Opinion – Pride 2021

‘Nights out should be about fun and freedom, not fear’

By Aliyah Rawat, associate trainer, Good Night Out Campaign

- Last updated on GMT

Covid impact: ‘As the effects of pandemic restrictions have seen all venues hit pause on operating as usual, these are felt in a unique way for LGBTQ+ venues and communities’ (Image: Getty/nrqemi)
Covid impact: ‘As the effects of pandemic restrictions have seen all venues hit pause on operating as usual, these are felt in a unique way for LGBTQ+ venues and communities’ (Image: Getty/nrqemi)

Related tags: LGBTQ+, Pubco + head office, Bar, Club, Licensing, London, Night time economy, Music

As a London-based trainer for Good Night Out Campaign (GNO), an event producer and DJ, I have seen first-hand the precarious position Covid-19 restrictions has placed the industry in.

Throughout the pandemic, at GNO we have continued to provide support for organisations which are keen to be ready with best practices as business resumes. We support the evening and night-time economy to respond to and prevent sexual violence and all forms of harassment to create safer, more accountable workplaces and communities. 

We have been active since 2014, and in that time, we have worked with more than 3,000 industry workers from pubs, clubs, festivals, collectives through specialist training, policy support and an accreditation programme. 

Nights out should be about fun and freedom, not fear. 

Working with affected communities

Throughout our training, we take an actively intersectional approach to how we understand and support nightlife safety and harassment. 

According to Stonewall​, one-in-five LGBTQ+ people have experienced a hate crime and two-in-five trans people have experienced a hate crime due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. In the pub and club context, we see this played out most often with trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming people who often face harassment and abuse when accessing basic facilities such as toilets. 

In response, we have recently developed an All Gender Access Toolkit​ in partnership with Galop​ – the UK’s LGBTQ+ anti-violence charity. 

We are constantly working with affected communities to understand specific issues faced, and to support all venues we work with to take on more informed and inclusive practices to prioritise the safety of their staff and customers, including those who are LGBTQ+.

What can you do to support LGBTQ+ inclusion in nightlife?

  • Take on training for your venue and staff, to better understand and support those affected by homophobia, transphobia, gender-based violence and all forms of harassment.
  • Regularly programme LGBTQ+ events, performances, DJs, promoters at your venue, all year round.
  • Have accessible, all gender inclusive toilets available at your venue or club night.
  • Listen to and properly support any LGBTQ+ staff and customers who may face issues; have a policy in place.
  • Support campaigns to help fund LGBTQ+ venues.
  • As the industry reopens, go out and support LGBTQ+ venues and nights, especially smaller, grassroots spaces.

‘Disproportionate’ effect of gentrification 

As we move midway through Pride month, the usual array of LGBTQ+ events and display of celebrations sees itself reduced to a largely online presence. As the effects of pandemic restrictions have seen all venues hit pause on operating as usual, these are felt in a unique way for LGBTQ+ venues and communities.  

These spaces have been pivotal for bringing together a marginalised community which has historically been forced to be hidden or faced discrimination. As powerful community building spaces, LGBTQ+ venues and nights are vital places to seek refuge, create connections, document histories, find a sense of home, and exist in an environment where people are allowed to accept their full selves unapologetically while other places prove uncomfortable or violent to do so. Dreams are lived out on dancefloors, in basements, on stages, at cabaret shows to all hour club nights 

However, LGBTQ+ venues have been under threat for some time now. From 2006 to 2017, the number of LGBT+ venues in London decreased by 54%, going from 124 to just 47. Much of this has been linked to the rapid gentrification of areas where these spaces have traditionally thrived, such as Hackney and Camden. 

The disproportionate effect on LGBTQ+ spaces is also in part due to these venues and nights being more niche in nature. This means that they don’t necessarily draw in mainstream crowds, save for larger institutions such as G-A-Y and Heaven, who even then face the issue of significantly overblown rental prices for their central London locations. 

It is the smaller, grassroots venues and nights which will bear even more of the brunt of this, many of which are at present running campaigns to save or relaunch their valued community spaces. 

The pandemic has impacted this further, with not only venues and customers affected, but also the livelihoods of the drag artists, performers, DJs, dancers and more who make up the vibrant landscape of the scene.

Removal of ‘geographic limitations’ on LGBTQ+ scenes 

Despite the challenges faced, this isn’t to say that progress has not been made.  

The Mayor of London and London’s night czar created the LGBTQ+ Venues Charter, a practical tool for developers, venues and pub companies to sign up to and show their commitment to safeguarding the future of LGBTQ+ nightlife. 

Other venues have followed the route of gaining heritage building status for their significance to LGBTQ+ history and have moved toward community ownership, such as the UK’s oldest LGBTQ+ pub and performance space, the Royal Vauxhall Tavern​. 

University College London has been conducting valuable research on LGBTQ+ Nightlife Spaces in London​ since 2016, and the Whitechapel Gallery’s 2019 exhibition Queer Spaces​ beautifully documented the rarely seen history of the capital’s LGBTQ+ hubs. 

Over the 2010’s, we have seen a rise in nights and groups centring the more marginalised in the community, providing safer spaces for LGBTQ+ people of colour, trans and non-binary people. This includes the likes of Pxssy Palace​, Transmissions​, Queer Bruk​ and more. Many of these have taken on radically inclusive approaches to prioritising the safety and enjoyment of those attending their events. 

With zero tolerance door policies in place, activism worked into their events, and staff trained to support attendees on the floor, these nights set a standard for club nights across the board.  

The onset of lockdowns saw many venues such as Dalston Superstore​ and new-found online event organisers such as Queer House Party​ try to counter the effects of closures to provide community spaces and economic safety through ticketed livestream performances, community Zoom events, crowdfunding for hardship funds, and pay-it-forward support subscriptions. 

Through getting rid of geographical limitations, a bittersweet advantage of the pandemic allowed for events to be more accessible for those living outside of cities with large LGBTQ+ scenes. 

Over time, the LGBTQ+ community has continued to exist proudly and thrive in the face of adversity – whether that be the Stonewall Riots, the 1999 Nail Bomb Attacks, drastic closures of LGBTQ+ venues, or the impact of the ongoing pandemic. These challenges have been fought before, and the incredible community support these spaces provide for so many will continue to be important parts of LGBTQ+ history in present and future.

Related topics: Events & Occasions

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