What is a Pride House? New podcast explores past Commonwealth Games venues and Birmingham 2022 potential

Published by Jon Holmes on

‘The Pride House Podcast’ launches as build-up continues to opening of Pride House Birmingham 2022 in July; first episode focuses on success of Glasgow venue, the first to be held at a Commonwealth Games; “seeing individual impacts up close was so special,” recalls co-organiser Hugh Torrance; listen now!

By Jon Holmes

The Pride House Glasgow team pose with guest Peter Tatchell outside the venue during the 2014 Commonwealth Games

Helping to build a Pride House at the Commonwealth Games and then welcome visitors to the venue gave Katherine Burrows “an immense amount of satisfaction” – and left her memories to last a lifetime.

Katherine is one of the guests on the first episode of ‘The Pride House Podcast’, a new series launching this week on all major podcast platforms.

Produced by the team working on Pride House Birmingham, with support from Sports Media LGBT+, the pod is a place for conversations about the diverse ways in which sport is supporting the fight for LGBTQ+ equality across the Commonwealth, and the challenges yet to be overcome.

Hugh and Katherine

Joining Katherine to chat about the impact of Pride House Glasgow is the venue’s co-organiser, Hugh Torrance. Through their roles with LEAP Sports Scotland, where Hugh is now executive director, both were key players in the 2014 project that turned empty shop premises in the city centre into a welcoming hub devoted to inclusion and culture, for the benefit of all its guests – those competing or spectating, VIP visitors, and people with other roles at the Games who were also dropping by.

Offering an extensive programme of events and activities as well as a valuable ‘safe space’ to meet other LGBTQ+ people and allies, all while live coverage of the Games is shown on the big screens, Pride House serves many purposes, as the people of Birmingham and visitors will discover when its own venue – located at the heart of the Gay Village – opens in July.

“The beauty of the model is that it isn’t necessarily one thing,” explains Hugh on ‘The Pride House Podcast’. “There’s a multitude of different opportunities and experiences that can be going on, sometimes simultaneously.”

Noting how one of the legacies of Pride House Glasgow has been an upsurge in inclusive sports clubs in Scotland, Hugh adds: “That’s what really drives change. The opportunities became more plentiful for some of our LGBTQ+ communities to gravitate towards sport.

“We’ve gone from, pre Pride House, having around 15 LGBTQ+ sports groups in Scotland to now having around about 40 in total and that’s significant over the period of about eight years.”

Katherine’s story will inspire people in and around the West Midlands to consider volunteering for Pride House Birmingham. In her 50s, she took early retirement and moved to Scotland at a time when she was also transitioning. A friend who was on the LEAP Sports board suggested she join too, as her life experience as well as her accountancy skills would be greatly appreciated.

She says being part of the Pride House Glasgow team of volunteers was incredibly rewarding. Over 6,000 people visited the venue, including athletes and coaches from nations where same-sex relationships are still criminalised; citizens from the UK, Australia, Canada and other Commonwealth countries, many of whom were LGBTQ+ and had struggled in sports at times as a result; and also a mix of politicians and officials, some with the capacity to make change happen.

“There was never a dull moment,” adds Katherine on the podcast. “It was just so diverse and fun – everybody and anybody could come in.

“But there were also these serious moments when we had to be thinking hard about the problems some people faced, where they came from. They would visit and say, ‘oh my god, this is wonderful’ – because we were standing up for the cause.”

Take a trip back in time to July 2014 and the opening of Pride House Glasgow!

The full conversation with Hugh and Katherine serves as an ideal introduction to Pride House for anyone who might consider themselves uninitiated, but it’s also an engaging and entertaining listen for those interested in the Commonwealth Games and wider issues related to inclusion in sports.

Forthcoming episodes will showcase the achievements of Pride House Gold Coast at the most recent Games four years ago; the background to Birmingham and contrasting relationships with sport for those growing up LGBTQ+ in the area; and chats between well-known athletes and those working as human rights defenders in some of the 54 Commonwealth nations.

The potential of a Pride House is best encapsulated by a story shared on the podcast by Hugh from Glasgow 2014. “I remember walking around the venue with a group of women who came from Botswana and were part of the athlete delegation. They didn’t want people to know that they’d been in there.”

Katherine with visiting delegates from Botswana at Pride House Glasgow

At the time, the southern African nation retained the colonial, anti-LGBTQ+ laws that were imposed upon it when it became a British protectorate in the 19th century.

“The women were in tears, absolutely overcome with emotion at being able to be in a space where they felt like they could be themselves, but also really challenged about what that meant for their life back home.

“Spending time with those women gave me an insight into what something like Pride House can be. You don’t always realise the level of impact you’re making but actually talking to people and understanding that can be so powerful.”

Last year, after a protracted battle with the government, Botswana’s court of appeal upheld a ruling that decriminalised homosexuality – a landmark moment for the country’s foremost LGBTQ+ rights organisation LEGABIBO.

It’s the aim of Pride House to embrace all these emotions at the Commonwealth Games and support the critical conversations that must be had.

Listen now to episode 1 of ‘The Pride House Podcast’ and search ‘Pride House Birmingham’ on Google and social for more information about the venue, volunteering, and the variety of related events.

Visit the Pride House Birmingham venue space on Saturday 23 April for the Sporting Pride Conference, a unique one-day event for all involved in the LGBTQ+ sports and physical activity sectors. Register now!

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Jon Holmes

Digital Sports Editor