Statement on the Right to Protest

The Pink Singers was founded 40 years ago as an inclusive community choir, a space for marginalised people to come together joined by our love of singing and our solidarity. The music we perform has always been a mixture of popular, classical, and political pieces, and our membership has a diverse range of views. We are however united by the continual struggle for LGBTQ+ civil rights. Our first ever performance was at the 1983 London Lesbian and Gay Pride march and we have been marching, singing and protesting at Pride ever since. Despite the many gains in rights and freedoms achieved  for LGBTQ+ people in the UK over the four decades we have existed, parts of our community continue to be persecuted, harassed, and legislated against. The fight is not over, and our presence at Pride – which is protest – is more necessary than ever. 

It is with dismay therefore that we witnessed last weekend the arrest of peaceful protesters in London during the Coronation, with some people being arrested merely on the suspicion that they were intending to protest. While this was happening a group of Pinkies were representing us at the Coronation Concert at Windsor Castle, performing as part of its ‘people’s choir’ to represent the diversity of the nation. We were asked to represent LGBTQ+ identities at this international event, and accepted as our founding principles are to be visible, out and proud, and if there is a choir that represents inclusive LGBTQ+ community in the UK, then it is the Pink Singers. But we cannot stand idly by while anti-protest legislation is forced upon us. 

Protest has played, and continues to play, an integral part in the LGBTQ+ community’s fight for our rights. From Stonewall in the US to Section 28 here in the UK, protest has formed the cornerstone of activism and has done much to progress the rights of LGBTQ+ people across the world. The arrests during the coronation weekend set a dangerous precedent regarding the right to protest in the UK that is incompatible with the needs of the LGBTQ+ community.

While these changes affect us all, trans, migrant and racialised communities are disproportionately affected by hostile anti-protest legislation. Any withdrawal of the right to protest follows reasoning that increased state power keeps us safe, even as we know that this is not the case for LGBTQ+ people of colour, LGBTQ+ migrants, and most trans people. The Coronation Choir sang the song ‘Brighter Days’ to reflect rising hope in the UK after the recovery from COVID-19, but with the recent and growing threat of legislative changes against trans people proposed by the UK’s own Equality and Human Rights Commission – widely condemned by UK LGBTQ+ charities, by a representative of the United Nations and reflected in the UK’s ongoing fall in the ILGA Europe LGBTQ+ rights rankings – we may yet see even darker days, and protesting these threats against our community is more important than ever.

In 2021 we took the decision to pause our participation in the Pride in London march while they addressed issues of systemic racism within the organisation. However this pause did not mean we stopped marching, and we have been taking our message of joy, inclusion, solidarity and protest to many other marches including London Trans Pride as well as Kyiv-Warsaw Pride in Poland. Since the events of last weekend the police have expressed ‘regret’ over the protesters’ arrests, but we cannot rest on our laurels. Making music is what we love and what brings us together, but we are also a family – a chosen family – and we need to take care of each other. This year we will be out together marching proud and singing in London, Liverpool, Northampton, Bologna and elsewhere standing up for our family and for what we believe in. We hope to see you there.