New Military Coins from The Royal Mint
New Military Coins from The Royal Mint

Behind the Rainbow: 50 Years of Pride UK

50 Years of Pride UK

When it comes to mainstream LGBTQ+ events, few can boast the history, pageantry and mass appeal of Pride. Arguably the centrepiece of the United Kingdom’s LGBTQ+ calendar, Pride in London is the biggest and one of the most diverse Pride events in the UK and has been viewed by many within the community as the Mecca of LGBTQ+ events, with a history that dates back to 1972. Now, as we mark the 50th anniversary of the first Pride UK event, we celebrate the inspirational legacies of both Pride UK and the wider LGBTQ+ community with a UK 50p coin in their honour.

Naturally, commemorating such an influential event brings with it a certain degree of pressure and expectation, making the task of designing such a coin a lofty challenge indeed. Fortunately, the design for The 50th Anniversary of Pride 2022 UK Coin made its way to the capable hands of the skilled artist, writer and LGBTQ+ activist Dominique Holmes. The artists that contributed to Pride 2020’s ‘FIFTY-TWO’ virtual exhibition were invited to participate in a competition to design the reverse of the coin and Dominique’s submission emerged victorious (details of which can be found here).

In addition to being a skilled, talented and highly trained artist, Dominique also has a background in tattooing. The result of this blend of skills is a uniquely modern yet adaptable style that allows Dominique to draw out a story, narrative and message vividly through visual artwork – the perfect attribute for developing a coin design celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first Pride UK event. Utilising these strengths, along with first-hand knowledge and experience of both Pride in London and the LGBTQ+ community, Dominique was able to create a design that not only celebrates the longevity of Pride but also accurately depicts its history of political protest and social reform.

Join us as we sit down with this talented artist and discuss the Pride UK coin design, the inspiration behind it, and the importance of the event.

As an activist for the LGBTQ+ community, what were your initial thoughts upon hearing there would be a coin dedicated to the 50th anniversary of Pride in the UK?

“I had slightly mixed feelings about the idea of a coin celebrating 50 years of Pride. Whilst I loved that The Royal Mint recognised this significant anniversary in LGBTQ culture, and that the coin itself could be a powerful way to spread the word, like many queer people I have become jaded by the amount of corporate ‘pinkwashing’ that has derailed the important social and political messages behind Pride. But once I knew that The Royal Mint was working with the queer community to ensure authenticity and allyship, not to mention inviting queer artists to create the designs, I felt incredibly proud and excited that there would be a Pride coin out there.”

How did it feel to have your design chosen to represent such a historic milestone for Pride UK?

“The history of the Pride movement in the UK is very important to me and I felt very honoured to be selected as the artist to depict it through this coin. As an activist, I’m always looking for opportunities to educate and speak up, and so for me, putting Pride on a coin that will be in the hands of the public jumped out at me as an incredibly exciting way to spread the word.”

How did you approach the initial design concept?

“I approached the design in my usual way; taking my sketchbook and a marker pen and brainstorming everything that came to mind when I thought of 50 years of Pride. As my ideas poured out, I kept returning to the protest marches – especially those of the early days – and the things that stood out were the protest placards: the words shouted out and presented to exclaim what we LGBTQ people are fighting for when we march through the streets of London. Words are powerful and I felt that centring them in the design leaves very little doubt about what Pride represents.”

Was there anything you knew you wanted to include from the outset?

“I knew I wanted the design to highlight the ethos and drive behind Pride as a movement. Pride is so often dismissed as just a parade and a celebration when in fact it has always been much more than that. Pride is protest and it was important to me to include that message in my design.”

What were the main challenges you found during the design process?

“I think the main challenges were around getting the message I wanted across in such a small piece. I was aware that making the design too detailed would risk losing the impact. I was also obviously really keen to ensure that my design felt authentic to myself and my personal connection to the subject matter but also that I didn’t get too caught up in the message; I wanted to create something that was equally aesthetically striking and meaningful but all in the size of a 50p piece.”

How did the coin design process differ from your typical design work on larger canvases?

“I had to keep an actual 50p coin close by as I was working on the design to keep reminding myself of the scale of the finished piece! My background in tattooing has given me a lot of experience in designing for limited scale and shapes, so I tapped into that part of my brain.”

On the subject of tattooing, did you incorporate any techniques from your background in tattoo artistry into this design?

“Being a freelance artist and designer can be quite an insular existence, so tattooing can be a great source of inspiration. An important aspect of designing tattoos is the process of taking an abstract concept and creating something visual from it, and that is definitely something I utilised during the design process. People would often know what they wanted their tattoo to convey or express but not how to actualise it, so I take their thoughts or their message and transform them into a physical artwork.”

Did having such a personal connection with the subject matter help the design process?

“I think having such a personal connection with the subject matter was both a help and a hindrance! Knowing it so intimately, I didn’t have to dedicate too much time to researching the history of the Pride movement, so I could really focus on the creativity aspect of the process. However, when it comes to working on something that has so much significance to me personally, it can be difficult to separate the passion and the profession, and see things objectively. That said, I felt like I could take my experiences and understanding, and create something that hopefully resonates with the LGBTQ community.”

How was the overall experience designing a coin for such an iconic event?

“I really enjoyed the experience of designing this coin from start to finish. Getting to combine my two passions – my artwork and my activism – to create something as iconic as this is something that I’m incredibly proud of. The finished design encompasses everything I hoped it would from my initial concepts; I think it expresses the passion and protest of Pride within a celebratory aesthetic. I really hope it connects with people and reminds them what the movement is all about.”

Celebrating 50 Years of Pride UK

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