Conference News September 2021 - Page 44

44 Diversity

THE ROAD TO EQUALITY

Gabrielle Austen Browne charts her career journey and reveals how it led to the formation of Diversity Ally .
hat I love about the events industry is that you don ’ t have to go through a traditional route to have a career in the sector . Transferable skills are relevant , valued and extremely welcome , which ultimately is why I decided to pursue a career in events .
Before moving into the events industry , I was a professional dance artist performing in musicals , music videos and appearing on film , TV , and stage . Way back when , you couldn ’ t take a degree in dance performance , so I didn ’ t go into higher education until I was 30 , when I completed a masters in community dance at Laban . And this was where I first discovered my dedication to inclusivity and accessibility ( more about that later ).
Upon completing my masters , and alongside my performance work , I worked in schools , pupil referral units , with older people in residential care and with adults with physical and learning disabilities . One organisation I particularly loved working with was called Heart and Soul . I admired the space and opportunities it
Gabrielle Austen Browne
created for adults with physical and learning disabilities to be creative and showcase their creativity . So I decided to volunteer and support them once a week assisting on events , which led to me working on their large-scale events , including their annual event held at the Royal Festival Hall called the Beautiful Octopus Club , which is London ’ s longest-running inclusive club night . The event celebrates learning disability culture and is a place where people with and without learning disabilities come together to enjoy a range of arts , culture , and music .
I was still performing at this time when I got badly injured . I broke my ankle and I carried on dancing on it for six weeks without realising . I was no longer able to dance to the standard or ability I wanted to , which meant I had to think about pursuing a new career , and the experience I had with Heart and Soul prompted me to consider a career in events .
The next step
I didn ’ t have the time , nor the finances , to go and study for a degree , but knew I wanted some sort of qualification and industry experience . I discovered the Event Academy and applied to do its part-time diploma , which took place twice a week for three months . After graduating as project leader with a distinction , I went on to secure my first event manager role around two months later ; I was chuffed . But one thing I did realise very early on was that corporate events and the corporate environment definitely weren ’ t for me ( or so I thought ).
At the time I felt I didn ’ t fit into that culture , having come from a highly creative background where rules were made to be broken ( or at least challenged ). It was also made very clear to me in my first role that my background and skills were not useful nor wanted in that company . I was essentially bullied out of the role , which helped cement the feeling and I have avoided corporate ever since . Reflecting back ,
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