Pippa Catterall, Professor of History and Policy, spoke on the Inclusive Growth Show podcast about queering public spaces, looking at how it can diversify the workforce, prevent crime and help people feel comfortable in the spaces they journey through.
The conversation drew on Professor Catterall’s recent report Queering Public Spaces. The pair discussed the exclusive nature of architecture and the layout of urban areas, with buildings and spaces across towns and cities being created without everyone in mind. Examples they delved into included the lack of disabled access at No 10 Downing Street, with Professor Catterall telling the listener about a disabled person who could not get into the famous building to hand in a petition that addressed the treatment of disabled people because there was no wheelchair access.
On the topic she said: “You can have a queer sensibility to architecture. A lot of architecture is very masculine and is designed to make statements about the person who designed it rather than the people who its supposedly designed for.”
She explained that this extends to the workplace, with businesses being set up around a majority, rather than including all voices.
She said: “Diversity will bring different things to the table, different ideas and help to avoid the sort of group think that leads to some massive mistakes in government and in business. The tendency is instead to get people in to reinforce your prejudices and assumptions which is a major barrier for people to climb.”
She concluded the interview by looking at how even the simplest of actions can make a difference, whether that is adding a rainbow crossing to a town, hanging pride flags in the street or erecting statues of queer historical figures. Through these acts, she argued that people can feel a sense of belonging and acceptance wherever they go, leading to a growing feeling of safety among marginalised groups, which in turn can lead to a boost in confidence of their authentic selves. In addition, Professor Catterall maintains that it also signifies that all people are welcome in these spaces, helping prevent incidents of hate crime.
She added: “When we signal that people are vulnerable in spaces, that people shouldn’t be in the spaces, then we make them vulnerable.
“I think it’s about creating spaces where people would not feel comfortable acting aggressive. A lot of the people who commit these crimes tend to think that everyone around them is going to be a bystander and not an upstander. In other words, they are going to accept seeing someone beaten up and that’s when things like rainbow flags help because it shows that people are very much included in these spaces.”
Find out more about Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at Westminster.