12 January, 2024
When you think of LGBTQ+ events, your mind is drawn to Prides. And no wonder, as there are over 200 Prides that run across the UK, usually from June to September. But increasingly, the growing LGTQ+ community is looking for new experiences that are focused around the outdoors, new experiences and getting active.
When you think of LGBTQ+ events, your mind is drawn to Prides. And no wonder, as there are over 200 Prides that run across the UK, usually from June to September. Prides tend to take place in city or town centres, and events focused on a combinaton of celebration and campaigning, are often associated with crowded streets and lots of drinking.
But increasingly, the growing LGTQ+ community is looking for new experiences that are focused around the outdoors, new experiences and getting active.
It was back in lockdown, that former Pride in London Director Polly Shute, saw a real need for a Festival that focused on the outdoors and wellbeing.
"The LGBTQ+ community are almost twice as likely to struggle with their mental health, and during lockdown, I saw many of the community looking for events and experiences that focused on this as well as connecting people through shared experiences."
Polly set up Out & Wild, a Festival designed for LGBTQ+ women and those who are non-binary in 2022. Out & Wild is a three day camping festival focused on the outdoors and wellbeing. As well as the music and comedy you might expect from a festival, there is a big focus on embracing nature, outdoor activities and sport.
This includes daily hikes, wild swimming, 5 aside football, softball, golf, cycling and stand up paddleboarding. Past workshops have also included a focus on navigation skills, foraging and forest breathing. Out & Wild has grown hugely since its first event and expects to welcome almost 1000 attendees for 2024.
Outdoor Lads is a long running membership group set up for queer men. They run a range of sociable outdoor activities aimed at gay, bi and trans guys right across the UK and further afield - activity based things like hiking, climbing, camping, biking, canoeing, scrambling, running and sailing, as well as purely social events.
"Our events are friendly and typically people get stuck in to make sure we all have a good time. The event leader will know who is on their first event and will make a special effort to make you feel welcome."
The focus on being in the water is also growing in popularity with the LGBTQ+ community.
Out to Swim is a LGBTQ+ swim club, run by volunteers. They organise swims, mainly in London and the South East as well as swim programmes for the community. Head Coach Michelle Weltman says,
"Clubs like Out to Swim are really important. They focus on getting the community active, but also offer an alternative space to meet like-minded others'
This year also saw the launch of the first Pride Swim. The pilot event, run with Love Open Water at the Royal Docks in London, was a sell out success and followed by a alcohol free celebration event. For 2024 there will be over 20 Pride Swims across the UK, including family swims. The events will be supported by Swim England and run with Out to Swim.
The Queer Surf Club was set up to challenge a sport that can feel very inclusive at times. They run surf weekends for all the LGBTQ+ community across the UK. Events are open to beginners as well as seasoned surfers.
Outdoor brands are also beginning to see the potential of the queer outdoors.
The North Face announced its “Summer of Pride” outdoor events series in 2023 with a video on social media starring drag queen Pattie Gonia, who encourages viewers to “come out.” The ad opened with Gonia, dressed in all-rainbow North Face gear and donning a full mustachioed face of multicolored makeup, saying: “Hi, it’s me, Pattie Gonia, a real-life homosexual.”
He continued: “I’m here with The North Face. We are here to invite you to come out … in nature with us!”
The tour, dubbed “Summer of Pride,” invited North Face fans to gather outdoors for hikes “to celebrate Pride and bring camp to the outdoors,” the tour’s landing page says. North Face aligned the campaign with launching its 2023 Pride collection, which boasts a selection of rainbow-clad clothes for children, including a T-shirt that says “outdoors together.”
What is clear is that the outdoors is opening up for a growing LGBTQ+ community. As many bars and physical spaces are closing, pop up events and organised outdoor holidays are growing in popularity. It's good for attendees and also a great opportunity for Outdoor brands to meaningfully connect with and support the LGBTQ+ community.
Article by Polly Shute, Founder of Out & Wild and Co-Founder of Pride Swim.
Outside & Active is the home for those who love the outdoors. Our mission is to inspire, inform and educate people about being active outdoors in a fun, safe and sustainable way. We provide inspiration, kit, tech and advice on adventure, camping, climbing, cycling, hiking, running water and winter.
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