Eagerly-anticipated new LGBT+ venue will be a sober space for people who ‘feel marginalised’ by pubs
London is set to get a new sober space for LGBT+ people, opening in the east of the capital during Pride month.
One of the organisers working to shape and programme the new space is Aisha Shaibu, who explained that the decision to make the entire venue sober was because not only are there a lack of LGBT+ spaces in London, but there’s an absolute dearth of any that are not alcohol-focused.
“I realised how a lot of people – who don’t drink, who don’t surround their lives by alcohol – felt marginalised,” Aisha told PinkNews. “And it was a shame that those people couldn’t access the same events in the same spaces that we did.”
The as-yet-unnamed space in London’s Shoreditch will prioritise women, people of colour and trans and non-binary people.
Attached to bar and cafe Glass House Brick Lane, it will will include a bookshop and cafe, a downstairs events space and podcast-recording studios that will – if podcasters choose – broadcast live to the rest of the venue.
“So [customers] could be just sitting there, listening to cool conversation that are going on from queer people within the community,” Aisha said.
She wants the space to attract queer travellers visiting London, who would usually be directed by Google to visit Soho.
“Even if you are a gay man, Soho isn’t the most welcoming if you don’t look a particular way, if you’re not the tall guy with a six pack,” she said. “People can often have difficult experiences.
“It’s not as diverse as it should be. It can be quite exclusive. It excludes a lot of Black and POC communities. This is why it’s important to make a space that is focused on us, but also to ensure we are sustaining the venue through tourism as well.”
The bookshop and cafe will open in June, although a date is yet to be set for the launch. The bookshop will initially stock 1,500 titles, mostly new books, from a range of writers focusing on marginalised experiences.
Over the summer, the events space will open, too – it’s almost ready, with stair lifts currently being installed so all parts of the venue are accessible to wheelchair users.
“We’re hoping to bring in a variety of event organisers within the community, specifically queer women, those who are non-binary, and those who are Black or POC,” Aisha said. “Because we know, and I know, that’s the community that struggle the most in terms of accessing space.”
LGBT+ customers can look forward to cabaret, poetry, live music and workshops once the events space opens.
Research earlier this year found that 79 per cent of women and non-binary people agree that gay men have more visibility and are better catered to by London’s LGBT+ venues.
Aisha is director of the queer social enterprise Moonlight Experiences, which is crowdfunding to create an international queer culture network. Those who are interested in getting involved with the new sober LGBT+ space in Shoreditch can sign up here.
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