A month ago, we wrote for Freedom about the history of Mad Pride, and how we’re bringing it back in 2022 and well, we, all of us, did exactly that. It was a day filled with lunacy, screams, tears, hope and abolition. We cannot thank enough everyone who participated and turned up more for the spirit and insanity you brought. We really fucking needed this.
It’s really the bare minimum, but psych survivors, lunatics – we deserve a space to be believed, a space where no one questions your trauma and claims it was ‘for your own good’. We deserve to be able to cry together, to mourn our friends that were murdered by psychiatric and prison systems, to scream and yelp in the street and slap our faces and tick and fidget and stim without being given weird looks. And we did. Mad resistance begins with being proud of the things we have been forced to suppress our whole lives, and mad liberation comes from turning the things we suppressed into weapons that overturn psychiatry. Isn’t it sad that whenever mad people get together, we end up crying? Because our communities are so torn by death and police violence and incarceration and fear? And despite all that, we all managed to forge a wholesome, warm space filled with joy and affirmation, resistance and rage, fire and love.
Mad Pride felt like a grouping of comrades who are ready to set the world alight for justice, a refreshing feeling when some spaces can feel too preoccupied with academic papers or reading groups to realise the struggle on the streets. It is us, it is our loved ones, being locked up, harmed, and killed by these systems. This is not a struggle we read about but live. It is not a hobby, but out of necessity, for survival. We are not an exception – all marginalised communities understand what it means to be struggling for our lives, not for status. Mad Pride is a statement against respectability of all kinds. We will be being crazy and sectionable as shit, right in front of parliament, and what the fuck are you going to do to stop us?
From the beginning, our beautiful friends and comrades from the Mutual Aid café filled our bellies with warmth, love and delicious food, a seemingly endless supply, alongside a freeshop of clothes for anyone to take what they needed and wanted. There is nothing madder, more fringe-like, more lunatic than being crazy enough to look after each other in a world that teaches us the opposite. Mad Pride would have been nothing without the intense, long preparation from our café comrades who worked so hard to keep our stomachs and souls replenished. (More food at demos, less (no) SWP…!)
We then had beautiful speeches from comrades at SOAS Detainee Support, Cradle, No More Exclusions, Zapatista Solidarity Network, Z’ev, Nic – a queer family member of Taylor, Orgullo Loco Madrid, Copwatch Network, Stonehenge Heritage Action Group, Close the Priory, the Mutual Aid cafe and a friend of Kevan Thakrar, our comrade locked up inside, and CPA. They were stirring, emotional, grief-stricken, rageful, joyous, beautiful, hopeful, and all mad as fuck. We might have to keep it hidden sometimes, but lunatics are agitating for liberation in every different sphere, which proves beyond doubt just how important it is that psychiatric abolition is firmly embedded in every radical space. From land defenders to prison abolitionists, Black liberationists, and people fighting borders, Mad Pride 2022 was a space not just to be mad, but to be revolutionary because we truly cannot have one without the other.
Apparently, some israeli settlers walked past at one point, confused as to what was going on, and after seeing a Palestine flag, whispered ‘falsteen, falasteen’ shocked under their breath and swiftly walked away. We are proud to scare off psychs and colonisers alike! After rousing, emotional speeches, it was time to rebirth the mad pride tradition, the bed push. Making its debut in the 1990s, the bed push, made up of a crazy comrade being pushed down the road in a hospital bed, is there to symbolise bringing psychiatric violence out of the shadows, and also liberating a friend from the psych ward and rolling them out to freedom – and we can tell you, there was nothing more freeing than sick screaming alongside the Thames with so many other crazies. It felt like a moment of history, pushing the bed as tourists and passersby collectively turned with shock or confusion, the same expressions and thoughts no doubt that members of the public would have had when our lunatic elders first started the bed push. It felt powerful, like the comrades of decades ago were propelling us as we pushed the bed over the bridge. It felt like they were alongside us – and let’s not forget, many of them were. We were honoured to welcome friends from the mad movement in britain who have been active for over 30 to 40 years, bringing their wisdom, knowledge and experience. The thread of resistance was passing down to us, as we try earnestly to build on the monumental work they have done, and are doing. There is no honour greater than having the chance to hold onto this thread, ready to defend it and pass it on to those who come after us with new hope and new rage.
With the hospital bed draped in the Palestine flag, we continued to push it past St. Thomas’ hospital, a site that many people amongst the demo have traumatic memories of, being dragged along that road, sectioned in that hospital, or doing psychiatric arrestee support until the early hours of the morning, ready to risk every legal repercussion to help a friend escape their detainment. The screams rose as the hospital came into sight, and once again, it felt like, maybe, all of us could be a small part of history. Maybe one day, people like us will look back on this day and be as inspired as we were when we first learnt of psych survivor movements, reclaim bedlam, mad pride and the mental patients’ union. Maybe one day, people will question why we ever needed a mad pride, because mad liberation will be achieved. One day, psychiatry will be a distant horror story, and mad people will march the streets as we did on Thursday 14th July 2022, but not out of anger and grief, but solely out of joy, freedom and love instead.
Mad Priders allegedly blocked roads, covered up XR stickers with mad pride stickers, sang, screamed, chanted, went crazy as fuck, and showed london what it would be like when releasing all the lunatics from the asylums. Halfway through the march, we realised we’d left all of our banners behind – the mad pride 2022 one, the campaign for psychiatric abolition, and the banner that makes no sense, with messy, crazy thoughts, including ‘BPD – Beautiful Princess Disorder’, written over it. We shouted ‘A-C-A-B ALL COPS ARE BASTARDS, A-P-A-B ALL PSYCHS ARE BASTARDS’ and fucking meant it, with every ounce of vim in our hearts – and we also didn’t know any of the other chants that were being shouted through the megaphone because most of us had never been to a Mad Pride before! We came to show the world that you SHOULD be scared of mad people because we’re here, we’re united, and we’re ready to tear down every oppressive system the world over in the craziest way you’ve seen. It’s time to stigmatise ‘mental illness’ again, so they fear the power we have.
We marched back to the square, freedom burning in our hearts, and started up the speakers again, ‘crazy’ by gnarls barkley, britney spears and rebel songs booming opposite parliament. We danced and sang and laughed and chatted and cried and fire-spun. We felt free. We cannot wait to celebrate Mad Pride 2023 with you because by then, we will be a year closer to psychiatric abolition and, who knows, by then, maybe psychiatry will already be abolished? You may call us mad for thinking that, but guess what? We fucking are, and we’re ready to fuck shit up!
Mad pride is for the people who scream in the street, for the people who talk to themselves on the tube, for the people who you are scared of when you pass them on the street, for the people who run down the street naked, for the people who get dragged around by the cops whilst in a mental health crisis, for the people who get the cops called on them for taking drugs, for the mums who have social services knocking on their door every week, for every person incarcerated in a prison, psych ward, detention centre and care home. Mad Pride is for Taylor, Seni, Sara, Grace, David, Lia, Alfie, Jorge, Sarah, Frank, Kelly, we know Nadia, Mia, Philip, Aoifa, Christie, Sadie, Katrina, Ruth, Lauren, Indy, Bethany, Jason, Flavio, Robert, Shay, Sean, Jack, Elena, Amy, Hannah, Michael, Ella, Brad, Ali, Tianna, Manon, Lewis, Sami, Yazmina, Katy, Rachel, Tia, Zoe, Charlotte, Liv, Elen and Matthew. Mad Pride is for everyone lost we do not know the names of, but we feel their rage, and we fight with them. Madness should not mean death, but under psychiatry, it does, and we will never accept that. We will fight to see psychiatric abolition and mad pride in our lifetimes, and we would be more than honoured to see you fight alongside us.
All images by CPA.