Our Data and Development Manager Craig Wynn reflects on our first week-long online Pride & Pixels Festival for young people
By now, you obviously know it’s been a gruelling 18 months in our new reality; you don’t need yet another blog reflecting on how strange, scary and unusual the whole thing has been or how it’s taken its toll on young people.
Instead, I’m going to tell you about something truly joyous that happened last month: our first ever Pride & Pixels Festival!
Ok, technically, it was the second one, but last year’s wasn’t really a ‘festival’. It only lasted one afternoon and was intended as a substitute for Pride itself. It was our first real experiment in online events for young people.
But, this year, we decided to go a whole lot further. We spread events out across five nights, offering a wide range of workshops and entertainment and reaching hundreds of young people across the country.
What was it all about?
Pride & Pixels is our very own Discord server, which you can learn more about here. In short, it was always intended as a space for us to deliver youth work to young people who live in rural and remote parts of Scotland or who, for any other reason, couldn’t attend our physical youth groups.
However, when the pandemic hit, it became the home for all our group delivery, with hundreds of our young people coming together each week and participating in a brand new, safe and welcoming online community.
This year, we wanted to celebrate the community itself, as well as creating an opportunity for learning, making friends and having a good time, especially since Pride events were once again cancelled in Scotland.
We asked the young people if they’d like us to spread events across a full week to give more of them a chance to take part, and they gave us an emphatic “yes!”
We partnered with Thrive Edinburgh’s Arts Programme, which helped us pay for entertainment and to buy vouchers for self-help card packs from the Blurt Foundation, which we gave out to young people at registration.
Our youth workers from across Scotland came together to plan and deliver eight brilliant workshops. Creatives, performers and Scottish Youth Parliament candidates provided brilliant, funny and informative content for us to share each night.
Young people, in turn, participated on a scale we’ve never seen before.
So, how did we do?
It’s never easy predicting how many people will take part in a fully online event – it was theoretically open to all 350 young people who access Pride & Pixels (which any LGBTQI+ young people aged 13 to 25 can join as part of our local youth groups around Scotland).
At the same time, September was the second-warmest on record and had the lowest Covid-19 restrictions in nearly 18 months – would anyone want to stay home and participate in yet another online event?
In the end, Discord Insights told us:
While it’s a more nuanced question, we also tried to measure the impact of the event on young peoples’ mental health. A total of 44% said their mental health definitely improved during the week, while the other 66% said it might have.
To us, that’s a clear indication that the nature of the Festival – fun, educational community building in a space that is safe, welcoming and led by the young people themselves – is a uniquely powerful format in the age of digital youth work.
When asked for their highlights of the week, young people focused on the fact that they could meet new people, especially from other youth groups across the country.
One 18-year-old said they loved that they could “geek out about poetry”, while a 24-year-old told us they enjoyed learning about LGBT history.
My favourite quote, though, was from a 16-year-old who said their favourite bit of the Festival was the closing party on Friday, adding, “Everyone was super sweet and fun, it was so sad when it ended!”
There really is something special about Pride & Pixels as a platform and, as staff, we had an incredible time coming together to deliver something new and special to the wonderful community we’re all a part of there. We can’t wait to do it all again next year.