In 2019 the Pride team led our companies first official attendance at the London Pride Parade in what became the jewel in the crown of an amazing summer. For 2020, we had big plans and even bigger levels of excitement and anticipation. When large events were cancelling themselves before the governments forced it, the anxious pessimist in me feverishly refreshed my emails expecting the postponement of London Pride Parade 2020.
Eventually, lockdown was proclaimed and enacted. Thinking about how to replicate your old life virtually was fresh and one of the few sources of distraction from the nightmare that was unfolding. Zoom quizzes were in vogue with a black market in quiz rounds doing healthy trading. As a Pride team, the thought and freedom of doing Pride virtually had us pumped: we could move the budget we had allocated for a physical event and spend it on performers, comedians, dances, hosts. We could showcase to the company different aspects of LGBT+ culture and open it up to more than just those who are free to march through London on a Saturday.
But we hadn’t thought about or anticipated the economic impact that was coming. Budgets restrained and cautioned, our grand plans were no longer feasible. People didn’t know if they would still have jobs in a few weeks time and death figures were rising. We started asking ourselves that even if we were still employed to organise it, would such an event be appropriate? We decided that in virtual times queer visibility was more important than ever and having some form of release would still be nice, but it would have to be scaled back.
At the same time, other much more talented, much more connected people had also had the idea of doing virtual pride events. Pride events on a much bigger and inclusive scale than we could have managed. These events would have the whole world as their stage and all its inhabitants as the audience. Ours would just be for the company. This limitation felt weird.
As the months trundled on zoom fatigue was setting in. We had learnt how to socialise remotely and most decided they didn’t much care for it. People realised that they were ignoring immediately available loved ones to stare at pixels of colleagues as part of enforced fun. Attendance at regular company socials had been plummeting and the idea that anyone other than the small group of queers at our company would tune in given what else was on offer became increasingly laughable.
As a committee, we were also personally fatigued by existing in 2020. The plans for virtual pride were now so far mutated and diluted from their original form, our hearts were not in it. Why bust our guts making a worse virtual pride that no one would attend? We all had individually felt the decision coming and seemed relieved when we discovered everyone felt the same way.
But all is not lost, we are going back to the initial seed of the idea and salvaging some plans. Essentially we’re hijacking a company social and doing something the whole Pride team would want to attend. It will be short and snappy to let everyone plan their dinner, and full of fun events (fashion show? DJ set? Surprise quiz?) for people to tune in and out as the please. From this joy for queer people providing an event should stem a deliberately queer virtual environment where we are highly visible and others can be comfortable and let loose in.
If you’re at Alpha I’ll see you on the 30th of July, if not, have a gay old time!