Pat Baillie, Out & Equal Director of Training & Professional Development, will be contributing to the Out & Equal blog while she is on the road for a month, traveling and training. Pat is currently in London for the Global LGBT Workplace Summit, which takes place July 5 & 6.
Time to head down to teach the staff at the Westminster Park Plaza Hotel. We had about 30 of the senior managers and staff come to the training, and we had a great session. They were able to see the upcoming Global Summit from our perspective and got an idea of what to expect. I did discover that they have a 24-hour bar area which I am sure will be a key networking location for us! The research I had done about the history of protections for workers in the UK and LGBT history went over well. Using the Stonewall UK Index, we talked about evaluating the policies, benefits and climate of the workplace for LGBT employees. I saw several of the staff around the hotel the rest of the day and they thanked me for the course and said they had learned a lot!
Spent the rest of the day getting familiar with the area near us, running along the Thames on the hotel side is the Jubilee Walkway. I saw the London Eye (booked tickets), as well as the Southbank Centre performance space, the National Theatre. I walked along the Thames Jubilee Walkway seeing all the sights until I came to the Tate Modern museum. Most of the venues in London are free, except for the special exhibits, so took a look here, crossed over to St Paul’s cathedral and took the underground back to the hotel. Had a good dinner of sushi here at the hotel and the wait staff kept talking about my great accent and trying to guess if I was from Australia or somewhere else. I guess Californians do have an accent after all.
Sharrin, my partner, joined me to take in some of the sights of London before the Global LGBT Workplace Summit begins. She is going to work with Dani Siragusa, Associate Director of Events, to help coordinate volunteer efforts, and then we are going to take off for a vacation to Scotland and Ireland. Our first order of business on Saturday was to check out some of the London markets, and we started at the Portebello market up by Kensington Gardens. We had this grand idea that we would be able to hit several of the big markets in one day but by the end of this one, it was time for lunch and a break. Sharrin and I spent most of the time holding hands as we wandered through the vendors, and there was no reaction at all. We asked some locals about a good pub recommendation, and they directed us to an incredible one that was covered in flowers. We walked in the front and the bar portion had all the feel of a traditional pub so we sat down for some food. We were really surprised when the menu was Thai!
We had also been researching what is going on with World Pride and found a lot of theatre and art projects. There was a performance piece in Soho Saturday night so we ordered some tickets and got a chance to “find our people.” The performance piece was a look back to the glory days of New York, before AIDS, and a young man’s desire to find those times. Powerful, funny and well received by the audience! We then headed to Soho. We saw the full range of diversity, across sexual orientations and gender identities, in full gender expression! There would be parades of small groups down the streets of loud cheers as groups met on their way to and from venues. It feels different from Casto or the Village, but definitely felt like we fit in!
Sunday felt like the first day I was finally on London time. I have found the one great advantage of doing work with West Coast from London is that you can get a day’s worth of work in before the West Coast has even gotten started. With work done, Sharrin and I took off on a Thames River Cruise down to Greenwich. The Tower Bridge with Olympic rings was fun to see. There are preparations all over the city going on for the Olympics and we found out that was why the city was closing and working on transportation lines throughout the city.
Our trip down the Thames went past the Docklands, which have been renovated and looks like the San Francisco financial district. Bank of America, KPMG, HSBC, Citi and many more financial business all dot the skyline. This is a very trendy part of town now and prices are soaring for river front property and views. I did learn an interesting fact on the trip! I never knew that Wharf was actually an abbreviation for “wharehouse along river front”. I knew I would get an education while I was here.
We walked up to the Royal Observatory (highest hill in Greenwich – 91 metres – about 300 feet above sea level) and the science geek in me loved it. I have spent much of my life in the military, and as a government contractor working with Greenwich Mean Time, and now here I was! Lots of history and cool facts at the Observatory and the Prime Meridian which separates east from west! Sharrin & I decided to bridge that gap and we did kiss directly over the meridian. Again, no response from the crowds of tourists from all over the world or from the local staff. We also got off to go take a look at the Olympic site. It’s not open but it will be fun to watch the games at the end of the month and say “I was there!”
Never missing a chance to get a work moment in, we saw the sign for the registry office for marriage (including same sex couples on the way to the Olympic park). It is interesting to see how London is doing on including LGBT community members into day-to-day life! The rest of the staff starts traveling over tomorrow, so I hope I have done a good job of scoping out the local area and the hotel!