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 as much as it did. 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 having an impact on people’s lives; however, through necessity, has seen innovative developments and opportunities to how conventional events are being hosted. Pride events that previously were only accessible when individuals attended physically and in person have evolved to now allow for online participation. Many organisers are spending time and a lot of effort to create quality content, interactive route maps, pictures and helping to showcase event sponsors. Some organisers are opting for more of a visual participation approach using applications such Skype Meet Now (allows up to 50 participants), Google Hangouts (150 participants), House party (8 participants), and the Zoom (1,000 participants). Other methods such as YouTube and Facebook Live enables thousands of users to view live streaming content participating by typing their comments using the 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?
For onlookers, especially those that do not identify as LGBTQ+ will often see Pride as a colourful street party or parade. Thousands or in some countries, even millions of diverse participants lining the streets, waving one of the specific LGBTQ+ flags and almost singing in harmony, any one of the many catchy phrases or chants. 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 one-year 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 and resulted in widespread riots lasting weeks, which grabbed the attention of the international media. The rioters were protesting the ongoing harassment and mistreatment of members of the community 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 wider community. The proceeding 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, the majority of pride events around the world 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, 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 that exist today, and people are still being persecuted, hiding who they are for fear of prosecution in countries around the world.
Celebrations, solidarity, and defiance that the LGBTQ+ community will no longer live in fear or hide who they really are
Virtual complimenting real-time participation
The pandemic caused many businesses and organisers to adapt and change long-established processes in order to operate within an ever-changing environment, which has also brought about many 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 the hard work and effort made by their teams, opting instead, to offer a different engagement and participation model to all those wishing to attend the event. 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 often compliments the nature of the event and 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 in which participants shared stories, played music, danced, or just waved and smiled.
The pandemic will eventually subdue, and hopefully, in 2021, many Pride events will be able to return to business as usual; however, hopefully, many 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 just wants to understand the community better. Exposure on the scale achieved through Pride can be an opportunity to participate, albeit without having to leave their homes. Having the ability to participate, even in a small way, following the route, watching the solidarity in real-time and of course, seeing the diverse range of people that make up the LGBTQ+ community can only have a positive effect.
For exhibitors and sponsors, it could open up additional advertising opportunities on a larger scale, being able to show their support and solidarity, at the same time providing details of their products or services to not only a local audience but potentially a global audience. Not only that, but it is also an opportunity to provide more detail of the local area and of course, the LGBTQ+ community increasing awareness of where the pride event is taking place. By introducing a 360-degree camera, sharing real-time images as the camera follows the route, 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 that could remain live throughout the year and which showcases the LGBTQ+ community. Online content relating to the Pride event that is available to those within the local area or anyone interested anywhere around the world.
A success or just a response
It is fair to say that not everyone likes online participation and some regular attendees opting 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 to those that attend an event in person; however, different is not necessarily bad. Getting involved and participation 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 and of course, 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, at the same time catering to different audiences. For event organisers deciding on whether to create online and interactive services for future events will no doubt be adding 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 to engage with, support and help those who once felt isolated to feel part of this inclusive and diverse community.
Always remembering 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.”