Participants from LEAP Sports Scotland Open Badminton Tournament ran by Edinburgh Racqueteers
Festival Fortnight is a two-week annual programme of events held in June, coordinated by LEAP Sports Scotland. The festival aims to increase the participation and visibility of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people in Scottish sport, as well as exploring LGBTI and wider equality and human right issues in sport. The organised events serve to encourage LGBTI people and their friends to get involved in an exciting mix of sporting, cultural and recreational events and activities.
LEAP Sports envision a future where everyone can access, participate, enjoy and excel in sport, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation.
Unfortunately, for many LGBTI people this isn’t the case, and social, structural and individual barriers stand in the way of their sporting journeys. Some of the barriers include restrictive sports policies and the absence of inclusive changing and toilet facilities/ sports equipment, which particularly affect trans and non-binary individuals; a lack of knowledge and understanding of LGBTI issues, as well as the invisibility of LGBTI people in mainstream sport, to name but a few.
If we look at football, for example, there are a number of reasons why LGBTI people refrain from participating. For example the absence of gay, bisexual or transgender (GBT) role models in the men’s professional game can suggest that football is not a safe space to be openly GBT. There is also a widespread perception that football has high levels of homophobia and transphobia, discouraging people from participation. Damaging stereotypes of LGBTI people exist in football and many LGBTI people have had negative experiences of football from a young age, requiring direct encouragement to give football another chance.
Festival Fortnight aims to remove as many of these barriers as possible by:
- Increasing opportunities for LGBTI people to access sport while establishing pathways into regular participation;
- Celebrating and increasing the visibility of LGBTI people who already participate, enjoy and excel in sport, so that others can learn and share from their experience;
- Exploring LGBTI and equality and human rights issues in sport, sharing insight and knowledge to make sport more welcoming for all;
- Offering support and advice to help people get involved or to try something for the first time.
The Festival Fortnight model works through a partnership approach; although LEAP coordinate the festival, the vast majority of events are organised and run by partner organisations, whether they be LGBTI sports groups and clubs, wider sports clubs and governing bodies, LGBTI community groups or other equality organisations. In turn, LEAP Sports promotes the events, provides advice around inclusion, content and structure and covers some costs of events to make them financially accessible to participants where necessary. Festival Fortnight would also not be what it is without all the volunteers who give up their time to ensure the events run smoothly and partners feel supported.
In last year’s Festival Fortnight, there were events which ran for the first time ever, such as the Rangers Football Festival, which consisted of a 5-a-side tournament, a tour of Ibrox Stadium, and a workshop of LGBTI issues in football, as well as Aberdeen Taexali Rugby Club’s Summer Touch Festival. Several events have been running since the first edition of Festival Fortnight in 2013, or for the past few years at least; such as the Open Badminton tournament organised by the Edinburgh Racqueteers.
There was also an eager determination to include a number of intersectional events in last year’s programme. These included a wheelchair basketball taster session co-organised by the Rainbow Glasgaroos and Basketball Scotland; a mental health awareness football tournament hosted by Clyde F.C. Community Foundation, and a walking football event run by Kilmarnock F.C. All these events were received very positively, and there is an even greater focus now to include intersectional events in Festival Fortnight’s 2020 programme.
However, it’s not just sports participation events on offer. We have provided a wide array of social, cultural and academic events too, such as a high school performance of Tom Wells’ play ‘Jumpers for Goalposts’ featuring students from Dalkeith Secondary School and Fortrose Academy; a ‘Gayme Night’ at the R-CADE, and HotScots F.C.’s annual quiz night. The diverse programme of events on offer throughout the festival means there’s something in it for everyone.
Festival Fortnight events have enabled LGBTI individuals to get involved in activities they wouldn’t have otherwise participated in, as well as bringing LGBTI people together to meet other members of the community. Here are some participant testimonies from Festival Fortnight 2019:
“It was good because I hadn’t been swimming since primary!” – LGBTI Pool Party organised by LGBT Youth Scotland
“Fantastic walk! Saw lots of new things I didn’t know about; lovely people. Motivated me to do more walking and explore new areas!” – OUT on Sundays West End Wonders walking tour
“I found the panel and different stories regarding women’s football, as well as the issues of homophobia and transphobia very eye-opening” – Scotland v Argentina WWC Screening and Panel organised by United Glasgow FC
Ultimately, Festival Fortnight has helped to increase the visibility of LGBTI people in sport; raised awareness of the barriers facing LGBTI people in sport, and has given LGBTI individuals the opportunity to access and participate in sport.
What can you do to support?
- Organise your own event during Festival Fortnight 2020 by contacting LEAP Sports at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Help us spread the message of LGBTI inclusion and participation in Scottish sport by following LEAP Sports on Facebook and Twitter and sharing our content on your platforms.
- Mention Festival Fortnight to a friend, family member or co-worker who you think would be interested in getting involved.