Pride in London loses key partner over racism concerns as DIVA magazine pulls out of women’s stage

More people identifying as lesbian, gay or bisexual in UK than ever before

The LGBT+ women’s magazine DIVA has pulled out of Pride in London amid mounting concerns over racism in the top levels of the event’s leadership team.

DIVA publisher Linda Riley announced on Wednesday (17 March) that she’d taken “the difficult but unavoidable decision” to withdraw DIVA’s support from the Women’s Stage in Leicester Square, which it had hosted for several years.

The magazine described problems with the “entire management structure” of Pride In London, saying it is “nothing short of scandalous” that the biggest diversity event in such a diverse city is represented by a board which chiefly comprises white, cis, gay men.

“I cannot in all conscience continue to lend the DIVA name to an event which has consistently failed in its duty to include everyone in the LGBTQI+ community,” Linda Riley wrote.

“And so, to be absolutely clear, as well as no longer lending the DIVA name to the Women’s Stage, we will no longer have an official presence in the parade which we were so proud to lead in 2019.”

The magazine states firmly: “Our readership is diverse. Our community is diverse. Until we see our whole selves represented at Pride In London, we will not be back.”

DIVA’s withdrawal follows multiple resignations from Pride in London staffers, including that of the senior-most Black team member, communications director Rhammel Afflick.

Afflick said the leadership routinely “ignores Black voices” and has shown no desire to meaningfully stand up to racism.

“Within the leadership, there is an unfortunate reluctance to accept that the liberation of LGBT+ people must be coupled with the fight against sexism, ableism, racism and other forms of unacceptable discrimination,” he said in a statement.

Rhammel Afflick

Rhammel Afflick quit Pride for London after seven years citing concerns about racism. (Supplied)

“This reluctance has been evident through a series of decisions taken by Pride in London’s leadership. These decisions are detrimental to all our communities but in particular to Black LGBT+ people.

“I’ve also personally witnessed the leadership’s insistence on ignoring Black voices in our communities and among our own volunteers when they speak up and speak out. I cannot and will not condone Pride in London’s insistence on finding reasons to look the other way.”

Riley noted Afflick’s resignation when explaining DIVA’s reasons for cutting ties with the event, saying this was the most recent “but by no means the only” example of how people of colour feel unrepresented by Pride in London.

The publisher recalled several problematic decisions made by Pride in London in recent years, including in 2015 when UKIP were allowed to take part – a decision that was later reversed.

Many of these problems were raised in 2018 when Stonewall refused to take part in the parade, citing lack of Black, Asian and Ethnic minority inclusivity as the chief driver for their decision.

“Pride’s statement that ‘we know we must do better…’ now has a hollow ring to it,” Riley said. “It is the latest in a long line of ‘lessons must be learned’ apologies but it is evident that nothing has actually changed.

“Words are no longer enough; the entire management structure of Pride In London has to change and has to change now, and I believe that must include the immediate resignation of co-chair Michael Salter-Church.”

Salter-Church, a former adviser to the Conservative Party, took over the organisation in 2013. He is also director at telecoms giant Openreach and a council member of the National Trust.

Riley suggested the co-chair was “spreading himself too thinly” to give these allegations the attention they deserve, and that the time has come for change.

“The time for words is over. Now, we need action,” she declared. “As a first step, Pride In London should immediately appoint a board that is reflective of the whole of our community because in order to be able to influence change there should be a diversity of opinion from the very top.”

PinkNews has reached out to Pride in London for comment.