Former Islington leader calls for rainbow crossing to mark anniversary

Rainbow colours on the pavement outside Arsenal Station

A rainbow zebra crossing was installed outside Arsenal Station in 2014. - Credit: Transport for London

A former Islington Council leader is calling for a permanent rainbow pedestrian crossing in the borough to mark 50 years since the first gay rights demonstration in the UK.

About 150 people came together in 1970 to stand in solidarity with Louis Eakes of the Young Liberals, who was arrested after approaching men in a police entrapment operation. Mr Eakes claimed he was asking them for a light. 

READ MORE: Protesters reimagine first ever gay rights demonstration to celebrate 50th anniversary

To commemorate the anniversary, former Islington Council leader Terry Stacy is calling for a permanent LGBTQ+ pedestrian crossing to be installed in the borough. 

He has been lobbying the authority to install the colourful road markings for some time, he said, and said Islington Liberal Democrats worked with the Gay Liberation Front (GLF) and Outrage! to get a plaque installed for the Highbury Fields protest more than 20 years ago. 

Terry Stacy

Terry Stacy - Credit: Archant

In a recent email to current Islington Council leader Richard Watts, Terry suggested it could be on Upper Street, or the crossing outside the Town Hall which "is dying out for a rainbow makeover".

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He said: “It’s now time the council did something about this and very visibly showed solidarity with our diverse LGBTQ+ communities. These visible signs of equality are not tokenism. It is vital that we have visible, prominent and physical signs that our diverse LGBTQ+ citizens are integral to our community."

Islington has historical ties to the LGBT+ community - South and Finsbury’s Chris Smith was the first openly gay MP in 1984, Cllr Robert Crossman was the UK’s first openly gay mayor in 1986 and one of the UK’s first same-sex marriages took place at the Town Hall in 2014. 

Chris Smith, then MP for Islington South and Finsbury, was the first MP to come out. Picture: Johnny

Chris Smith, then MP for Islington South and Finsbury, was the first MP to come out. Picture: Johnny Green/PA - Credit: PA Archive/Press Association Ima

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Additionally,  gay Islington writer Joe Orton lived in Islington with his partner Kenneth Halliwell for a number of years. In 1967, Kenneth murdered Joe and then killed himself.

A spokesperson from Islington Council said: "The council is proud of Islington’s rich LGBTQ+ history and culture.

"We are very much in favour of a rainbow crossing to celebrate this, however, due to the ongoing pandemic, it has not been possible this year. We will certainly look into the idea again next year."

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