My Wrekin
LBGTQ manhole cover

UK’S first commemorative LGBTQ+ manhole cover is installed

A commemorative manhole cover dedicated to the LGBTQ+ community has been created as part of a partnership between Wrekin Products and Thames Water.

The cover has been designed to symbolise and immortalise the organisations’ allegiance to the community and their commitment to increasing diversity on the streets of the UK.

To bring the cover to fruition, we completed a unique manufacturing process to provide the water services company with four brand-new Unite D400 manhole covers, all sporting the bespoke design.

A unique milling and colouring process was followed so that icons, logos and the iconic rainbow colours – including black and brown to represent LGBTQ+ people from the BAME community – can be showcased on the exterior of each ductile iron cover, ensuring pedestrians will not fail to miss the one-of-a-kind design.

The design was machined into a blank cover utilising a precision CNC machine with a 1mm carbide cutter spinning at 26,000rpm and removing 5 microns of material at any one time to achieve the fine detail around the symbols. The rainbow colours were then cast using a pigmented epoxy resin, and the symbols and rain drops were polished by hand with the use of an air sander.

The location of the first cover - which was installed on Napier Road junction with Kings Meadow Road in Reading on 02 September in the days leading up to Love Unites Parade Festival, Reading’s annual Pride celebration - is particularly significant, as the pavement that runs alongside the road is part of the route that festival goers walked at this year’s event on 4 September.

Simon Turner, commercial director at Wrekin – a leading UK designer, manufacturer and supplier of specialist civil engineering products – said he was extremely pleased to see the first cover take pride of place.

He added: “We’re committed to working with partners, such as Thames Water, who are equally driven to promoting diversity and ensuring inclusivity within the workplace and wider society. These covers are the only of their kind in the world and we’re proud to have been part of the team that has brought them to the streets of the UK.

“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 them - as each cover is being installed in an area that’s synonymous with the LGBTQ+ community. There’s so much intricate detail and creativity that’s gone into this industrial design and we look forward to people being able to enjoy the covers for generations to come.”

Simon Turner and Martin Cooper install manhole cover in Reading

This is the third bespoke cover Wrekin has designed alongside Thames Water. The most recent was a one-of-a-kind Abbey Road themed design to celebrate the album’s 50th anniversary in 2019, which sits proudly next to the famous zebra crossing outside the studios. Whereas the original and less glamourous project took place in 2018 on Whitechapel Road where a special Wrekin cover marks the spot of the memorable 130-tonne ‘monster fatberg’, made up of congealed wet wipes and cooking fat, discovered to be blocking 250 metres of sewers below.

However, Wrekin’s partnership with Thames Water actually dates back to 2004, during which time it has supplied in excess of 100,000 units for its vast network of over 15 million people. In this 17-year period, Wrekin has lived up to its aim to provide a manhole cover that’s ‘fit for purpose’.
Matt Rimmer, director of wastewater networks at Thames Water 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, 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.”

There are three more covers ordered by Thames Water that are yet to be installed, one of which is being funded by drainage and wastewater utility specialist Lanes Group. These will be arriving in Swindon and two more central London locations in the coming weeks, bringing the project to completion.

Emma Kosmin, associate director of workplace client relationships at LGBTQ+ rights organisation Stonewall, said: “We’re delighted that Thames Water and Wrekin have partnered to install drain covers that visibly celebrate the LGBTQ+ community. Initiatives that openly show appreciation for our communities help LGBTQ+ staff and members of the public feel seen and valued. It’s great to see the passion that Thames Water and Wrekin have put into this project, and their dedication to creating a world where all LGBTQ+ people are free to thrive as themselves.”