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Joining in with the community by going online

Pride 2020

2020 has been a challenging year for everyone, especially those large groups and teams that organise the many annual pride events and marches worldwide. With mandated lockdowns restricting everyone’s ability to attend events, resilient organisers have found new ways to help people come together and celebrate Pride. Online Pride has had a mixed response from the community. However, is there an opportunity to create online content and participation in future events long after the pandemic?
  Visual Participation Approach
No one at the beginning of 2020 could have guessed or foretold how events would play out. How, within the space of just a few months, the world around us would have dramatically changed. Only a flight away became an impossible mission, and community participation was replaced with isolation through enforced lockdowns. The global pandemic months on is still impacting people’s lives. However, we have also seen positive and innovative developments around how conventional events could be hosted going forward. Pride events that were previously only accessible when individuals attended physically and in person have evolved to allow online participation. Many organisers are spending more time and a lot of effort to create quality content, interactive route maps, pictures and helping to showcase event sponsors.

Many organisers are opting for more of a visual participation approach. Typically, using applications such as Skype Meet Now (allows up to 50 participants), Google Hangouts (150 participants), House party (8 participants), and Zoom (1,000 participants). Other methods such as YouTube and Facebook Live enable thousands of users to view live streaming content by typing their comments using online chat facilities. The demand for these new methods of participation only strengthens the importance of pride events and what they mean to the global community.
  Why is Pride so important?

Onlookers, especially those who do not identify as LGBTQ+, will often see Pride as a colourful street party or parade. Thousands, in some countries, even millions of diverse participants, line the streets. Many are waving LGBTQ+ flags and singing all the catchy phrases or chants in harmony. Though pride events are a celebration, fun, and the coming together of the community, they also have a greater meaning and importance.

The first- Pride event took place in 1970, over 50 years ago and occurred on the first anniversary of the Stonewall riots. The Stonewall Inn is one of the oldest gay bars in New York City and is based in Greenwich Village. In 1969, the New York Police department raided the bar and arrested many members of the LGBTQ+ community on indecency charges. The raid and arrests were the final straw for many within the community. The actions of the police resulted in widespread riots lasting weeks, which grabbed the attention of the international media. The rioters were protesting the ongoing harassment and mistreatment of community members by the city’s police department. The protests were the start of a global movement demanding equality and, as a result, created many activist groups fighting for the rights of the worldwide community.

The movement has gone from strength to strength, and many of the rights and freedoms we currently enjoy can be attributed, in part, back to the early protests. Today, most pride events worldwide occur in June, close or near to the anniversary of the Stonewall riots. Pride events have evolved and become a place for people to show their solidarity. To show their support, Pride in the LGBTQ+ community and finally defiance that they will no longer hide or live a lie for something about themselves that they are powerless to change. LGBTQ+ rights and freedoms have improved; however, there are still many inequalities. People are still being persecuted, hiding who they are for fear of prosecution in countries worldwide.

Celebrations, solidarity, and defiance that the LGBTQ+ community will no longer live in fear or hide who they are
  Virtual complimenting real-time participation

The pandemic caused many businesses and organisers to adapt and change long-established processes to operate within an ever-changing environment, bringing about positive changes. Pride events take a considerable amount of time, planning and resources to organise successfully. Many organisers did not want to abandon all of their teams’ hard work and effort, instead offering a different engagement and participation model to all those wishing to attend the event. Typically, taking the traditional model and converting it into an online interactive experience, providing quality content and different ways for people to join in virtually.

The range of services and interactive tools vary depending on the organiser and the adopted approach. The approach opted often compliments the nature of the pride event and its participants, based on the knowledge of their local community. Some of the online content includes interactive route maps outlining key stages of the pride parade, podcasts from well-known community individuals, interviews and content from participants, and product and service information from the Pride sponsors. Not all organisers provided interactive and discovery content, opting instead for large scale video calls. Participants shared stories, played music, danced, or just waved and smiled.

The pandemic will eventually subdue, and, in 2021, the hope is that many Pride events will be able to return to business as usual. Post pandemic, the hope is that event organisers will not abandon online content and participation in future events. The reality is, not everyone can attend a pride event or is not ready to accept that part of themselves publicly yet. Pride is a lifeline for most and connects them to the community. Whether it is a person who lives in a remote part of the country, has an illness or disease that causes mobility issues or someone who wants to understand the community better. Exposure on the scale achieved through Pride can be an opportunity to participate, albeit without leaving their homes. The option and ability to participate, even in a small way, following the route, watching the solidarity in real-time. Finally, seeing the diverse range of people who make up the LGBTQ+ community can only have a positive effect.

In the future, for exhibitors and sponsors, it could open up additional advertising opportunities on a larger scale. Organisations could show their support and solidarity while, at the same time, providing details of their products or services. All the products and services would be showcased within a local community and, potentially, a new global audience. It also presents an opportunity for event organisers to provide more information about the local area and, of course, the LGBTQ+ community, increasing awareness of where the pride event is taking place. Introducing a 360-degree camera, sharing real-time images as the camera follows the route. An interactive approach that could give people a real-time experience and in the future could even become something that could be available via virtual reality headsets. Positive content, images, and materials could remain live throughout the year and showcase the LGBTQ+ community. Online content relating to the Pride event would be available throughout the year for those within the local area or anyone interested worldwide.

  A success or just a response

It is fair to say that not everyone likes online participation. Some regular attendees opt not to participate in the new online methods. Many believe that the online equivalent does not capture the atmosphere and overall experience that a person gets when attending in person. Anyone that has ever participated in a pride event often come away feeling positive and energised from their experiences.

Online participants will indeed have a different experience than those attending an event in person. However, different is not necessarily bad. Getting involved and participating goes back to why pride events are so important. Giving people the feeling and sense of belonging, seeing and interacting with people that understand what you are going through. Lastly, having fun and seeing the diversity, young and old, that make up the LGBTQ+ community.

The two approaches can easily co-exist, even complimenting one another while catering to different audiences. For event organisers deciding whether to create online and interactive services for future events will undoubtedly add more tasks, planning, and even specialist skillsets to their already hectic workloads. However, the benefits will likely outweigh the effort. Long establish Pride events could go from thousands to millions, attracting more sponsorship and engaging with those that previously were unable to attend events in the past. The online content model could help engage with, support and help those who feel isolated become part of this inclusive and diverse community.

Remember that no matter the world events, pandemics, or political agendas. We are a diverse global community that welcomes all, is inclusive and stands proud, reminding the world that “Love is Love.”


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