Inclusive Growth Show

Queering Public Space

October 10, 2023 Toby Mildon Episode 112
Queering Public Space
Inclusive Growth Show
More Info
Inclusive Growth Show
Queering Public Space
Oct 10, 2023 Episode 112
Toby Mildon

In this episode of the Inclusive Growth Show, Toby is joined by Pippa Catterall, Professor of History and Policy at the University of Westminster, about her report written in collaboration with Arup called ‘Queering Public Space’.

If you're enjoying this episode and looking to boost equity, inclusion, and diversity in your organisation, my team and I are here to help. Our team specialises in crafting data-driven strategies, developing inclusive leaders, designing fair recruitment processes, and enhancing disability confidence. With a blend of professional expertise and lived experience, we're ready to support you on your journey. Reach out to us through our website.

If you want to build a more inclusive workplace that you can be proud of please visit our website to learn more.

Show Notes Transcript

In this episode of the Inclusive Growth Show, Toby is joined by Pippa Catterall, Professor of History and Policy at the University of Westminster, about her report written in collaboration with Arup called ‘Queering Public Space’.

If you're enjoying this episode and looking to boost equity, inclusion, and diversity in your organisation, my team and I are here to help. Our team specialises in crafting data-driven strategies, developing inclusive leaders, designing fair recruitment processes, and enhancing disability confidence. With a blend of professional expertise and lived experience, we're ready to support you on your journey. Reach out to us through our website.

If you want to build a more inclusive workplace that you can be proud of please visit our website to learn more.

Speaker 1: Welcome to the Inclusive Growth Show with Toby Mildon. Future-proofing your business by creating a diverse workplace.


Toby Mildon: Hey there, thank you ever so much for tuning into this episode of the Inclusive Growth podcast. I am Toby Mildon and today I'm joined by Pippa Catterall. Pippa is the Professor of History and Policy at the University of Westminster. And the reason why I am talking with Pippa today is because she has written a really interesting report in collaboration with Arup called Queering Public Spaces. And being a gay man myself, I found it a really interesting read.

Toby Mildon: But as I was reading it, I was just thinking that it's just as applicable to me as a disabled person, as it is a member of the LGBTQ+ community. So, I thought it would be a really good opportunity to sit down with Pippa just to understand why the report was written. And we'll be talking about some really interesting topics like gaybourhoods, why we need to rethink inclusive practices, why and how we should be preserving queer heritage, what it means to be designing in desistance, in diversity and how queering public spaces relates to diversifying our workforces.

Toby Mildon: Which is a particular interest of ours because me and my team we focus very much on diversity and inclusion within the workplace. So, it'll be really interesting to understand how queering public spaces relates to diversity and inclusion within the workplace as well. So Pippa, it's lovely to see you. Thanks for joining me today.

Pippa Catterall: It's a great pleasure to be here. There's a few things I can pick up just from what you've already said. So, for instance, one of the groups who are most vulnerable to hate crime in public spaces are, of course, disabled people. And as we've seen a rise in hate crime over the last few years, not least in the UK, disabled people have suffered from that increased inline with other groups as well.

Pippa Catterall: So, it's really important when we're thinking about designing inclusive space to bear in mind all the groups who are marginalised within those spaces. And what we shouldn't be doing is allowing, for want of a better word called, the right to use the usual tactics of divide and rule to divide people up and thereby play us off against each other rather than trying to ensure that everybody is included in public space and in our society.

Toby Mildon: Absolutely. I'd love to dive straight into the questions. Before we do that, can you just let us know a bit more about who you are, because you're not just the Professor of History and Policy at the University of Westminster, you've got a lot of other strings to your bow. Can you just tell us a bit more about who you are, your background and what you do? 

Pippa Catterall: I would do my best to try and give you the expurgated version, [chuckle] which could cover a multiplicity of angles. So, I'm a trans woman and I finally plucked up the courage to confront that reality a few years ago after a lifetime of feeling fairly suicidal. And I have to say, it's really important to be able to be your authentic self. Second point is that I have written on a huge number of different things over the years. I've just published the chapters on religion and the constitutional in the Cambridge Constitutional History of the UK.

Pippa Catterall: So, my range of interest is pretty broad. But in recent years I have been increasingly interested in the question of citizenship, riffing off that point about the constitution, because if you like, constitutions are the rules of the game between the governing and the governed. And it seems to me that it's really important to think about what influence can we, the public, have on the spaces we inhabit. Which are very often designed for us, owned by others. And what we do within these spaces is often quite heavily policed, not only in design characteristics but in authority structures as well. So, I'm really interested in all of those kinds of things.

Pippa Catterall: I'm also interested in representation in public space. So, wearing... Another hat I wear is that I'm chair of AIDS Memory UK, which was set up a couple of years ago to work towards creating a AIDS memorial in London as a major statement in memory of all of the people who suffered and continue to suffer from HIV AIDS. That's going to be located, with any luck, in the London Borough of Camden. But I'm also co-chair of Westminster LGBT Forum. And we do a number of different activities, one of which is coming up soon to support young people who are vulnerable and need help and encouragement in coming up and indeed staying out.

Toby Mildon: That's amazing. And I was just thinking that I found your report so interesting and insightful and quite validating, actually, as somebody who's disabled and also a member of the LGBTQ+ community myself. And there was one particular paragraph that you included in your report that really stood out to me that I've actually shared with quite a few clients of mine. This paragraph in the report really stood out for me, and it said that public spaces are not neutral.

Toby Mildon: Public spaces are dominated by certain dominant groups within society, and they're shaped by the male gaze and they're designed for use of a particular groups, particularly the heteropatriarchy. And, yeah, that just really jumped out at me about how we operate or live in spaces that are designed by others and then heavily influenced by others. And it just reminded me, and I shared this with my client that, for example, the entrance to number 10 Downing Street is not very wheelchair accessible.

Toby Mildon: And the excuse that they give is that it's an old building, there's heritage laws in place and it can't be modified or something like that. And I was just thinking, obviously, I don't work in the built environment sector, but part of me is thinking that's a load of rubbish because, I mean, very recently the front entrance to St Paul's Cathedral has been made completely step free and accessible.

Toby Mildon: And the Bank of England have managed to provide integrated access into their entrance. So, I suppose the point of saying this [chuckle] is that as a disabled person myself, I look at Downing Street and their governing the country and even on a subliminal level it might be saying to me, "This is not a place for you as a wheelchair user." You can't hold office of prime minister. So, yeah, I just thought I would share that because that really jumped out at me.

Pippa Catterall: Yeah, no, no, absolutely. And of course, there's a famous example of that a couple of years ago, I think it was last year actually, where someone was handing in a petition about the treatment of disabled people in the UK and they couldn't get into number 10 because there was no wheelchair access and they couldn't even sort out a ramp properly to get in there. So, they couldn't even do temporary access, which is shocking. And given that the building has, of course, been extensively adapted inside, so it may have a Georgian facade, but it's not a Georgian building in any meaningful sense of the word. That's a pretty poor excuse, but unfortunately par for the course.

Toby Mildon: Yeah, the government doesn't have a great reputation on supporting disabled individuals in particular. So, you wrote the report Queering Public Spaces and it was a collaboration between the University of Westminster and Arup. Why did you write the report? 

Pippa Catterall: So, here's a note for anyone who's interested in networking and what networking can get you. I always think every conversation can open a door, and you never know where it's going to take you. So, I found myself in the summer of 2019 at Historic England's Summer Party on the roof of Cannon Street Station in London. And I didn't know anybody there, so I'm just standing there nursing my glass of wine and gazing at the River Thames.

Pippa Catterall: And I found myself standing next to a young Syrian refugee who just happened to be an artist and an architect. And Ammar Azouz had been invited to the same party. We got talking. We found we had lots of interests in common. Ammar at the time was working at Arup. We didn't talk about Queering Public Spaces that particular evening, but we met for coffee a few weeks later. And I happened to mention that I'd seen this play called Love Song to Lavender Menace at the Edinburgh Fringe a couple of years before.

Pippa Catterall: And this play starts off, I mean, it's a tribute to Lavender Menace, which was the first gay bookshop in Scotland. Male homosexuality was only partially decriminalised in Scotland in 1980, sometime after England. So, this bookshop opened in, I think, 1982 or something. And the play starts off with this guy trying to sneak into this bookshop without being spotted. He goes, "Fuck me, even the buildings are homophobic!" [laughter]

Pippa Catterall: And I found myself thinking about it. How can a building be homophobic? Okay, all those dour Presbyterian buildings in Edinburgh, maybe. And I talked to Ammar about it and we started thinking about it. Actually, of course, you can have a queer sensibility to architecture. A lot of architecture is very masculine. A lot of architecture is designed to make statements. So a lot of it is designed to make statements about the person who designed it, rather than the people who it's supposedly designed for.

Pippa Catterall: So, we could say that an awful lot of space is really badly designed, insofar as they've even been taken into account, for women. There's not provision for prams, there's not provision for the very different types of journeys that women still do around cities. But if you think about planning as well, there's a guy called Michael Frisch, who a few years ago published an article called Planning as a Heterosexist Project.

Pippa Catterall: And then he points out the prime influencer of planning in America and Britain in the 20th century was Patrick Geddes. And Patrick Geddes very consciously thought of planning and designing of housing estates in terms of the nuclear family, heteronormative family, 2.4 kids, all of those kinds of things with the result that you have these housing estates where if you're queer you really stand out. A friend of mine who is trans got burnt out, fire-bombed out on a housing estate like that in Reading a few years ago. So, in other words, once we started thinking about it, we started noticing these structures and the way in which public space is not, well, public, or the levels of public accessibility vary, the places where you will feel safe vary according to who you are.

Toby Mildon: So, in the report you do talk about gaybourhoods. So we're talking about, for example, Soho in London, Canal Street in Manchester, for instance. Obviously, you and I are both living and working here in the UK. Why do you think it is necessary for us to be rethinking the gaybourhood? 

Pippa Catterall: Let's starts off with what the gaybourhood is, to begin.

Toby Mildon: Yeah, that'd be great. [chuckle]

Pippa Catterall: So, historically, of course, one of the problems that queer people have is, where do you meet other queer people? And where can you safely meet other queer people? And we could argue that's still, to some extent, an issue, even though you are less likely than in the past to end up being falling foul of the criminal law because of simply engaging in sexual activities with someone who's the same sex as you.

Pippa Catterall: If we go back historically, you can find that there have been areas where people met and which were known as, in the 18th century, there were molly houses in London and those kinds of things where you can meet other people. A lot of these spaces are perhaps more accessible for gay men. So, you might argue that to some extent gay women have other possibilities because of the confinement in the home to a greater extent. So, you don't necessarily need these spaces outdoors where you can do what you have to do, as it were. [chuckle]

Pippa Catterall: Particularly when it's illicit, particularly for people who are relatively poor. And of course, historically, if you're wealthy and you're queer, you're much more likely to get away with it, as it were, than if you're not. So, there's always been spaces, and often these have been liminal spaces, places where the properties are relatively cheap, places where the law themselves do not go that often, places where you've got rabbit warrens of narrow streets where you can easily dive down a corner and hopefully not be spotted and so on.

Pippa Catterall: So, going back historically, there's always been those kind of spaces. What seems... The gaybourhood as we now know it seems to emerge in around the 1950s. So, if you look at Canal Street in the 1950s, it's a run down area on the fringes of the industrial districts of Manchester, properties relatively cheap, queer people move into the area, they start dominating those particular businesses.

Pippa Catterall: Once you've got partial decriminalisation at the end of the 1960s, you then get a critical mass of businesses emerging. In some cases, those businesses stay in those areas. So Soho, for instance, has been a liminal space for a long time. You go back to the, it's sort of between the administrative district of London and the West End, the pleasure zone of London of the West End.

Pippa Catterall: So it's a relatively low rent space with a relatively high number of immigrants, which means it's already a kind of liminal space in which you can go, it has a transient population, again, often makes it easier for queer people. You then get a concentration of businesses starting to emerge there. After decriminalisation in the US and UK, I mean, you look at the Stonewall Inn, for instance, it was run by the mafia. [laughter]

Pippa Catterall: It's that marginal. So, you've got those kinds of areas start to develop. And then the premises become gentrified. One of the problems is going forward is that you start getting notional gaybourhoods emerging. And as they get gentrified, as the, if you like, pink pound goes up in value, then the property prices go up in these areas, including commercial rents, which means that sooner or later some parts of the community get priced out.

Pippa Catterall: Because whilst gay men are, generally speaking, often better off than het couples, the rest of the LGBTQ community are not. And usually right at the bottom of the pile are trans women from global majority origin. So you've then got the phenomenon that the gaybourhood is a good safe space for certain people, but not for everyone. A friend of mine's just done a book on Queer New York about Lesbian New York. And in it, they talk about most of the lesbian enclaves in New York have disappeared because of rising property prices in the last few years.

Pippa Catterall: And also, of course, there are intersectionalities, so that spaces where white lesbians feel safe may not be the same for black or Latina lesbians. And so you start realising that if you're going to try and be inclusive, the gaybourhood is not really working that way. And also because of these rising commercial rents, the gaybourhood is also becoming quite vulnerable. So, if you look at Soho, it's less of a gaybourhood now than it was 20, 30 years ago.

Toby Mildon: Yeah. And I mean, presumably, other factors like apps where people can meet each other have had an impact as well, 'cause you don't have to physically co-locate to a particular area. And it's interesting 'cause I haven't found gaybourhoods particularly inclusive for me. When I lived in London, I rarely went out in Soho. I didn't really enjoy the, quote-unquote, "scene", and I found it quite inaccessible as well.

Pippa Catterall: Yes, it's definitely not designed for people in wheelchairs in most cases. I think SheBar, which is the only lesbian bar left in Old Compton Street, is down some stairs.

Toby Mildon: Yeah. Yeah. So, moving on to talking about inclusive practices, again, this resonated with me, 'cause when I wrote my book Inclusive Growth I wrote a chapter called Colleague Experience in Design. And the reason why I wrote that chapter was because I was getting frustrated by a number of employers who were creating interventions or programs that were designed to fix individuals.

Toby Mildon: So they would say, "Okay, we don't have enough women on the board, so we're gonna design a career development programme for women. And we are going to teach women how to be more confident, be better at negotiating, how to manage work-life balance, how to have more emotional intelligence and things like that." And it really frustrated me because I don't think people need fixing. I think it's the systems and the processes that are the problem.

Toby Mildon: And when I was working for one organisation where we had a problem with people rising to the top of the organisation, and I said, "What is it that's holding you back in it? Is it a lack of confidence?" And they were like, "Hell no, that's not the problem. It's the fact that this company is not very good at flexible and agile working." So I therefore wrote the chapter called Colleague Experience in Design, and the whole premise is that we need to think about journeys that people go on within the workplace. So that could be a recruitment journey, for example, it could be acquiring a disability whilst at working age, it could be becoming a parent for the first time.

Toby Mildon: And then we need to think about the speed humps and the roadblocks that are getting in your way, and then we have to eliminate those speed humps or roadblocks, which I basically borrowed a lot of insight from the social model of disability, which basically says that I'm not disabled because of my underlying disability. I'm disabled because of barriers that are created by society, whether that's physical, attitudinal, procedural, etcetera, etcetera. So, why is it that we need to rethink inclusive practices? 

Pippa Catterall: I'm astonished to hear men talking about women needing emotional intelligence, but [chuckle] it seems to me that one problem with a number of boards is that they tend to hire people like us. And even with the Equality Act in place and so on, you still get people saying, "Well, you wouldn't fit in, you wouldn't feel comfortable doing these kinds of things." So instead of thinking the diversity will bring different things to the table, different ideas, and help to avoid the kind of group think, which leads to some massive mistakes in government and in business, the tendency is instead to get people who reinforce your prejudices and assumptions and so on.

Pippa Catterall: So I think that's a major barrier to people climbing, which is a cultural one as well as the more structural ones you're talking about in terms of how you articulate things like flexible working, how you understand what people can bring to the table, how you allow for people who've had career breaks for a whole series of reasons, and how you take into account as well that someone who is able to navigate the world, despite all the barriers that where our society puts in their place, may be better able to think laterally than someone who has risen without trace, like so many of the members of the current government, for instance.

Pippa Catterall: I think that those of us who are marginalised are often much better at problem solving, because we have to. And the too many boards have people who really have never had to think about how to solve problems. And so they don't recognise problems when they do see them. So, again, that's a kind of structural barrier to improving the growth potential of whatever you are doing. And of course, we know that people who bring diverse perspectives help to create a more learning environment, help to create an environment where we do look at questions from a wider variety of angles, help to create an environment where we think more broadly about, well, who is going to use these spaces? 

Pippa Catterall: And if we go back to the point about design factors, we know that in the latest survey of architects, the number of architects who were willing to out themselves has actually gone down. We know that there are architects who are still weren't who are gay but won't admit they're gay at work or whatever. We know that despite the efforts of building equality and forums like constructing rainbows, there's still an awful lot of homophobia in large parts of the construction industry. And that tends to mean that some of those perspectives about, how can you make this space work better for everyone, are screened out.

Toby Mildon: Yeah. I was really interested in what you were saying in the report about Queer Heritage and how we need to preserve it because it can make us feel seen, and I don't think this was your word, but validated, and you were talking about the role of things like monuments, street art, statues and things like that. And it got me thinking about, yeah, the role of these artefacts in supporting us.

Toby Mildon: And a couple of stories came to mind for me. For example, so when I went on holiday with my boyfriend over to Washington, we walked around the city and we stumbled across the Franklin D Roosevelt Monument, and he was sat there in a, I think it was like a bronze wheelchair, and that I got a photo in my flat of me sat next to FDR. And I remember this other tourist giving me this kind of look of like, "Oh, how, how nice for you, Darling!" [chuckle]

Toby Mildon: But I had this big grin on my face because to my knowledge I think that was the first time I'd ever seen a statue in a wheelchair. And then the second story, when I was working for a big company, I remember there was one individual who I met through the LGBT+ network, and he told me that he felt confident coming out at work because a senior manager was walking around the office with like the Pride Network mug.

Toby Mildon: And he was like, "Well, if the senior manager's walking around with this rainbow-coloured mug, then it must be a safe space for me to come out at work." And I just thought, "That's really interesting how these artefacts or statues have such an impact on our experience in the built environment." So, I mean, why is it important that we are preserving queer heritage through these artefacts? 

Pippa Catterall: One is that sometimes, of course, you could look at, say, rainbow crossings and go, "This is a bit of pink washing, isn't it?" And it's not really doing very much. And you might as argue that having a rainbow crossing in Camden probably isn't doing very much for the local community. And there are other things... Other kind of interventions that you perhaps need more in places where you've already got a concentration of LGBTQ people of businesses and services and so on. But there was a reporting of a little village, a small village or town in Gloucestershire a year or so ago where this guy wrote to the local paper and said, "We've got a rainbow crossing. We don't have any gay pals, we don't have anything like that, but we've got a rainbow crossing." To say... [chuckle]

Pippa Catterall: Oh. I always... And sort of acknowledging that we exist is really important because I think there's still people who don't acknowledge those kinds of things. I mean, there was something in the Times a year or so ago saying, "Well, Terry Pratchett couldn't have had any ideas. The author Terry Pratchett couldn't have had any ideas about trans people because he died in 2015, and trans people didn't exist then." And you go, "Well, A, you obviously haven't read his books, and B, trans people have existed since time immemorial." But of course, unless you know that, you are not going to be aware of it. And a lot of LGBTQ people themselves are not necessarily aware of the history.

Pippa Catterall: But as the American author C. Riley Snorton points out, rather than talking about Black queer lives, if you don't have a past, you don't have a present; and if you don't have a present, you certainly don't have a future. So, inscribing us into the past, a past from which we have been excluded by what some of my trans sisters call cistory, it is really important because then you can confront people and go, "Well, people may not have used the same terms."

Pippa Catterall: Words like homosexual and heterosexual were invented in the 19th century, but people who manifest all the behaviours and the syndromes and etcetera, etcetera, can certainly be found going back to antiquity. So, I think in that sense it's really important. If you think about it, in public space in the UK we've got a statue of Alan Turing in Manchester and another one in Paddington. There's Oscar Wilde down by Charing Cross.

Pippa Catterall: There's a bust of Virginia Woolf in Bloomsbury. Most of these don't mention that they were queer. So it's quite easy for people to go through public space. I mean, let's face it, most people don't notice statues in public space most of the time anyway. But it's quite easy for people to go through public space and go, "Okay. Well, there's no representation in the past of such people. Therefore, where did all these queer people come from?"

Toby Mildon: Yeah.

Pippa Catterall: And I think it's challenging that kind of notion that is important in terms of representation. It's also about having a sense that we have a past, and we have a past which is not just painful. I'm talking about the Ace Memorial and so on. I mean, that past is really painful, but it's also important to express the joy of being queer or even one of the things which I really like about talking to the people who are involved in the project to recreate the trans memorial in Sackville Gardens in Manchester is they're saying, "This is not going to be a memorial to all the trans people who die every year," and things like that, "this is going to be a monument to us and our resilience." And I think that's really important.

Toby Mildon: So, you talk about designing in desistance and diversity. What is that exactly? And how does that relate in particular to, say, a chief people officer who might be listening to us right now? 

Pippa Catterall: So, desistance refers to desistance of crime. So, it's about thinking about can you create spaces where hate crimes in particular in these systems are less likely to happen? Now, if you go through the... If you look at the police service across the UK, the police forces habitually have designing out crime teams, but the way in which they think about that is very much on the idea that you maintain a reasonable standard of public space and you somehow thereby design a crime.

Pippa Catterall: I don't think that's necessarily how it works. I think designing a crime is not just about reducing graffiti, which is often how the police seem to think about these things. I think it's about creating spaces where people feel comfortable, therefore there's going to be enough footfall anyway and enough variety of footfall to make sure that things don't kick off. I think it's about creating spaces where people would not feel comfortable acting aggressive.

Pippa Catterall: If we look at the perpetrators of hate crimes, there's a surprisingly little research on why people commit hate crimes. But what we do know is that for LGBTQ hate crimes, some of it may be internalised homophobia or transphobia or whatever, some of it is about resistance, feeling offended by people who you think shouldn't be in that particular space. So one of the things then is to think about how do we create spaces where everybody looks like they should be there? And the third thing I suppose is that a lot of the people who commit hate crimes are, surprise, surprise, quite cowardly. And they will often only attack people when there's a number of them, when they outnumber the person who's being attacked. You find with some of the gaybourhoods people, predators will go to those places and then follow you out of those areas.

Pippa Catterall: So, the attacks don't necessarily happen on Old Compton Street or Canal Street, but they happen a few streets away when you've moved into a different kind of space. It's thinking about those kinds of things, and how do we change the ambience of those spaces? Final point is a lot of the people who commit these crimes tend to think that everybody around them is going to be a bystander, a bystander, not an upstander. In other words, they're going to accept seeing someone beaten up. And so again, what you need to do is try and articulate in those spaces, and this is where things like rainbow flags and etcetera help. Actually, these people are very much included in these spaces.

Toby Mildon: Yeah. I mean, as you were describing that, I was just thinking that the kinds of things that HR directors and organisations should be thinking about are things like psychological safety within the workplace, being able to call out or escalate issues, and that can be done anonymously if need to be through various speak-up platforms that exist. They need to create safe spaces like physically. So thinking about the quality of lighting so that if people have to leave work when it's dark they feel safe to do so.

Toby Mildon: The use of things like rainbow flags outside the office signaling that this is an LGBTQ+ friendly environment. Thinking about the provision of gender neutral toilets, for instance. I mean, these are all things that I come across quite frequently. But you were saying about hate crime, you know, I think we're... Me and my team are quite privileged to be able to work with our clients on helping them with things like engagement surveys and stuff like that.

Toby Mildon: And some of the things that we see come through engagement surveys are shocking. Comments like, why on earth are we changing our logo to the rainbow colours during Pride Month? Why are you rubbing this gay stuff in my face? I mean, that's literally the kind of comments that we've seen. And you think... Obviously those individuals probably think it's quite safe to use derogatory language and abusive language in an anonymous engagement survey, but I am wondering about what kind of, quote-unquote, "banter" might be going on on the shop floor. 'Cause we have spoken to people that are working on the front line and they have shared with us some pretty shocking behaviour about microaggressions that their colleagues frequently using their direction transphobic, homophobic remarks it's really quite shocking.

Pippa Catterall: Yes. But anyone who feels so insecure that they feel validated by putting down someone else clearly has some kind of issue. If you are secure in who you are, you shouldn't need to put anybody else down.

Toby Mildon: Yeah, I totally agree with you.

Pippa Catterall: And you should be able to live with other people. I mean, of course we lean in a society where there is still a tendency to peddle myths about members of the LGBTQ community, but we have to bear in mind that these are frequently myths that are insofar as members of LGBTQ communities historically engaged in what might sometimes be seen as exploitative practices. Well, was because most people were so excluded. What else could you do? But of course, there's lots of Hess abuse as well. I mean, there is no justification for abusing anybody just because of who they are.

Toby Mildon: Absolutely. So, my final question, how does queering public spaces relate to diversifying our workforces? 

Pippa Catterall: Well, I think that it's really important to help in terms of helping to signify that these are welcoming spaces. We've been talking about doing a Phase 2 of the Queering Public Space Project, and it's now gone kind of a global, so we've got collaborators in Australia, Switzerland, Poland of all places, and not Uganda yet, but India and so on. And the people I'm working with in Poland have been talking about thinking about how you can make police stations more inclusive. So if you think about it, members of our communities are differentially less likely to report crimes to the police. And that's partly because the police deservedly have a terrible reputation, for large numbers of us, but it's also that going into police stations is just a really alienating experience for virtually anybody.

Toby Mildon: Yeah.

Pippa Catterall: They're not designed to be warm, friendly spaces for the public. They're not welcoming spaces, nor more surprisingly, are hospitals. Again, if you look at the LGBTQ communities, we are differentially less likely to go to doctors, and that is partly because, again, you go to the doctor, you find the doctor is often baffled or unhelpful or whatever, and certainly not got a good bedside manner, shall we say.

Pippa Catterall: But I think it's also that the spaces that the NHS has are frequently absolutely horrific, not only for the people using them, going to them as patients, but also for people who work there. They're not friendly spaces. They are alienating, cold. They're not designed to help people. They're not therapeutic spaces. And I think, in a sense, we want spaces to be inclusive.

Pippa Catterall: They should be therapeutic, they should be supportive of warm colours, warm lighting, warm ambiance, all of which I think tends to play down, reduce levels of aggression, and tends to create a more calming atmosphere, which is definitely what you need in hospitals, 'cause so often the lighting is horribly harsh and really difficult to use or to navigate, gives you headaches and so on. It puts people off going to these places in the first place.

Pippa Catterall: As well, you've got to try and signalise visualisation in all of these spaces. And of course, if you think about it in terms of posters, the NHS has tried to do that, the police not been nearly so good at that. So, some of the see it, say it, sort it, scaremongering the police specialise in, thank you, Theresa May, [laughter] has been rightly pilloried for featuring people on the images who look like they're supposed to be the wandering Jew of anti-Semitic legend. The police need to get their act together much more on these kinds of things.

Pippa Catterall: There are some people in the police service who are aware of this, but not nearly enough. I suppose getting back to that point about the kind of banter, it's having up standards around these people who make it quite clear, this is not okay. People do it because they think it's okay. If you treat them like they're absolute plonkers when they behave like that, which is indeed what they are being, then they'll stop doing it.

Pippa Catterall: If they think they're being funny and they're going to get something out of it, or they're getting a rise out of it, people bully people because they think it will make them look better in comparison with someone like that. It's like with... I was on a train recently and I found myself surrounded by Millwall supporters, who are not normally the people you go, "Oh this is good, lots of Millwall supporters around me," but sitting right opposite them was a trans woman who was probably a drama student and she was so out there, so loud, so proud.

Pippa Catterall: And so they didn't say anything. They were completely silent while she was on the train, and when she got off, they looked at each other and said, "Was that a bloke?" "I don't know". [laughter] They weren't aggressive or anything like that because she owned the space and she didn't look vulnerable. When we signal that people are vulnerable in spaces, that people shouldn't be in those spaces, then we make them vulnerable. And that, I suppose, is my winking conclusion, Toby.

Toby Mildon: Yeah. No, I love that. I love that. And earlier when you were talking about the accessibility or the inclusiveness of police stations, I remember I had a friend at university who was also a wheelchair user and he got arrested for being drunk and disorderly, and then the police had to let him go because the police station was not wheelchair accessible. [laughter] They couldn't get him in the police station.

Pippa Catterall: A less risible version of that is, I was chairing a conference recently about safeguarding students and one of the speakers was from the charity Stamp Out spiking and, of course, spiking is a very serious issue. It's not just done on women but it's in the majority of victims of women. There were universities there who were saying, "We say to the police, you do not take statements from our students at the police station. You come to us. You have to come to us because we don't want to put our students through that torture".

Toby Mildon: Yeah.

Pippa Catterall: "And you have to do it in a sensitive, supporting environment", which is something the police are still working on, shall we say. [chuckle]

Toby Mildon: Yeah. What would you like the person listening to us today to do as a result of hearing our conversation? 

Pippa Catterall: I would like them to, well, firstly, make sure that they are upstanders. That means, don't put yourself at risk, but do make sure that behaviour which is discriminatory or harassment, victimisation, is resisted. But in terms of designing in a inclusivity, I think it's important to celebrate humanity in all its variations, including despite the hostility of our current government refugees because, let's face it, we've all moved.

Pippa Catterall: You know, you go back far enough in any family, we've all moved from somewhere else. And the... I think it's, how do we do that? Well, we were talking earlier about, as you said, Toby, the quality, and it's important to say quality of lighting, not the intensity of lighting. So if you think about, I mean, you think about a coffee shop, coffee shops don't have really harsh lighting. They have soft wall lighting for a very good reason. They have natural finishes. They use a lot of wood rather than harsh white surfaces. You use relatively, you know, not necessarily pastel shades, but you use relatively warm colours. You don't use harsh colours. You don't have stark black and white contrasts. You don't have harsh soundscapes.

Pippa Catterall: I was going through a new housing estate just near Tower Bridge recently, and a hundred yards away from a pub where there were four guys sitting outside, I could hear their voices really, really clearly. For women, I think male voices carrying a long way is often really intimidating. And male voices do tend to carry more. So it's, you know, thinking about soundscapes as well. If you have really echoey spaces, that doesn't make for great conversations, great workplaces. I was doing a gig recently about how we design more inclusive offices. And one of the people on the panel said, is writing a history office design, and she said, "I'm going to call it, where do you cry in an open plan office?"

Toby Mildon: Yeah. [chuckle]

Pippa Catterall: Which I thought was absolutely brilliant.

Toby Mildon: Yeah.

Pippa Catterall: And, you know, because where do you cry in an open plan office? So offices are almost like panopticons these days.

Toby Mildon: Yeah.

Pippa Catterall: And that's not good.

Toby Mildon: Well, being a wheelchair user, I just went to the disabled toilet. I remember when I was working for one company, I was on the client site, and the health and safety manager came round and basically kicked me out of the office 'cause he said I was a fire hazard in my wheelchair. And yeah, I went to the disabled toilet and cried. So I can completely, I was working in an open plan office at the time, you know, there was nowhere else for me to go, but at least I had a pass to the disabled toilet.

Pippa Catterall: I know. But yeah, it's really, it's really not good that you have those kinds of things happening. I mean, I think when you're designing an office, you need to think about, well, what's going to make it? How do we make it as inclusive as possible? So, I mean, I'm doing an EDI audit of our campuses at the moment and went into one of the cafes and they said, "You've got all of the plugs for plugging in your laptops on these things that you can only access if you sit in a high stall." And I said, "No wheelchair user will be able to reach these. This is just crazy."

Toby Mildon: Yeah.

Pippa Catterall: I think they've changed that now, but you know, it's still really problematic.

Toby Mildon: A parting thought is that, you know, if the person listening to us right now is thinking of doing an office refurbishment, then they definitely bring in somebody who can look at inclusive design of the new office. Not just... I think a lot of organisations they'll do like an audit looking at things like physical access for wheelchair users, but that's only like a small portion of the population that are going to use your office. You have to do a really holistic review of how inclusively designed your office is. And that's looking at people with disabilities, including neurodivergent individuals, but also members of the LGBTQ+ community, looking at it from a gender lens, gender identity lens, ethnicity and race.

Toby Mildon: You know, you have to... It has to be a holistic approach. Pippa, thank you ever so much for joining me. I've thoroughly enjoyed our conversation. I think we could like just carry on talking for longer, but unfortunately we're out of time now. But thanks ever so much for joining me. And I really hope that the person listening to us today has taken away some really insightful and practical tips that they can start to think about for the inclusivity of their own workplace.

Pippa Catterall: Thank you.

Toby Mildon: And thank you for tuning in today. Hopefully you've enjoyed my conversation with Pippa as much as I have. If there's anything that me and my team can do to support you on your diversity and inclusion journey, then please do reach out to us through our website. We will be more than happy to help you. And you can access the Queering Public Spaces report by googling it. And you can also connect with Pippa over at LinkedIn. So, thanks ever so much for tuning in. And I look forward to seeing you on the next episode of the podcast, which will be coming out very soon. Until then, take good care of yourself.


Speaker 1: Thank you for listening to the Inclusive Growth Show. For further information and resources from Toby and his team, head on over to our website at