When we were looking for a new venue for LeedsJS a few years ago, one of the criteria I set was “not a pub”. Initially this seems like an arbitrary decision, but I had a number of reasons for doing so.
At the time, we were based in a pub but our the diversity in our audience was little to none. After doing a little research, I realised that the venue was a big contributing factor to this and we were unintentionally excluding people by holding it there.
The first thing I came across is that Muslims are forbidden from entering a pub by their religion, even if it’s not to drink. Straight away this pushes away a chunk of our potential audience.
Then, I was discussing it with Chris Manson and we realised that other people might feel uncomfortable or unsafe around alcohol and people drinking too. This includes women, alcoholics and minority groups.
Our event wasn’t focused on drinking, it was about meeting people, learning and sharing knowledge. We didn’t need the alcohol.
We found a great community venue and we made the pub a post-talk thing instead. Eventually we also realised that using some of the event budget for something that not everyone can be a part of is unfair and we made it an unofficial part of the event, using the budget to get vegan, vegetarian and gluten free options for our food.
Since making these changes, I’ve definitely noticed a much more mixed audience and I’m really pleased with this. I know we still have areas to work on, but this was a great move for us.