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LGBTQ+ Londoners on community in lockdown
Image: Time Out

How LGBTQ+ Londoners are keeping the community together in lockdown

To mark Pride Month, 11 activists and cultural figures reveal how they’re staying connected with London’s LGBTQ+ community while physical spaces are closed

By Kate Lloyd
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It’s weird being in Pride Month with most of London’s LGBTQ+ venues shuttered and many at risk of closure. How does a community survive as a community without physical spaces to gather? That’s what we asked the activists and cultural leaders for this piece. The resounding replies: creativity and supporting each other (and other marginalised communities) with money, activism and love.

So, while there might not be a real-life Pride, we urge you to go back to the event’s roots as a fight for fairer and safer lives for LGBTQ+ people – especially those who support some of the most marginalised groups. If you’d normally be cheering on the floats, then this year use the money you’d spend on drinks to support organisations like Black Pride, tran children's charity Mermaids, the UK QTIBIPOC Emergency and Hardship fundBlack Trans Lives Matter UK and LGBTQ+ homeless shelter The Outside Project

If you’d usually be heading out clubbing after a long day partying in Soho, maybe pop some money in your favourite drag performer’s Patreon or join in with campaigns like #raisethebar and #NationalTimeOut, which are fighting to save London’s LGBTQ+ venues from going bust post lockdown. 

How Black Pride became a vital part of London’s LGBTQ+ community.

London’s best virtual events to help you celebrate Pride Month from home.

Photograph: Andy Parsons
Photograph: Andy Parsons
Photograph: Andy Parsons

Asifa Lahore, drag queen and activist

‘Pride Month 2020 is a weird one without the usual celebration and burst of colours. I refuse to let this lockdown limit me so I have been vocal online, either by sharing messages of positivity or by sending performances to various Prides that are taking their content to the internet.

‘Let’s use this month to reflect on the year that has passed and what more we can do to move the LGBTQ+ community further. There are parts of our community, namely the BAME POC and Trans communities that experience many difficulties – let’s use our privilege and position to ensure no one gets left behind and we actually create positive change. Happy Pride!’

Photograph: Rubyyy Jones
Photograph: Rubyyy Jones
Photograph: Rubyyy Jones

Rubyyy Jones, artist, dancer and director

‘I've been running online Queerlesque Dance classes. For me – and lots of people who have attended have kindly said – the class has been a brief refuge. A space that feels free, fun and energising from our homes, where we can be in our bodies, in our bawdy, without feeling pressure to conform or censor ourselves.

‘We've laughed, we’ve cried, literallyyy! There are LGBTQ+ students from all over London and the world that join in, which feels so special and a silver lining of lockdown life. A lot of us are feeling isolated, lonely and low lately, so touch, moving the body and play are becoming more essential for self care. This can feel very challenging no matter who you are and where you're at but, yes, is vital in these intense times.’

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Photograph: @karisbeau
Photograph: @karisbeau
Photograph: @karisbeau

Ste Richardsson, organiser of Deptford Pride

Deptford Pride is not only about celebrating the LGBTQ+ community but also about involving local community groups, helping raise awareness of social issues and being a visible presence in our area. That is why, last year, we moved to Giffin Square, the most visible spot along Deptford High Street, at the crossroads of three local markets. We had just started planning for this year’s event but even with lockdown being relaxed in some areas, the situation is still uncertain and we feel organising a public event would not be appropriate or responsible right now. We hope very much that we’ll return next year.

‘We have been watching the Black Lives Matter protests both in the US as well as in London, and with Pride events cancelled this offers a unique opportunity for us to think deeply about why Pride started. People of Colour have been worse hit by this public health crisis and are now the focus of much attention regarding police brutality. This should be our united fight against injustice. LGBTQIA people have experienced, and continue to experience discrimination and prejudice. People of Colour also still face prejudice and profiling within the LGBT community which must be challenged. It is vital we stand shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with the Black community, both within LGBT communities and wider society, in seeking social justice. “The truth is, no one of us can be free until everybody is free” – Maya Angelou.’

Photograph: Tom Abell
Photograph: Tom Abell
Photograph: Tom Abell

Tom Abell, founder of Peccadillo Pictures

‘For some time I had wanted Peccadillo to have a kind of “video blog” something to bring our filmmakers and other talent together to talk about our films, but as a small independent company we never had the time to actually get it together. As the lockdown closed down the cinemas (just days after our release of “And Then We Danced”), all the retail stores and Amazon moved its focus to “essential goods”, cutting off most of our distribution, we found we had time on our hands and the Peccadillo Sofa Club was born.

‘Initially it was a Facebook page for queer people within the film industry to tell stories and make fun during lockdown – but then we added the live events. These were initially broadcast live on our YouTube channel every Thursday. Last week we opened the live stream to our Facebook page and increased the audience substantially. If you join us for the live Q&A you can ask questions in the live chat, or via Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. If you can’t watch it live, then the recording remains on our pages.’

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Photograph: Scott Chasserot
Photograph: Scott Chasserot
Photograph: Scott Chasserot

Ryan Lanji, founder of Hungama

‘When lockdown happened I was shocked because I didn’t know what the future of [gay Bollywood hip hop night] Hungama would be. I realised that I was going to miss all the people who come to the parties. I thought: Why don’t I interview people I’m going to miss, as well as some big names, on video and get to know our community? I really enjoyed interviewing our resident drag queen Minara Èl Waters and in that conversation we ended up really bonding like a house parent and drag daughter, we just had this really wonderful chat.

‘The series has really brought people together, even those who haven’t met in real life are starting their own mini communities – even people from around the world who have heard about the Hungama parties but haven’t be able to attend. Other spaces I’m finding good are Alphabet Radio’s Soho Radio takeover on Wednesdays. It features a really good mosaic of LGBT voices, it’s really kept me sane. And comedian Mawaan Rizwan’s Zoom parties are funny, I’ve attended a couple of them and I feel like I’ve really been to a club. At one point he had two people dressed in leotards in a room doing aerial acrobatics.’

Photograph: Lee Mabey
Photograph: Lee Mabey
Photograph: Lee Mabey

Lee Mabey, co-chair of &Proud, Dentsu Aegis LGBT+ Network

‘My last night out pre-lockdown was Duckie at the RVT, so I have tried to keep that memory going by watching their Sunday Socials. I am also becoming mildly obsessed with Myra Dubois’s ‘A Problem Shared’.

‘At this time, it is essential we all stay visible and vocal. We are taking our PrideFest season online with events highlighting how we can all show solidarity with LGBTQ+ folk as well as raising funds for some well-deserving charities who now need our support more than ever.’

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Libby Darley, co-chair of &Proud, Dentsu Aegis LGBT+ Network

‘I, like many others, write the date for the next year’s Pride parade and celebrations in my calendar the very next day – usually hungover but still buzzing from the overwhelming sense of community and love we get to celebrate in our city. Without that this year I hope, with our PrideFest and many others moving online, we can reach more people at home and amongst their families and actually create the biggest Pride ever.

‘With all eyes on diversity and inclusion at the moment, we have such an amazing opportunity to celebrate in a way that brings Pride into homes that may have never joined the parade or the parties, and open eyes to issues that might not have occurred to them previously. At Dentsu we’re planning a series of talks that touch upon these, a drag quiz and raffle all supporting our local LGBT+ charities.’

Photograph: Rebecca Zephyr Thomas
Photograph: Rebecca Zephyr Thomas
Photograph: Rebecca Zephyr Thomas

Lyall Hakaraia, owner of VFD

‘We have got Arts Council funding to do some programming for the next six months. We’re looking at running monthly groups, whether it’s Transmissions and the people who run Trans Pride London or UK Black Pride or Faggamuffin Bloc Party doing a takeover. The main thing we can do is offer technical support, so people can pre-record stuff and send it in and we’ll do all the editing and put it up. We’re also going to offer that people can come and use the space for free – whoever’s hosting can come down if there’s just one or two of them or if people need to rehearse things they can use it too.’

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Photograph: Raven Mandella
Photograph: Raven Mandella
Photograph: Raven Mandella

Raven Mandella, Queen Mother of the House of Mandella

‘During lockdown what is helping me get through is helping others. I have done this by streaming weekly online DJ Disco Events on my Facebook page. During my free Love Lockdown Disco, Saturdays from 9pm, I play the best in uplifting disco and house music, all while wearing fabulous costumes and putting on a show. I want to promote love, laughter and togetherness and make people feel good! It has been incredibly therapeutic to myself and has had lots of wonderful feedback from people telling me that it has helped them too.’

Photograph: Vicky Lawton
Photograph: Vicky Lawton
Photograph: Vicky Lawton

Charlie Craggs, activist

‘I'm lucky to have some influence on social media, so as this Pride season started amidst the biggest civil rights protests of our time, I’ve been using my social platforms to encourage my followers to remember that Pride season itself was born out of protests, protests that black people were at the forefront of, so it’s imperative we are supporting them now. I posted yesterday about how the Pride parade may have been cancelled this year but this Pride has been the best Pride we’ve had in years because it’s gotten back to what it really should be about, not about big brands making millions capitalising off our community’s struggle selling basic T-shirts. Pride should be a protest.’

Charlie is the author of ‘To My Trans Sisters’.

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Photograph: Justin Bengry
Photograph: Justin Bengry
Photograph: Justin Bengry

Justin Bengry, convener of Goldsmiths’ MA in Queer History

‘The LGBTQ+ culture and heritage sector has done so much to keep people connected recently, and I’ve honoured to work with some of them. Dan Vo has been hosting #MuseumFromHome and also #QBLockdownHunt with Queer Britain, bringing people together to share their personal queer history collections. These are, truly, the archives of the future. Over at Peccadillo Pictures’ #PeccadilloSofaClub, filmmakers and audiences discuss recent and iconic queer film. Last month black trans filmmaker Campbell X discussed his film ‘‘Stud Life’’, and I had a great time chatting recently with the creators of the documentary ‘‘Before Stonewall’’. At times like these, sharing our histories strengthens our resilience.’

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