Meet the steering coordinator of the Trust’s LGBTQ+ network
In the second of our LGBTQ+ themed news stories for this week - which commemorates the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in the UK - we found out more about Rob Hayes, steering coordinator of the Trust's LGBTQ+ network.
What's your role within the Trust?
I'm General Manager of the Thames Valley Group – that's Basildon Park, Greys Court and Nuffield Place.
What did you do before you joined The National Trust?
I was Commercial Director of Birmingham Museums Trust leading the trading arm, admissions and heritage sites.
How did you get involved in the LGBTQ+ network?
I've always been involved with diversity work in the workplace, starting at University as Union President and involved in University LGBT groups. I got involved with setting up the network with Rachel Lennon from National Programmes, with support from HR's Martin Nugent. Then we held a meeting and it was great to see people help and support its set up!
What do you hope the network can achieve?
It's all about the people involved, celebrating diversity, championing stories and queer histories. We will take a role in coordinating and supporting future Pride events and providing a voice for LGBTQ+ staff and volunteers. We have already achieved so much and the Network will showcase that and celebrate what everyone does. I'm really looking forward to seeing regional coordinators in place and the network grow!
As an out gay man, have you personally ever had to deal with any prejudice? How do you react to that?
Yes, although I think it's sometimes not meant but felt. The staff team on site have been great and are allies in their own right. However, I have had a couple of incidents on site with people assuming the sex of my partner. It's about being open, tolerant and educating people but, if people step over the line, which has happened, I call it out.
Homophobia and transphobia have no place in the Trust. Outside of work you still see violence and prejudice against the community and this why I still think it's important we campaign and have LGBTQ+ Networks.
How do you feel about the Trust's embrace of LGBTQ+ stories through the Prejudice and Pride programme?
It's about time. I think the work has been great, especially at Sutton House. It's great to see queer narratives told but let's not stop there. The network and Trust should seek out more true narratives of queer stories and tell them, and continue to tell them after this year as well.
Let's be bold, creative and honest in telling our stories – the audience is there.
If older you could talk to younger you, what one piece of advice would you give him?
Don't stress and be bolder! (and get into heritage sooner)
What do you enjoy most about the Thames Valley?
The portfolio is truly a mix of everything – landscapes, let estate, great gardens, houses with stories to be told, farms and views across the working valley. On the edge of Reading it's a great opportunity to diversify our audience.
I'm most looking forward to our re-imagining India project. It's close to my heart as I'm from Indian heritage.
And away from there, what's your favourite National Trust place?
Mount Stewart and Carrick a rede. Both are glorious (and with a special mention to Packwood House - I joined the Trust there!).
If the journey to become forever for everyone was a 100 mile long stretch of road, how far along it would you say we were?
That's a hard one. To say we will have attended around 20 Pride events, and have a Network means LGBTQ is well down the road. But I'd like to see networks, work and stories around BAME, disability and more.
And let's diversify our audience through taking more creative risks. Let's tell those hidden stories.
So I'd say 20 miles - it's a good start!