Tribal London

A study of the social groupings into which Londoners form themselves – maybe because of their passion for Harley Davidsons, their sexual orientation or their fashion preferences.

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Pride in London parade, Baker Street

Three years after the famous 1969 riot at the Stonewall bar in New York, the first UK Gay Pride Rally was held in London. It was a relatively small affair. By the mid-2000s, the name Pride London had been adopted, Regent Street and Oxford Street were closed to traffic for the parade and thousands were taking part. It’s changed its name again now – to “Pride in London” – and is hugely well attended by the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and trans-gender community.

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Chelsea and Fulham Harley Owners Group, Chelsea

Every year, on Remembrance Sunday, a large contingent from the Chelsea & Fulham HOG (Harley Owners’ Group) set off from their base on the King’s Road to ride to Elstead, a village in Surrey. They lay a wreath at the War Memorial there and someone recites a poem. In the year when this picture was taken, some Old Contemptibles were still alive and the ceremony was dedicated to them. “Old Contemptibles” was the name which the British troops in the 1914 regular army gave themselves, supposedly because of a remark made by the Kaiser.

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Punk, Camden Town

Punk is a wide term covering fashion, music, political views, art, literature, film, dance and lifestyle. As regards personal appearance, the intention is to shock – with their clothing, hairstyles, make-up, tattoos, jewellery and body piercing. Hair’s a big deal, of course. They favour vibrant, unnatural colours, Mohicans, spikes and other weird shapes that stand up as high as possible. And footwear? Doc Martens, naturally, but also Converse sneakers, skate shoes and brothel creepers.

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Royal Meeting, Ascot Racecourse

If you want to go to the Royal Enclosure at Ascot, you need to find a Royal Enclosure Member who’ll sponsor you and it has to be a Member who’s been in the Royal Enclosure at least four times. If you’re a foreign national, you can ask your embassy or high commission to submit your name. Whichever route you take, sponsorship forms have to be in months ahead. The Royal Meeting lasts for five days. “Ladies’ Day” is when the most extravagant and ridiculous hats are on show.

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Where’s Wally Fun Run, Victoria Park

The whole idea of the Where’s Wally books was that you had to spot Wally in the crowd. The National Literacy Trust’s Where’s Wally Fun Run takes the opposite approach. In 2013 there were 1,200 Wallies, so it was the non-Wallies who stood out. It was a pretty relaxed affair; nobody minded whether you ran, jogged or walked, and you could choose to cover either 5km or 10km. Even though it was the first year that the Trust had run the event and despite the snow on the ground, they had an amazing turn out.

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World Naked Bike Ride, Piccadilly

Every June, people all over the world stage a group cycle ride through the cities where they live and they go naked. At least, most of them do. The message is, “Go As Bare As You Dare”. So Londoners suddenly find that their roads are blocked by more than a thousand naked or near-naked cyclists. It’s a protest against cars. Partly on an environmental level, to show cycling’s more carbon efficient, but also highlighting how vulnerable you are if you’re on a bike in the middle of city traffic.

Riding lesson, Hyde Park

Many of the people that you see out riding horses in Hyde Park are having a group lesson with one of the riding schools based in the mews streets just north of the park. The horses they’re riding have done the circuit many times and if you look carefully, you might see that one or two of the riders are attached to the instructor by a leading rein to make sure they stay safe. 

London to Brighton Veteran Car Run, Westminster

The cars in the annual London to Brighton Veteran Car Run are all beautifully preserved pre-1905 models.  The event was arranged to celebrate the raising of the speed limit from 4 to 14mph, which was pretty fast back then. When cars first appeared on the roads, the law insisted that a man with a red flag had to walk in front of them for the safety of pedestrians. This law was dropped in 1878, and a red flag was symbolically burned at the start of the first-ever run, which took place in 1896, and had happened every year since then.

Common Hall, Guildhall, City of London

Despite its name, the only people allowed to attend Common Hall are liverymen – members of one of the City’s livery companies. These include the fishmongers, the merchant tailors and the farriers. They get together in the Guildhall once a year at Michaelmas to elect the new Lord Mayor. The liverymen choose two candidates in Common Hall and then the Court of Aldermen selects the winner.

Skateboarder, South Bank

There’s a brutal concrete undercroft near the National Theatre that’s been a skate park for 40 years. None of the skaters ever says a lot. It’s very much a little tribe with its own code of behaviour. And like any tribe, they united against an enemy when one came into view. The Southbank Centre lodged a planning application for a £120 million redevelopment plan, which would have seen the skate park being scrapped. The National Theatre and Boris Johnson joined them in fighting it and together they won.

Rough sleeper, pedestrian underpass, Park Lane

It’s virtually impossible to say how many rough sleepers there are in London. An online support network called CHAIN suggests that 6,437 people slept rough in London in 2012/3, an increase of 13 per cent on the previous year and a 62 per cent increase over two years. The good news, however, is that 20,000 people have been helped off the streets of London in the last ten years.

The Hill, Derby Day, Epsom Racecourse

The first Derby was run in 1778. Lord Derby had a group of friends over and they decided to race some of their best horses. Since then, Derby Day has become something of an institution. Even Dickens described a visit there some time in the 1850s. People still come in their thousands today – dozens of open-topped buses are commandeered and visitors climb in to get as good a view as those in the Queen’s Stand. Just behind the buses is a massive fun fair.

© Richard Slater