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Drain cover celebrating LGBTQ+ community takes ‘Pride’ of place in Reading

Thursday 2nd September 2021 14:00

LGBTQ+ drain cover in situ

A specially designed drain cover, believed to be the first of its kind in the UK, has been unveiled by Thames Water to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community ahead of Reading’s annual Pride event.

The cover, located in the pathway on the junction of Napier Road and Kings Meadow Road, has been painted in the rainbow colours which are symbolic of the LGBTQ+ movement along with black and brown to represent LGBTQ+ people from black and Asian backgrounds. The unique design also includes LGBTQ+ symbols along with the logos of Thames Water and the cover manufacturers, Wrekin Products, and the slogan “Every rainbow needs a little water to shine”. The words, chosen by Thames Water employees, link to the company’s core purpose of water management and expresses how communities shine and thrive because of the diversity within them. 

While coloured drain covers have been photographed in other countries, including Japan and the USA, it’s thought this is the first in the UK. It is the first of four to be installed by Thames Water, with the other three set to be unveiled in Swindon and in two London locations in the coming weeks.

Matt Rimmer, Thames Water’s director of wastewater networks and an ally of the company’s LGBTQ+ network, said: “We’re proud to be an inclusive employer and want our workforce to represent the diverse communities we serve. 

“While most of the infrastructure we use to provide essential water and waste services is underground, the drain covers are there for all to see and are a perfect canvas on which to promote our values. While we continue to support Pride events, we also want to have some permanent and highly visible statement pieces that reflect our commitment to our LGBTQ+ employees and customers. The covers will not only be functional but also works of art that we hope people will enjoy.”

Thames Water is one of the sponsors of this years’ Reading Pride and has been supporting the event since 2016. The cover is purposely positioned on the Pride march route near Thames’ head office. The company is a Stonewall Diversity Champion and has been ranked by the Stonewall charity as one of the country’s top 200 employers. It aims to break into the top 100 by 2025.

Emma Kosmin, associate director of workplace client relationships at Stonewall, (she/her) said: “We’re delighted that Thames Water is installing drain covers that visibly celebrate the LGBTQ+ community. Initiatives like this, which openly show appreciation for our communities, help LGBTQ+ staff and members of the public feel seen and valued. 

“Thames Water has consistently strived to create a more inclusive workplace where LGBTQ+ employees and customers are free to be themselves. From placing diversity at the heart of recruitment to working with communities across the country to celebrate Pride, it’s been incredible to work alongside an organisation that is so dedicated to LGBTQ+ inclusion. We look forward to continuing to support Thames Water to create an environment where their LGBTQ+ staff, and the communities they serve, are free to thrive as themselves.”

Thames Water has previously commissioned two commemorative drain covers in London to mark the clearing of the infamous 2017 Whitechapel Fatberg and on Abbey Road to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Beatles album. Both were created by Wrekin Products, which has also made the four new covers at their base in Lichfield in the Midlands.

Simon Turner, commercial director at Wrekin Products, said: “We’re delighted that the cover is in the ground for all to see ahead of this year’s Reading Pride and beyond. Having worked with Thames Water on bespoke drain covers in the past, this was the perfect opportunity to publicly display our allegiance with the LGBTQ+ community while adding a splash of colour to the built environment. 

We’re thrilled with the finished product and hope that the message ‘Every rainbow needs a little water to shine’ will be able to empower, inspire or even simply put a smile on the face of those who pass.”