The last time the Commonwealth Games were held in the UK, at Glasgow 2014, a group of women from Botswana’s athlete delegation visited the Pride House venue in the city centre.
They were cautious guests within this welcoming space dedicated to LGBTQ+ inclusion, which featured exhibitions, entertainment and activities.
It wasn’t safe for them to take photos. At the time, back in their southern African homeland, colonial-era laws still banned homosexuality and the topic of same-sex relationships was largely taboo.
“Walking around Pride House, these women were in tears, overcome with emotion at being able to be in a space where they felt like they could be themselves,” recalls venue co-organiser Hugh Torrance. “It gave me a powerful insight into what Pride House can be. You don’t always realise the level of impact you’re making.”
It gave me a powerful insight into what Pride House can be. You don’t always realise the level of impact you’re making.
Eight years later, athletes, coaches, officials and spectators from across the Commonwealth are preparing to come to Birmingham - and plans for Pride House are stepping up too. For the first time in Games history, the venue will be fully integrated, ensuring wider awareness of its ‘Celebrate, Participate, Educate’ ethos and programme of events.
Birmingham 2022 is an event that will bring people together, which reminds us of sport’s capacity to unify people and encourage allyship. Pride House Birmingham – situated in the heart of the city’s Gay Village - will explore diversity across the Commonwealth, showcase talent, promote freedom of expression, and deliver a regional legacy that supports LGBTQ+-inclusive sports projects.
It was only in November 2021 that Botswana’s court of appeal upheld a ruling that decriminalised same-sex relationships – imagine how that news was received by those women from the country who visited Pride House at Glasgow 2014. Yet citizens in two thirds of Commonwealth sovereign states are still not free to love and be loved without fear of persecution.
Alongside Birmingham 2022, Pride House is poised to embrace emotion and spark conversations for change.