Alex Ingram, Rendezvous Events Ltd
Alex has written this post for ILEA UK as part of our #EventWell17 blog series
Each year that I attend London Pride it means more and more to me, the importance stretches way beyond an excuse to wear short-shorts and drink in the street (as much fun as that is)!
For the LGBTQ+ community it’s about creating cultural and political change on an international level, whilst on a personal level it’s about empowering people to eliminate any shame around their sexuality or gender and most of all it’s about celebrating Love whoever it may be for.
As an event producer, two things struck me this year at London Pride. The first was what an amazing logistical feat it is, with around one million attendees and 26,000 people taking part in the parade, it’s one of London’s largest events. All of this is carefully produced without losing its sense of purpose, acceptance, equality and of course spreading a message of love and pride.
The other thing that struck me this year as I watched the floats go past, was this: I saw floats go past for LGBTQ+ networks for many industries, but not the events industry. They had LGBT+ networks for finance, media, medicine, London transport, emergency services, the list goes on.
I realised that as an LGBTQ+ event professional I wasn’t being represented specifically and also I didn’t have this amazing industry community to turn to for support, or simply to meet like-minded professionals. As I’m sure some readers are aware, many event professionals are freelance or can work in isolation of colleagues, so perhaps the need for such a network is greater in our industry than others. For all the glitz and glamour of events, like any industry, there is also homophobia and transphobia in the workplace and that’s something I’d love to see disappear from our industry.
With all this in mind, I’m currently interested in setting up a group for our industry, where anyone that recognises themselves as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer, Questioning, Intersex or an ally to any of the above, is welcome to come. In fact, a place for anyone to meet others, to have fun, to give support and to push to create the most inclusive events industry that doesn’t just “tolerate” but “celebrates” the diversity of its event professionals.
In light of Eventwell week, I’ve been thinking about why LGBT+ inclusivity is important to the well-being of our event professionals. Firstly our industry shouldn’t exclude anyone and as professionals, we not only have a moral obligation for LGBTQ+ inclusivity we also have a legal one. Also, battling homophobia, transphobia and gender stereotypes isn’t just an LGBTQ+ issue, it affects all of us. The biggest receiver of homophobic abuse in this country is… wait for it… heterosexual men. How many times will a guy be told not to do something because it’s “gay” or less “male”. The biggest killer of men under 50 in the UK is suicide and I put so much of that down to the expression of feelings being seen as “unmanly” as well as huge numbers of men struggling with meeting society’s ideal of “masculinity”.
We need to create an industry where everyone feels safe to work, where they can be themselves without fear of prejudice or discrimination. The live events industry is stressful enough for our professionals, without them having to worry about homophobia, transphobia and gender stereotyping. I really believe the responsibility of creating these safe working spaces isn’t just on employers but it’s on all of us, to be mindful of others differences, to use inclusive language, to stand up for others and sometimes to be out and proud about your own difference, so that others around you who may be struggling with their own differences feel empowered too.