Olympia London catches up with event organisers, Nathan Stone, creative director of DragWorld, and Waleed Jahangir, owner of London Muslim Shopping Festival, to discuss creating shows that celebrate inclusivity, and represent the diverse society we live in.
At Olympia London, we pride ourselves on bringing together everyone we work with, from different countries, religions, genders and sexual orientations. We believe the events industry provides the perfect catalyst to achieve these inclusive opportunities, where groups of people with similar interests can develop ideas, share in each other’s experiences and celebrate change.
What does inclusive mean to you?
Albeit hard to quantify, inclusion is a topic gaining momentum across the event industry with organisations seeing the benefits it has on unlocking innovation and driving market growth as Jahangir notes: “Your ability to deliver an amazing event is all that matters. We are in a creative industry where we’re constantly having to develop new ideas and new ways of doing business. Inclusivity gives us diverse backgrounds and experience for innovation.
“The same people, from the same place with roughly the same education and background leads you to the same place – that’s how we have been able to create, build and sustain a raft of new events.”
Indeed, in more cases than not, it’s the simple answers which deliver on true inclusivity, resonating the best with event goers, as Stone highlights: “With support of a great counsel of LGBT friends and family, I’ve found it’s so much easier to tackle inclusivity from the angle of not excluding anyone, whether that be by gender, sexuality, race or anything other. Specifically, for DragWorld, it’s vitally important to have an inclusive show in both attendees but also talent to allow for guests to meet the hero’s they connect with.”
What have you implemented and refined to incorporate inclusion?
There is never just one way to achieve inclusion and diversity within events. Depending on the audience, location and format, event organisers must adapt to bring forward new creative ideas and test the status quo.
As DragWorld has experienced: “We’ve changed a lot in three years and hope we never stop changing and learning from every person we meet. I believed it had to be a conscious effort for diversity to sit across the whole event, from marketing to talent booked, to gender neutral bathrooms and providing changing rooms on site for those who didn’t feel comfortable in their convention clothes.”
Stone continues: “Last year’s addition of UK Performance stage meant we were able to showcase the best of the UK and show it’s true diverse, from the burlesque female drag queen Lolo Brow to our favourite drag king Chiyo, who is appearing again and expanding our inclusivity even further by programming a booth of the UK’s best Drag Kings.”
How does the industry encourage organisers to exchange knowledge and advice to help others?
Ways of ensuring event planners across the industry learn from each other to improve how they approach inclusion are actually difficult to find.
“Everyone seems to do their own thing,” comments Jahangir.
Opportunities to share best practice and inform others about their experiences are not in abundant supply as Stone informs: “We haven’t really seen much interaction with other show organisers [but]…I think opportunities such as round table discussions are vital to aid in supporting other organisers to reach the same goal of inclusivity across their portfolio of events. It may be something we even offer to chair in the near future.”
What’s your advice for other organisers considering the same goal?
Stone: “Everybody wants to see the market change and for all events to be inclusive. This means that everyone is on the push for it to happen and supporting the changes. Ask questions within the community and seek help. The want to change and include all walks of life, and personal journeys, will find yourself with a counsel of support from the LGBT community who can provide advice as you go!”
Jahangir: “If you have no understanding of inclusivity, find someone that does and ask them. We are consulting with blue chip brands on helping them become inclusive, if they can do it, so can you.”