Ex-England rugby player welcomed at LGBT networking event

Activist Ben Cohen give keynote talk.

Last month, the Midlands network for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans professionals working within the property, real estate and construction sector – OpenLand – welcomed Ben Cohen as its guest speaker.

The former England Rugby player and activist joined a crowd of nearly 100 LGBT professionals in Birmingham to speak about the work of the Ben Cohen StandUp Foundation.

Ben said: “I was really pleased to come and speak to OpenLand members and supporters, and it was great to see a new organisation like this with so much momentum, purpose and desire to make a difference. I lost my own father to violence when he stood up for an employee who was being attacked and I’ve heard from my wonderful friends in the LGBT community about the hard roads too many have travelled.

“The work of the Foundation is centred on standing up, irrespective of gender, orientation or background in order to tackle bullying and overcome prejudice and fear. It was fantastic to share my perspectives and hear other people’s stories. I look forward to seeing how OpenLand will develop in the future as it continues to grow.”

Paul Barker, Partner at Higgs & Sons and Co-chair of OpenLand said: “OpenLand has gone from strength to strength in just over the six months since we formed. We have had three very successful events so far and more planned for later this year. We were thrilled that Ben agreed to speak at our first event of 2017 as he is a very visible and recognisable straight ally, championing a cause which helps tackle homophobic bullying.

“Representing a sector which lags behind others in terms of promoting inclusivity and celebrating the diversity of our employees, Ben reinforced our core message that being yourself in everything you do is something we should all strive for and makes for a happy, successful and supportive society.”

The event was hosted at KPMG Birmingham with support from OpenLand founding organisations St. Modwen Properties and Court Collaboration.

Free to join, OpenLand provides an inclusive and welcoming environment for LGBT professionals from the sector and region to meet regularly and share experiences and perspectives.

Individuals interested in joining OpenLand or hearing more about its work and events can sign up via the network’s new website www.openland.org.uk. For the latest news and information from the network, people are encouraged to follow @openlandlgbt on Twitter.

OpenLand’s next event will be on Thursday 9th March at CBRE and will feature Shaftesbury PLC Chief Executive and Freehold board member, Brian Bicknell.