Despite months of hard work that leaves Mark exhausted even before the clean up operation on Oxford Street begins, Pride remains an incredibly enjoyable and meaningful day for him.
“It’s the reward of seeing people enjoy the parade, how they kind of have that feeling of being able to walk down the streets of London which normally would be full of cars and buses and lorries, to walk down the street and have people clapping them and cheering as they go past.”
As the Head of Communications at METRO Charity, which has been funded by Comic Relief, Mark sees first hand all the important work that still remains to be done even 50 years after the Stonewall riots – violent demonstrations which kick-started the LGBT+ movement we know today. He says that LGBT+ people are still hesitant to do something as simple as hold hands in public, an act a straight couple wouldn’t even think about.
“People don’t do it, they hold back. So they bring a little bit less of themselves into their everyday lives, which is really quite a big shame.”
It’s this desire to make sure that all LGBTQ+ people have the space to thrive and be themselves that fuels Mark, as he recalls his first Pride event.
“I didn’t really come out as gay until it was just before I started university, so I hadn’t had much experience of being fully myself. As far as I remember, I did manage to put on quite a few different things before I managed to decide on what I was wearing. Pretty sure there was a pink wig involved, there was definitely make up. So it was quite a bold statement I was making in my first parade.”
Mark says that, while many people might feel that Pride has become quite commercial, it remains an important event which now has grown to include a lot of straight allies.
“It’s a very safe space that Pride creates. I think it helps you release your inner self. I think what’s really nice about Pride, is that it helps you do that on the day, but actually, it brings you closer to doing that every day."