The UK is honoured to be the global leader for equality, proudly championing the rights of LGBT people on an international scale. And the country’s business events industry is no different, ensuring a warm, safe and inclusive welcome to the LBTQ+ community.
In June 2022, the UK Government will host its first ever global LGBT rights conference. Safe To Be Me: A Global Equality Conference will mark the 50th Anniversary of the first London Pride celebration. The two-day event will bring together international civil society and businesses from around the world, to make progress on legislative reform, tackling violence and discrimination, and ensuring equal access to public services for LGBT people.
This conference will be the largest of its kind to ever take place, a huge accomplishment for the UK which already has a progressive record in supporting LGBTQ+ rights. In 2015, the UK was awarded ILGA-Europe’s highest ranking European destination, with 86% progress toward “full equality and respect of human rights” for LGBT people. And today the UK has some of the strongest laws in the world protecting gay, lesbian and bisexual people from discrimination and hate crimes.
This open, discrimination-free backdrop for business visits, events and entertaining, ensures a warm welcome from the moment delegates arrive and throughout their visit. It’s just one of the many reasons why LGBTQ+ delegates and groups feel safe and welcome attending conferences and events in the UK.
As we near the end of 2021 Pride Month, explore some of the UK’s business events cities that proudly fly the rainbow flag in support of the LGBTQ+ community:
The unofficial LGBTQ+ capital of the UK, Brighton is known for its open attitude, diverse business events offering and two-day Pride extravaganza.
A great way for groups to learn about Brighton’s queer history is to follow in the footsteps of Lord Byron, Oscar Wilde, Dusty Springfield and other notable gay icons with a Piers and Queers Tour.
This unique exploration of Brighton from a lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans perspective, involves a colourful 90-minute walk along the iconic beach and around the historic city centre.
It takes in over 200 years of history including Regency Dandies, 1950s gay life, and political activism. It also uncovers some extraordinary unsung heroes, including a pioneering female doctor who lived as a man long before women were allowed to practice medicine, an Edwardian 'drag king' and a 'same-sex' marriage in 1923.
The epicentre of queer Manchester is Canal Street’s Gay Village. It’s home to bars, clubs and many annual events, such as the trans festival, Sparkle Weekend and Sparkle Ball, the Bears Bash and The Skins Weekend.
The region’s thriving lesbian community is also centred in the Gay Village, with established venues like Vanilla offering space for events.
Manchester Pride celebrates the diversity of LGBTQ+ life, including art, culture and sport, usually taking place during the Big Weekend - a massive Pride Parade that takes place in August.
The 2019 Manchester Pride Parade was the biggest and boldest yet, with a whopping 205 organisations, 14,000 people marching, and up to 250,000 spectators filling the streets with colour and celebration.
Birmingham’s two-day Pride festival is the earliest in the annual calendar, taking place over the May bank holiday weekend and marking the start of the summer season. An annual Gay and Lesbian Pride Ball is held at leading international conference centre, ICC Birmingham as part of the celebrations.
On the city’s south side, Birmingham’s Gay Village is centred along Hurst Street, just minutes from the Hippodrome theatre, the Bullring and the Chinese Quarter. During Pride, the streets pulsate with a carnival parade, live music, cabaret stage, a women’s arena and a community village.
The rest of the year, pagodas and oriental-influenced architecture blend in with gay street-art and bustling bars. Look out for a sparkly, rhinestone-encrusted rhinoceros on the roof of Wynner House.
Championing queer arts and culture in Birmingham is Shout, an annual festival in November that takes place at venues across the Midlands city.
Same-sex marriage has been legal in Scotland since 2014. Throughout this peaceful and open-minded country, delegates are welcomed with small rainbow flags on almost every store, club and restaurant window.
Scotland’s first Pride march took place in Edinburgh in 1993. Scotland’s capital city now hosts Pride Edinburgh every year around June or July, where people from all backgrounds gather to celebrate diversity and personal identity. As well as the march, the free-to-attend Edinburgh Pride festival also boasts a full programme of live music, health and community fair.
From cosy pubs with real ale to buzzing nightclubs with fabulous cocktails and DJ nights, Edinburgh has lots of friendly and safe hangouts for the LGBT+ community.
Hosted by the LGBT+ community, Northern Pride invites everyone to come together to celebrate the rich diversity Newcastle and the North East offers.
The 2019 event welcomed tens of thousands of visitors to the city over the July weekend, with more than 22,000 people taking part in the Stonewall Remembrance March, commemorating 50 years since the Stonewall Riots, a pivotal turning point in the road to LGBT+ equality.
Spread across both Exhibition Park and the Town Moor, the festival sites hosted two stages of live performances.
To keep Northern Pride a free-to-attend festival, organisers stage regular fundraiser events in the months prior, at popular gay-friendly Newcastle venues including the Powerhouse nightclub and Boulevard, a cabaret club with live drag shows.
Iris Prize celebrates LGBT+ film all year round, including an international queer film festival in the Welsh capital each October.
During four days of international film screenings, panel sessions and parties, 30 short films by or about the LGBTQ+ community, compete to win the top accolade, valued at £30,000.
Cardiff’s gay scene isn’t all about the silver screen however. Drag aficionados need look no further than Mary’s - a city centre bar famous for its friendly atmosphere, fabulous cocktails, extensive range of gins and outrageous live cabaret.
Accommodation options include Ty Rosa (Welsh for Pink House), which has won numerous plaudits including a top ten best gay and lesbian-friendly hotel in Europe, as voted for by TripAdvisor users.
No ‘loud and proud’ UK cities guide would be complete without mentioning London.
Business delegates attending events at city-centre venues such as QEIICC, Olympia London or the Business Design Centre, are well-placed to access the bustling gay bars and restaurants of Soho, Carnaby Street or head south to the iconic gay sceneof Vauxhall.
In addition to the summer’s Pride in London festival - attracting 1.5million people every year, the UK capital also stages Winter Pride, Fringe! Queer Arts and Film Fest and UK Black Pride - Europe’s largest celebration for African, Asian, Middle Eastern, Latin American and Caribbean-heritage LGBTQ people.