reached new levels of euphoria on a double decker bus in the pouring rain driving down Cally Road last month.
In accordance to the pre-boarding dress code, I donned a patchwork concoction of some of my most fabulous attire, which, admittedly, looked like I was post-nap-Sainsbury’s-bound in comparison to what some of my fellow bus-riders were wearing.
Andrew Lumsden, an original member of the GLF, strutted down the cat walk-cum-coach aisle in an embroidered khaki jumpsuit, created back in 1972 for the UK’s first Pride March. Meanwhile Dan Glass, the person behind Queer Tours of London – who organised the Bang Bus – came adorned in a floor length fur coat and a zippered pair of PVC hot pants.
Dan and Andrew were only a couple of the powerhouses of the UK’s LGBT+ activist movement – past and present – I’d managed to nab a seat alongside. And luckily enough, for me and passing pedestrians, they’d all turned up in their full drag-wearing, arse-cheek-bearing, patriarchy-tearing glory.
his was the first-ever bus tour organised by Dan and the clan behind Queer Tours. The group, formed earlier this year to mark the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality, were set up as a constructive response to closures of LGBTQ+ spaces throughout the capital.
Prior to last month, the tours had only been held on-foot. Knowledge thirsty queers and comrades were chaperoned to the likes of the Royal Courts of Justice, the Houses of Parliament and the cruising hotspots of yonder-year Soho.
The walking tours offer an informative and invigorating insight into the continued efforts of London’s queer activists, who are driven by a desire to teach our history, increase our visibility and reclaim our spaces. Unsurprisingly, adding an open-top bus and set of speakers to the mix sent the hedonist-o-meter through the roof.T
he tour started at 6pm outside the Black Cap, the once lost and, since last month, reclaimed late night LGBT+ venue in Camden. Here, we kicked-off with talks, poetry and a serenade from the Black Cap Foundation’s Alex Green.
Placards plastered with legendary drag acts were handed out and without further ado, we were off on our merry way. Fecklessly hurtling through the city, speakers blaring, rain-clouds gathering, banners declaring ‘how dare you assume we’re straight,’ trailing from the back seat, we embarked on a raucous three-hour ride to Dalston Superstore.
Housmans bookstore was the first stop. Members of the GLF took to the mic to tell of their run-ins with the police, while a team of coppers charged through the bus, inspecting the limpness of our wrists, and handcuffing those whose queer credentials weren’t quite up to scratch.T
he evening continued in this mischievous vein. Frivolity accompanied by poignant talks remembering and ridiculing the past, basking and understanding the present and reinstating the need for our continued efforts in the future.
Dusk continued to pelt droplets of rain on us as the high-vis wearing ‘Inspector Faggot’ trawled the aisles checking tickets. Disco balls twirled, jello shots and samosas were passed around as we ploughed our way east. Here, members of the Friends of The Joiners Arms campaign discussed the importance of the space and the progress they have made in returning it to the queer community.
All the while, the crew from the Manchester-based African Rainbow Family snapped away on the backseats, Mosaic LGBT Youth Centre kept dry on the lower deck and the team from LGBTQ+ homeless charity Outside Project, showed impressive levels of commitment as they rode bikes alongside the jumpin’ bus.There we were, a merry band of queers, streaking through the night, invincibly soaring around in a transient hive of creativity, empowerment and optimism. The energy on-board was only amplified by the faces of bewilderment we pulled up alongside every time we came to a halt next to the never-looked-so-dreary No.28 bus.
This Saturday it’s time for round two – the queer women’s Bang Bus is taking to the streets. Starting at the Camden Lesbian Centre & Black Lesbian Group on Phoenix Road, the tour looks to highlight the alarming rates women’s refuges are being closed down across the capital and pry into why there’s only one permanent lesbian bar in London.
Here’s hoping it’ll be the same joyous, thought-provoking and hedonistic retreat from heteronormative society its forerunner was. Race ya to the top deck.
Main image: Elizabeth Jameson