Given last year’s experiences of schlepping to and fro from Battersea I thought it prudent to get down the day before and stay at a hotel somewhere in central London. We’d had plenty of notice this year and I booked Covent Garden Travelodge: pretty reasonable for our needs and easy for transport links. You don’t expect luxury at Travelodges, just a good night’s sleep so this provided all we needed.
So anyway, we got down on the Friday. After a bit of confusion I collected our Press passes from backstage in Trafalgar Square then wandered up to Camden for a lovely evening with friends (especially nice to meet Jharda again, and have unexpected company from Richie).
We were told that this year we were to have not just passes but also wristbands which I needed to collect from King’s Cross before the parade started. This meant a bit of a mad dash for me while Nicky and Si headed for the parade itself. Bad timing for the weekend – I was naffed off to discover the entire Circle line was shut down for maintenance which in turn led to various bus rides to Baker Street simply trying to get there before the parade started! Good news, I managed it (with just quarter of an hour to spare), making my way to the head of the parade led by Boris Johnson and Peter Tatchell.
There were a lot of photographers at the head of the parade – when it started we were moved back. Unfortunately (and this is my first experience of such behaviour) there were a couple of photographers who didn’t take any notice and started to spoil it for the rest of us conscientious lot; one photog was threatened with removal of his pass, and another idiot almost came to blows with a Parade Director. I strongly believe that there’s unwritten laws of courtesy when you’re a photographer, but this time it was a little… well, nasty I suppose.
I got ahead of the parade and started grabbing shots of the crowds of which there were enough to keep me going. At one point I turned back to see I was about 20 metres in front of the head of the parade, nothing in front of me and nothing behind me; at either side were thousands of cheering screaming people. Yes, it would seem I led the parade (pic here). Hurrah!
It soon became apparent we had a bit of an issue – how do we drop back into the parade to take shots of participants given all the photographers are being shoved back? Si and Nicky managed to do this by blending into the crowd while the parade flag went past, but I was skeptical of this given I’d got two huge cameras around my neck. I slipped out and walked with the spectators on Oxford Street while the first few floats went past, then found a steward near a break in the barriers.
“Can I get in the parade please?” I wibbled, after getting his attention. “I’m Press, meant to be over there. Sorry.”
“Um no. We can’t part the barriers.”
“Bother. I’m really meant to be photographing.”
He thought for a moment and grinned slightly. “Right, you could climb over?”
So I handed him the larger camera and lens, and vaulted the barrier with about £3k-worth of camera kit. I won’t repeat that experience but at least I was in the parade!
I walked with lots of floats – the London Gay Men’s Chorus, the LGBT Lib Dems, Labour and Tory groups, various campaign groups, and the London Raiders softball team – all the while taking photos (many of which are on my Flickr stream, all of which are on photos.jml.net). I was sorry to miss Gaz (who was apparently in Soho Square), the Gaydar lot, and one of the Pinkies I’ve been talking with since I photographed him last year. Never mind, there’s always the 2011 parade!
Post-parade, Si and Nicky were waiting for me with a nice chilled pint in The Sherlock Holmes pub just off Trafalgar Square. Recovery time, a good sit down. Phew.
Next stop – the main stage. I arrived to find one of the performers from West End show ‘Wicked’ singing her little heart out, and it was at that point I discovered that this year our passes and wristbands didn’t just get us into the press pit but it also got us backstage. Bonus!
The stage was higher this year, by my estimation about 18″. This meant the angles were a lot sharper on some of the photos, but the press pit was also larger. Unfortunately, it was also a lot more full and there was quite a lot of shoving around – unfortunate. Some of the acts were pounced on by the photographers (including for some reason the cast of the West End show ‘Hair’) while others didn’t get touched and my philosophy in such situations is that I’d prefer to get photos other people don’t, so step back. Instead I took photos of acts waiting to go onstage, little bits of interaction between performers and producers, photos nobody else would get. Given some of the reactions so far, it was appreciated.
Anyway, back to the day. After a while, myself and Si went for a wander to see what the Leicester Square stage was like. Crowded, lots of people around. Some good shots taken, quite nice, and we got the (now usual) kick out of being able to walk through the exit and go out of the entrance cos we had press passes, baby! 😛
We fought our way up through Soho, to find there was nothing in Soho Square – not even many paraders. We took a few snaps (for that is all they were) and set off back.
At that point, I received a text message from Nicky: “Pink Singers all lining up”. SHIT, THIS IS THE BAND I’M HERE TO PHOTOGRAPH AND I’M STILL UP IN SOHO. We run as fast as we can through seething masses of people. We got to the main stage to find that yes, they’d all lined up but weren’t on for about another 30 minutes. Thanks for panicking me, love! Still, it left me backstage to take some more candid shots – excellent.
Paleday and the Pink Singers were wonderful – a better performance than last year, and I’m looking forward to Paleday doing some more full gigs.
And so we went on into the evening, with the final act being the DE Experience, a drag act performing most frequently at the Vauxhall Tavern. Lots of photos, lots of crowd shots, some opportunity to mess with the fisheye lens. It all finished up around 8:30pm so we headed back to the hotel.
(My t-shirt went down well – I’d opted for a red number with JAN MOIR THINKS I’M DIRTY printed on it. I got stopped a few times for people to take my photo, and met someone professing to be involved with the Daily Mail who said ‘don’t worry mate, we f*ing hate her too’. Comedy.)
Finally after half an hour of rest, showering, etc. we’re ready for a night out in Soho. That was a bit of a mess really, the whole place seemed to shut down about 11:30pm, maybe because of the broken glass? There were police everywhere and unless we wanted to go in a very very crowded club (Koko anyone?) we’d be out of luck. So, we strolled back to the hotel and in a display of middle-classed heterosexuality we had a few bottles of Carlsberg until the hotel bar closed. Meh.
There were about 80GB of photos this time round – a smaller number in total but I was shooting RAW and dumping them to a Vosonic Imagetank to prevent running out of CF (instead I ran out of juice on the BP511 batteries on the Canon 30D). I was carrying the 24-105mm f/4 IS L lens, the 70-200mm f/2.8 IS L lens and the f/2.8 fisheye (using it as an ultrawide on the 30D body at times). It seemed a good mix, and was supplemented sometimes by the Speedlite 580EX II flashgun to provide fill.