Celebrating Pride with Virgin
To honour Pride in 2021, we’ve done a roundup of the very best celebrations across the Virgin companies. From Pride credit cards, specially-designed beers, emotive employee videos and even a dedicated radio station, we didn’t let the pandemic stop us from celebrating. And while we love celebrating Pride month each June, Virgin champions LGBTQ+ rights all year round, and has done from the very beginning.
Where it all began
With a long history of supporting LGBTQ+ rights, Richard Branson began supporting the gay community nearly 50 years ago, when he started the Student Advisory Centre. The helpline allowed young callers with problems to retain their anonymity and get help from the right people. He realised many young gay people were being ostracised and wanted to meet other gay people and feel part of a community. This is what led him to buy Heaven nightclub in London.
Virgin has since sponsored Pride festivals, hosted international panels, supported Attitude Magazine, helped launch Open for Business (a business-led coalition to make the economic case for LGBTQ+ inclusion) and supported the abolition of anti-LGBTQ+ laws.
Many people will remember Virgin Atlantic making history in 2019, when they chartered the first ever Pride flight to mark the 50-year anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising.
So what have the Virgin companies been up to to mark Pride this year? Here are some of the best celebrations across the group.
The one-off flight from Brisbane to Sydney carried more than 120 passengers and was operated by LGBTQ+ cabin crew and allies. Special guests on board included model Alli Simpson, reporter Richard Reid, singer Jack Vidgen, Instagram star Sophie Cachia and celebrity drag queen Maxi Shield.
With all the glitter, rainbows and sky-high stilettos you’d expect of a Pride event, it truly was a celebration to remember. And love was well and truly in the air with a surprise proposal onboard!
Virgin Radio UK
Its core programming will address important issues for the LGBTQ+ community, sparking conversations around topics such as Trans-rights, gay adoption issues, living with HIV and helping parents understand LGBTQ+ issues by working closely with various LGBTQ+ partners. The station will bring to life Pride festivals around the UK, partnering with local celebrations including Blackpool and Oxford Pride.
A beer to be proud of! Virgin Wines shared PROUD beers on its Instagram account, which can be bought through Virgin Wines. For every purchase of the craft beer, 20p goes to LGBTQ+ supporting charities. We can’t get enough of the packaging design!
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Virgin Atlantic’s people have been unable to celebrate as much as they would’ve liked, but the company has declared its continued support of the LGBTQ+ community. Virgin Atlantic has been a supporter of the LGBTQ+ community for a long time, championing diversity and celebrating everyone’s differences, enabling them to feel proud of who they are, no matter how they identify or who they love.
Juha Jarvinen, chief commercial officer and executive sponsor of the airline’s internal Pride network, has written a blog for Virgin Atlantic about his experiences as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. He says: “It’s so important that we foster a culture of belonging and actively encourage every single one of our people to be themselves at work every day. After years of not wanting to divulge my sexuality at work or in business networks, joining this airline in 2019 was a breath of fresh air.”
Virgin Atlantic was also the headline sponsor for Manchester Pride, which took place at the end of August. The team was out in force to celebrate with its LGBTQ+ members, with drag queens, stilt walkers and more flags and glitter!
Virgin Active UK
Virgin Active celebrated all of its members and team who identify as LGBTQ+. To recognise the history and successes of the wider community, hosted a number of LGBTQ+ workouts on Instagram Live. So if you fancy getting some exercise in while celebrating Pride, you know where to go.
Virgin Money UK
Virgin Money UK is celebrating its customers ‘paying with pride’. The company announced that you can now get your very own Pride Virgin Money Credit Card. You can browse its range of services on the Virgin Money website.
You can also read a blog about how Virgin Voyages went big for Pride Month.
Virgin Media Ireland
Virgin Media Ireland was an official sponsor of Dublin Pride this year. While the Pride march through the city couldn’t take place due to COVID restrictions, the parade went virtual.
Virgin Media Ireland also commissioned some artists to create bespoke artwork that reflects what Pride means to them. Take a look at the timelapse of one artist creating their art on the street…
Virgin Media O2
The start of Pride month 2021 coincided with the launch of the newly formed Virgin Media O2. For the first time, the teams from the two businesses came together to celebrate Pride.
The united teams enjoyed cinema clubs as well as talks from external speakers from organisations such as the Terrence Higgins Trust and LGBT Foundation.
A long way to go
Richard Branson wrote a blog in February following the release of It’s A Sin on Channel 4. He said: “Let’s all take a moment to remember that we still have a long way to go until LGBTQ+ rights are championed around the world. While many of the battles have been won in the West, there are still countries where people can be locked up for life or stoned to death for being gay. We must all come together to keep fighting for equality around the world, and business must play a role in this fight.”
We hope you can join us in celebrating Pride in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community. Virgin will continue striving to be as inclusive as possible, and celebrate everyone for being exactly who they are.