A specially designed drain cover has been unveiled by Thames Water in Swindon to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community.
The cover, located in Wood Street, is thought to be only the second of its kind in the UK.
It has been painted in the rainbow colours which are symbolic of the LGBTQ+ movement along with black and brown to represent LGBTQ+ people from black and Asian backgrounds.
The unique design also includes LGBTQ+ symbols along with the logos of Thames Water and the cover manufacturers, Wrekin Products, and the slogan: “Every rainbow needs a little water to shine."
Swindon Pride chair Jo Sharpe said: “It’s fantastic to see Thames Water providing a visual representation and acknowledgement for the LGBTQ+ community and their own employees. This may seem like a small gesture but it’s a commitment to equality and diversity.
"The rainbow drain cover joins The Rainbow Walk and the Rainbow Bench in Swindon.”
Thames Water says the slogan on the cover, chosen by Thames Water employees, links to the company’s core purpose of water management and expresses how communities shine and thrive because of the diversity within them.
The cover is an exact copy of one installed by Thames Water in Reading last month. While coloured drain covers have been photographed in other countries, including Japan and the USA, it’s thought the one in Reading was the first in the UK, with Swindon's the second.
Two further covers will be installed in London in the coming weeks.
Thames Water has been sponsoring Swindon Pride since 2016 and the new drain cover is purposely positioned on the Pride parade route. The company is a Stonewall Diversity Champion and has been ranked by the Stonewall charity as one of the country’s top 200 employers. It aims to break into the top 100 by 2025.
Matt Rimmer, Thames Water’s director of wastewater networks and an ally of the company’s LGBTQ+ network, said: “We’re proud to be an inclusive employer and want our workforce to represent the diverse communities we serve.
“While most of the infrastructure we use to provide essential water and waste services is underground, the drain covers are there for all to see and are a perfect canvas on which to promote our values.
“While we continue to support Pride events, including in Swindon, we also want to have some permanent and highly visible statement pieces that reflect our commitment to our LGBTQ+ employees and customers. The covers will not only be functional but also works of art that we hope people will enjoy.”
Emma Kosmin, associate director of workplace client relationships at Stonewall, said: “We’re delighted that Thames Water is installing drain covers that visibly celebrate the LGBTQ+ community. Initiatives like this, which openly show appreciation for our communities, help LGBTQ+ staff and members of the public feel seen and valued.
“Thames Water has consistently strived to create a more inclusive workplace where LGBTQ+ employees and customers are free to be themselves. From placing diversity at the heart of recruitment to working with communities across the country to celebrate Pride, it’s been incredible to work alongside an organisation that is so dedicated to LGBTQ+ inclusion.
“We look forward to continuing to support Thames Water to create an environment where their LGBTQ+ staff, and the communities they serve, are free to thrive as themselves.”
Thames Water has previously commissioned two commemorative drain covers in London to mark the clearing of the infamous 2017 Whitechapel Fatberg and on Abbey Road to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Beatles album. Both were created by Wrekin Products, which has also made the four new covers at their base in Lichfield in the Midlands.
Simon Turner, commercial director at Wrekin Products, said: “We’re delighted that the cover is in the ground for all to see. Having worked with Thames Water on bespoke drain covers in the past, this was the perfect opportunity to publicly display our allegiance with the LGBTQ+ community while adding a splash of colour to the built environment.
“We’re thrilled with the finished product and hope that the message ‘Every rainbow needs a little water to shine’ will be able to empower, inspire or even simply put a smile on the face of those who pass.”