Britain’s only LGBT+ strip night rallies to raise funds for queer Black dancers facing homelessness

Harpies LGBT+ London strip club

The founder of a queer-inclusive strip night is rallying to raise funds for two Black dancers who, in the throes of an economy cratered by the coronavirus, are facing eviction and homelessness.

Held at Metropolis, an east London strip club that regularly hosts queer nights, Harpies is billed as Britain’s only LGBT+ strip night.

Beginning as a monthly event in the summer of 2019, Harpies soon sowed itself into the queer night calendar as a weekly event, attracting scores of partygoers eager to see its performers dance and stage provocative sing-alongs.

But after the coronavirus hit, Metropolis shuttered, leaving the incomes of countless Harpies dancers in jeopardy. Instagram Live events have provided some relief, but the future of the capital’s nightclub scene still remains shaky at best.

The founder of Harpies has since created a fundraiser to help ensure the two dancers can cover this month’s bills and make a deposit on a new place.

Lucia Blayke, a trans dancer and activist who runs the strip night, told the i newspaper that two dancers are essentially stonewalled from the government’s furlough scheme as well as social care funds due to their current immigration status.

As a result, she warned, they have seen their lives thrown into disarray. Blayke launched a GoFundMe page for them both in an effort to raise funds to cover this month’s looming rent and a housing deposit.

“Two of our incredibly talented Black dancers are experiencing extra hardship due to a lack of funding and financial assistance because of their ‘limited leave to remain’ status, which is causing them great difficulty as they both have recently needed to find a new place to live,” she said on the crowdfunding platform.

Limited leave to remain is a temporary measure by the Home Office, the government department responsible for migration and security, to allow someone to stay in the country to work, study or visit.

Blayke continued: “As we all know, London rent and deposit prices are a pain to save for at the best of times, and when you’re unemployed with no hope of a gig any time soon it is impossible.”

Harpies founder: ‘Our night gave people the chance to be attracted to be who they are’.

The call-out has already raised nearly £1,000 at the time of writing – half of its £2,000 target – with a September 15 move-in date looming ahead.

The activist has herself lost her home due to the ongoing pandemic, but capturing the resilience and ingenuity of London’s LGBT+ nightclub scene, she praised her dancers as being “unbelievably brilliant and gifted”.

After all, Blayke said, the club night has provided a vivid array of trans and non-binary strippers not only a crucial lifeline, but the blueprints to opening up their own club one day.

“I love stripping, and when I discovered that transgender porn was the second most-searched category, I realised there’s a market for us,” she told the i.

“Our night gave people the chance to be attracted to be who they are and give them that freedom in terms of sexuality and gender identity.

“If we one day get our own place, we hope to lead by example.”