Queer activists picketed the entrance to the Savoy on the
Strand, which last night hosted the inaugural European Diversity
One banner read "Queer Resistance", another sign read "Transphobia
is not Diversity". Another listed a series of demands: "No to
Transphobia. No to Islamophobia. No to Body Fascism. No to
Corporate Greed. No to Imperialist Wars."
Bemused passers-by seemed understandably puzzled by the specific
concerns of this eclectic group of protesters.
The independent European Diversity Awards' aim to, "celebrate the
work and commitment of passionate individuals, groups and
businesses who have made a positive impact in improving the lives
of others," was clearly a contentious issue.
In the lavish confines of the Savoy Hotel, BBC journalist and host
on the night Jane Hill, told DIVA, "Anything that raises awareness
and visibility is a good thing, and I thought this was a little
different because they were trying to make it Europe-wide… it's
quite refreshing to have an event that is pan-European.
"They've gone a pretty good job of acknowledging other countries
and bringing in representatives from other countries. It's good for
all of us to look outside our shores and think about what can and
should be done in other countries - partly because we can learn
lessons from other countries, but also because there are a lot of
countries in the world where a hell of a lot more needs to be
Sponsored by the likes of Abercrombie & Fitch, the Royal Navy,
RBS, and Google, the Awards have managed to attract huge corporate
endorsements. Perhaps that explained the gripe about "Corporate
But Journalist of the Year nominee Paul Burston disagreed, as he
told DIVA: "With something as high-profile as this, you do get into
bed with big sponsors, and obviously that raises a lot of questions
for some people - but I do think that that's the only real way of
moving things forward, moving to the wider public eye. For better
or worse, with a big company like Google or whoever it might be
when making statements about diversity, they have a massive reach -
and that's important."
Peter Tatchell, up for Campaigner of the Year, was less impressed:
"I do have some qualms about some of the sponsors like RBS and
Vodafone. Thankfully as a result of a recent Amnesty International
campaign, RBS (whose Chris Sullivan won Champion of the Year) has
ceased investing in firms that produce cluster bonds, and has given
new assurances about some of its projects which have been
criticised as environmentally damaging, and insensitive to the
rights of indigenous people.
"Vodafone (who won the Company of the Year Award) is still a
problem - there's still an issue about their non-payment of an
estimated £6 million in taxes.
"I've raised the issue of sponsorship by ethical companies with
the organisers and they have agreed they are going to look at the
issue for next year. It's very important that the European
diversity boards are sponsored by bodies that reflect the ethical
values of the event."
For the protestors outside however, many saw the awards as far
from diverse. Abercrombie and Fitch have a chequered history
regarding racial discrimination - and have previously been sued by
The British Armed Forces, who won the award for Outstanding
Employee Network of the Year, are far behind on gender equality,
with women still excluded from certain units.
"It really looks like a satire," said one protester.
But perhaps the protesters' greatest gripe was that feminist
journalist and activist Julie Bindel had been shortlisted for the
Journalist Award for her work which has exposed the trafficking of
women for sex across Europe. Bindel has offended many in the trans
community, in newspaper features which they consider to be
Trans activist and organiser of the protest Natacha Kennedy, told
DIVA, "If you're going to have a diversity award, it needs to be
completely inclusive, completely diverse. When you've got someone
who's quite anti another group… I don't think that's on from the
point of view of the people who are organising it."
When DIVA contacted Bindel for a statement, she said: "I apologise
unreservedly for both the tone and content of my 2004
The complete list of European Diversity Award winners are
The winner of the icon events politician of the year award goes to
Lord Waheed Alli.
The cast media journalist of the year award goes to Frank
The Runnymede Trust community project of the year award goes to
Pop Up Festival.
The Boutique Marketing marketing campaign of the year award goes
The Unitedhealth Group award for diversity team of the year
winner is Societe Generale.
The RBS campaigner of the year award goes to Barbara
The Societe Generale charity of the year award goes to
The Inclusive Employers outstanding employee network of the year
goes to the British Armed Forces.
The Cisco company of the year award goes to
The Abercrombie & Fitch diversity champion of the year award
goes to Chris Sullivan of RBS.