Queer Space - an LGBTQ mental health performance night in York

It’s well known that LGBTQ venues around the country are disappearing, especially those that are explicitly inclusive of queer women, non-binary and trans people. The need for these spaces is definitely still there. Many people in these communities don’t feel safe in the mainstream club scene through fear of judgement, harassment and violence.

This is certainly the case in York, a historic UK city that isn’t exactly renowned for thriving queer nightlife. Clearly something needed to be done to not only provide a safe and fun place for LGBTQ people to let their hair down, but also to tackle the social isolation felt by many queer people in the city. Enter the York Queer Women and Gender Group (QWGG), a peer support and social group queer women, non-binary and trans people. After seeing the benefits of this supportive space to the mental health of their members, they decided that this atmosphere should be spread further across York, especially in the club and bar scene.

Queer Space YorkAnd so Queer Space was born, an LGBTQ mental health themed performance night that encourages self-expression and openness. It was important that the space was inclusive, accessible and nurturing to allow queer people (especially those with mental health difficulties) to do this. It was extremely important that queer women, non-binary and trans people felt safe and that the organising committee heavily represented these groups to ensure this, especially as so many nightlife hotspots can already feel off-limits to the queer community.

When organising queer events it is important to remember that people are experts in their own lives- they will know what they want and need from a queer club night and will bring vital insights. It’s not helpful to assume and prescribe what will be best for communities that you don’t belong to. It’s this collaborative working between the members of QWGG that helped to make the first Queer Space in November 2017 an incredible success and carved out a space where queer people felt truly comfortable.

Queer Space YorkThe night featured 15 performers including spoken word poetry, stand up comedy, dance and live music from local bands. QWGG made and sold crafts, with the proceeds going towards Action for Trans Health and York Mind. For a night like this, it was important to build connections and give back to organisations that positively impact queer and mentally ill people’s lives.

This was only intended to be a one-off event but after seeing how much spaces like this can increase a sense of wellbeing and can unite a community, it was decided that the night had to continue. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with many people stating how comfortable they felt. One attendee said:

“Queer Space was a wonderful, inclusive and fun event giving a voice to queer people. The atmosphere was really supportive and I felt completely comfortable and accepted.”

This emphasises the intersection between mental health and inclusive nightlife, and therefore why Queer Space is necessary. They help to tackle the loneliness and exclusion that can be felt by many in the community, especially in small cities with only a limited number of places that regularly bring them together. The upstairs of the venue where the event was held was full to capacity, showing the undeniable demand for future Queer Spaces. The bar staff couldn’t even get into the room to collect people’s glasses!

The second ever Queer Space will take place on the 11th May 2018 at the Fulford Arms in York. The event will host a similar wide range of performers and there will be stalls supporting local LGBTQ businesses (such as enamel pins, t-shirts and poetry pamphlets). This night will be fundraising for the York LGBTQ Youth Group because they are the future of this community in the city!

If you’d like to find out more information, the Facebook event for Queer Space is here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1889646041348568/

If you’d like to find out more about the event organisers, York Queer Women and Gender Group, you can find their Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/YorkQWGG/