks are full of love; they might seem angry, but it all comes from a place of love. Since last year I've been putting on Pride Punx gigs in London, and other people have been fundraising on our behalf.


Nice. What was the reception like last year?
It was amazing! The people at Pride look baffled, but were really into it. They were head-banging, moshing… we even had some of the guys from the eBay float behind us join in. Looking out into the crowd of 10,000 people, everyone was cheering us, shouting and taking photos. Everyone was having fun, and our float was really fucking loud. Whether they were into the music or not I think they enjoyed the energy of it and the spectacle, and that it was quite different to everything else there.

Photo: Tashina Alam

You mention eBay; Pride has been criticised for becoming overly corporate. Is that not at odds with the whole punk ethos?
I spoke to one of the organisers about it and he explained that it's not as corporate as people think. The whole thing is run by volunteers, and all the money goes back into it. You're right – there is a big corporate presence now and it seems quite brash, because as a punter all you often see is big brand names and logos. Pride comes from a radical background and we're trying to reclaim it as the people's celebration. The punk thing might seem antagonistic in that it's uncompromising, but we just want to be there and give our own slice of what we think Pride is. It'd be great if other small groups got together and did their own floats, because the community groups are mainly walking groups in the parade – but if they can fundraise then they can make it happen. I hope ours can be a message to other people that it can be done.


Why do you think punk and alternative scenes haven't had a place at Pride before? Where are all the gay rock bars?
Well, early punk was really linked to queer culture; the punks would go to the gay clubs so they could wear what they wanted, with all the bondage gear. With Pride, I think the punks have rejected it. There are anti-Pride marches which are frequented by alternative types of people, saying, "This is too corporate, this isn't us," so I think the punk scene may have rejected the queer scene, not because of them being queer, but because of the commercialisation of it all. The LGBTQ+ scene has almost strived to become more commercial and accepted in everyday, mainstream culture, whereas punks are against that and are happy to not be part of it. So perhaps that's where the separation has come from in the past?

Photo: Colin Clarke

Makes sense. What's next for Pride Punx? What have you got in store for the float this year?
We are releasing a compilation – "Queer as Fuck Vol.1" – with all the bands from the float last year and others that have played the fundraiser gigs and have generally been involved and supportive. Half of the bands have queer members and half of them don't. Next year I'd love to do a Pride Punx tour. Pride is usually a month long, around the dates of the Stonewall riots, from the 24th of June for around a month, to the end of July. I'd love to take the bands to different cities in Europe that host Pride events, and host Pride Punx parties, like a touring menagerie.


I always wanted to work with an LGBTQ+ homeless charity because there's a large percentage of homeless people that identify as queer in some way, because sometimes they've been kicked out of home or they're trans and don't feel catered for at homeless shelters. So I've started working with a charity called The Outside Project, which is a real grassroots charity. They've got a link to someone selling Status Quo's old tour bus and are raising money to buy it. It has 12 bunk beds to sleep 12 people, and has a kitchen and dining area, which would be a mobile homeless shelter. I really like their approach, and the Pride Punx afterparty this year at T Chances in Tottenham will be a fundraiser for that project.

I plan to work with more charities so I can give something back to the LGBT communities in our own way, because punks are really fucking good at fundraising. It's part of the culture. At Pride this year we have more wristbands for people if they want to join the moving mosh pit that's following the Pride Punx float, and we have great bands playing, including The Restarts, who are really big in the scene.

Nice – best of luck!


Keep up with Pride Punx here.