Thursday, 2 July 2015

Happy Tenth Birthday, Pink Jack!

On Saturday 2nd July 2005 London celebrated its annual Pride. Something appeared that day which caught the collective imagination of all lgbt Brits. The Union Jack is already a unique design classic, and ten years ago today a new version appeared – the Pink Jack.

I’m delighted that the creator of the Pink Jack, David Guinnutt, has agreed to write something for me today on how this new design came into the world.

The first I realised ten years had passed since Pink Jack was created was when a letter from The Patent Office arrived asking me to renew the Trademark. Ten years, Wow. I’m very proud of this, it was an idea I hoped would last and be relevant for longer than my lifetime….I didn’t do it to make a lot of money (just as well as I haven’t!) I think it’s more important to make things that will always be around… and I have the same philosophy with my photographs, I want portraits to be interesting a hundred years hence, not just today. It’s early days but so far, so good!

The first flag I made was from company in East London, a proper old school flag maker. I still have it, it’s made of a very heavy cotton and has toggles on it where it would be tied to a mast. The pink is vibrant blancmange pink. It felt it was quite punk in a Westwood kinda way as I imagined it flying on a (gay) galleon –pirate or otherwise and the pink was quite shocking and it seemed a bit anti-establishment….in a good way.

The first day I ‘flew’ the flag it was at the Pride London march, 2004. I remember carrying it on the tube on a bamboo cane, wrapped around the cane so no one could see it , felt a really self-conscious, it’s not in my nature to seek out attention on me but I’m compelled to push myself forward for things I believe in.

Getting off the tube at Hyde Park Corner I remember it was absolutely rammed with people arriving for the march, whistles blowing, people shouting, chatting, waving banners, I shuffled along in a sea of revellers, questioning when I’d have the bottle to start waving the flag- I’m not sure what I thought would happen- maybe everyone stop and stare and laugh at me.

I found my way to where the march was to start, everyone was milling around, lying in small groups on the grass, some already lined up at the head of the march. I was envious of other people who’d already got their banners or flag up. They didn’t look bothered or scared at all. I waited, trying to decide the right moment.

As time came for the march to start, the atmosphere was electric, everyone starts shouting, blowing whatever and making crazy noise, its the most incredible feeling the first time. Fuck it I couldn’t wait any longer and plucked up my nerve to unfurl the flag, up she went, heart in my mouth, it felt as if life would change forever ….but no one batted an eyelid.

It’s amazing the power carrying a flag gives you, people make way and I got to the front easily and marched behind Paul O’Grady, Stephen Fry, Wayne Sleep and I think Simon Callow and some other notable figures. I wanted the flag to get noticed and waved it for my life above Paul & Stephen’s heads!

Looking back there have been so many moments when the Pink Jack has appeared, being carried by people who I don’t know but who are celebrating what it stands for, it makes me so proud. It has to have a life of its own, nothing to do with me and it feels as if it does. Just today a friend texted to say it’s showing on a billboard in Canary Wharf re ‘What does Pride’ mean to you?’ 

My top ten moments are in no particular order :

Europride launch in 2005, my friend calling me from Oxford St screaming down the phone, ‘Your flags are everywhere! 

British Ambassador in Budapest flying the flag in the embassy to support the gay pride march there. 

Two guys waving the flag in Red Square, risking arrest 

Three large flags waving at the front of Last Night of the Proms – every year! 

A large flag being waved behind Jessica Ennis in the long jump at the London Olympics 

Being on the cover of QX for their ‘Faces of Soho’ edition 

Being at World Pride one year with all the other countries National flags 

Seeing two gay dads and their kids carrying them at Brighton Pride 

Being voted 16th in the Independents top 100 Pink List in 2013 

Alan Cumming always hanging one in his dressing room at Trafalgar Studios during Bent in Canada and London

For more information on the Pink Jack go to its website here.

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