The power of Pride House! Gold Coast 2018 team on beachfront spot, Tom Daley visits, and Commonwealth comradeship

Published by Jon Holmes on

Episode 2 of ‘The Pride House Podcast’ out now, bringing you stories from Surfers Paradise where the 2018 Pride House Gold Coast was held; star athletes and community heroes featured in ‘Australian LGBTIQ+ Sporting Trailblazers’ exhibition; sun, fun, music, and a sense of solidarity made for a special atmosphere; listen here!

By Jon Holmes

Tom Daley and Dustin Lance Black snapped on a visit to Pride House Gold Coast in April 2018

Over 5,000 visitors found their way to Pride House at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia – and the venue is back in focus for episode 2 of ‘The Pride House Podcast’.

Situated in the only LGBTQ+ bar and club in Surfers Paradise, there was a celebratory atmosphere about the space four years ago – but organisers and volunteers were also determined to ensure that all who called in left with food for thought.

Matt Hall & Caroline Layt

There are a wealth of memories shared in the podcast by guests Matt Hall and Caroline Layt, dialling in from Down Under to join host Jon Holmes.

Matt was the Project Manager of 2018 Pride House Gold Coast, working for Team Rainbow Inc. – an inclusion-focused not-for-profit LGBTQ+ organisation in Queensland. He’s also a former athlete, having played Australian Rules in the Victorian Amateur Football Association in the 1990s.

When Matt learned at the age of 23 that he was HIV positive, he was barred from playing competitive Aussie Rules – but he took the VAFA to court and won a landmark anti-discrimination case. He came out publicly as gay in 2002.

Caroline is a journalist and documentary producer who was one of the lead writers on an exhibition that was on display for the duration of that Pride House. She is also a successful athlete in her own right and featured alongside Matt as one of around 20 sportspeople who were profiled in ‘Australian LGBTIQ+ Sporting Trailblazers’.

Caroline and Matt were among the Australian athletes who shared their stories for the ‘Trailblazers’ exhibition

The episode begins with Matt and Caroline explaining how their involvement in the project began, and some of the early challenges – such as a struggle to get support from the local Games organising committee, and the quest for funding.

Matthew Mitcham (c)

They also describe how they embarked on community engagement, and the importance of having gold-medal winning Olympians Matthew Mitcham and Natalie Cook in their corner. Both were appointed Pride House ambassadors and helped to raise the profile of the project with the media.

The ‘Trailblazers’ exhibition and another display focused on LGBTIQ+ rights across the Commonwealth were focal points for Pride House visitors. Caroline says speaking to the athletes involved and getting to write up their stories is something she’ll never forget.

“I thought those interviews were really powerful and interesting. It was really a duty of mine to write them up powerfully too… I just thought a lot of those stories resonated with all of our experiences and the struggles we’ve had. We tried to portray them in the best way we could – and I think we did that.”

She cites Andrew Purchas and Erik Denison as two stand-out entries. “Andrew is the co-founder of Sydney Convicts, Australia’s first gay rugby union club. He’s a fantastic role model for inclusive rugby. He said he felt he would have gone further in the sport if there was more support for LGBTQ+ athletes back then. That really struck a chord.

“Meanwhile, Erik – who also played for the Convicts and is now a researcher at Monash University – was telling me about when he lived in Canada and was outed as a gay rugby player. There was a lot of bullying and vilification.”

Evening entertainment at 2018 Pride House Gold Coast

Away from the exhibitions, an outdoor area was a real draw for sunseekers and when the sun went down, the bright lights of the Rise Bar & Club pulled in the crowds.

“We had live entertainment and panel discussions every day,” says Matt, “and we’d have an event each evening – that’d be something musical, or theatre, that style of entertainment.”

Among those who popped in was Dean Nelson, who founded the very first Pride House at the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Vancouver, Canada.

“Dean was blown away because the venue was right on the beach in the Gold Coast so it was an exceptional venue and then the fact we had two exhibitions running, daily panels of discussion on different topics, and nightly events… he thought we’d done an exceptionally good job.”

Matt shows off the superb beachfront location to Radio Haanji, a Melbourne station that covered Pride House

National and international media came to cover the project, and one particularly memorable moment for Matt came when a well-known British athlete brought his then-fiance to Pride House.

“I had the privilege of meeting both Tom Daley and Dustin Lance Black and giving them a tour of the venue,” he explains. “They were both thoroughly impressed with the whole setup and they visited on more than one occasion – they came in at night as well to attend social events, out of hours, which they didn’t have to but they did it because I think they believed in the message of what Pride House was trying to achieve.”

Matt also shares the story of how Tom found about Pride House Gold Coast in the first place!

Caroline with Jesse Jones

For Caroline, who was studying for a journalism diploma at the time, being involved in the project was a career highlight and she says she’d highly recommend volunteering at Pride House to anyone. “It’s very rewarding to be involved and see such a big thing take shape and then take place.

“Whether you’re a journalist or a volunteer, or you have some business acumen, whatever you can bring to the table, it’s a really rewarding experience. Also, I did a big article on Pride House for one of my majors and I ended up getting 92% marks on the essay!”

A detailed Legacy Report from 2018 Pride House Gold Coast, produced by Matt, is available to read for free online via the Team Rainbow website. See more photos on the @2018PrideHouseGC page on Facebook.

Meanwhile, the space that will become Pride House Birmingham this summer held a successful in-person event last Saturday.

The Sporting Pride Conference brought together over 70 people from across the LGBTQ+-inclusive sport and physical activity sectors for a series of workshops and meetings, with the event rounded off by a Sports Media LGBT+ #AuthenticMe panel discussion exploring the connections between the Commonwealth Games and LGBTQ+ rights.

Hosted by Beth Fisher, the panel consisted of footballer Anita Asante, swimmer and trans rights advocate Eden Elgeti, Birmingham-based activist and campaigner Khakan Qureshi, and the Commonwealth Games Federation’s human rights and inclusion lead, Hartwell Mhunduru.

Listen now to episode 2 of ‘The Pride House Podcast’ and search ‘Pride House Birmingham’ on Google and social for more information about the venue, how to register interest in volunteering, and the variety of related events. Missed episode 1 which covered Pride House Glasgow 2014? Read about it and listen here!

Sports Media LGBT+ is a network, advocacy, and consultancy group that is helping to build a community of LGBTQ+ people and allies in sport. We’re also a digital publisher. Learn more about us here.

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Jon Holmes

Digital Sports Editor