Walking with the WLQP

Guest blog by Isa di Carpegna

The West London Queer Project, an LGBTQ charity, organises monthly walks, but once a year there is a special one: the Pride 10km in favour of the West London Motor Neurone Disease Association (MNDA).

Almost 300 people were expected on Saturday at Furnival Park.  Towering over the podium is Beary Poppins, a dashing drag queen, cracking jokes and encouragements as participants grab their badges, goodies and snacks.

The general impression is one of happiness, excitement and incredible diversity: there are people of all ages from toddlers to retirees, all ethnicities and backgrounds, representing the whole LGBQ spectrum and their allies.

There is joy at seeing the Queer community getting together in West London.  For some, this is the first time.  Others are old timers.  Colette tells me: “I was here last year.  It was my best day of the whole year.  I met some really interesting people and kept in contact ever since. They do so much, they are really amazing.”

Hammersmith and Fulham mayor Patricia Quigley comes to the stage:

“Thinking about D-Day on this Pride month made me realize that without what happened 80 years ago, we wouldn’t have the freedoms we have today. I want you all to have a great time.  You are doing this for an amazingly good cause.”

Aubrey Crawley, founder of the WLQP, follows:

“About three years ago, I found out about my friend Zoe’s diagnosis.  And through that I realised how little I knew about MND and how little funding it actually gets from the government.  Thank you all for being here.”

Volunteers from the Good Gym organise a general warm-up and then everyone is off after a rowdy photo shoot.

I approach Beary Poppins and ask about her involvement with the WLQP:

“I just think they are fabulous. Before being a drag queen, as a gay man, I always used to think of  West London as not having a scene representative of queer people. Then the WLQP came about and started to do the most wonderful things for everyone under the queer umbrella.”

“When I started doing drag, they really took me under their wing.  I grew kind of with them. It’s been really, really special. And actually just coming out today you see there is a real community here and it is really beautiful.  I made a lot of queer friends from different walks of life. I hope that the tolerance and love can grow. The WLQP has a very special place in my heart.”

Time to join the walk myself and cross Hammersmith bridge.  As I move along, I manage to talk to many people of various levels of fitness.  We follow the towpath to Chiswick bridge and continue right towards Chiswick mall to The Black Lion pub 10 kms further.  I am feeling ravenous.  There is a happy queue.  We get hold of warm sandwiches and drinks and everyone fills the tables in the pub garden.

After a brief spell of rain, the sun is up again and the entertainment begins.  Beary Poppins opens the show followed by Mahatma Khandy, Lisa Cortes and Miss Chanel no5.  Each singer outperforming the previous with the help of an enthusiastic audience who becomes more and more involved, laughing along all through the afternoon.

Passers-by and dog walkers join in the fun and by 4pm everyone is singing and dancing.

It is getting past 5 pm but the crowd is so enthusiastic that the performers are putting in overtime.  In fairness, they seem to be enjoying themselves at least as much as everyone else.

Eventually, the music stops, the pub needs to clear the tables for the dinner reservations.  They are as exhausted and happy as the marchers.  After many hugs and embraces, everyone finally disperses.

As I cycle back home, I realize I can’t stop smiling.  I’ll be back next year.

Thank you to – West London Queer Project & the many on the day volunteers – www.wlqp.org

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar