Since lockdown began at the end of March, Bristol’s LGBTQ+ organisations have been adapting to life under lockdown.
Much of the city’s queer nightlife scene has moved online, streaming over Instagram, Twitch and Facebook.
Queer punk cabaret night Brizzle Boyz has moved online, having had to postpone their third birthday celebrations at the Trinity Centre. They have instead made the event virtual, saying: “We would like to try something a little bit different and experimental,” said organisers Roddy Jodphurs and Oliver Assets. “To replace our live show at Trinity, we will be streaming a mixture of live and pre-recorded footage to the comfort of your own homes.
“We have decided to go with a streamed show rather than postpone for a few reasons: firstly, no one knows when all of this will be over, or what things will look like when it is. Many of our performers also depend on performing for an income, and we wanted to offer them a chance to recuperate money.
“We also wanted to provide our amazing audience members with a little bit of warmth in these uncertain times, and we think this could be a fun way for everyone to still get the Brizzle Boyz experience whilst we’re all feeling the pressures of social isolation.”
Roddy Jodphurs themselves is hosting lots of live events on Instagram, such as poem writing. Also taking to Instagram has been Archibald Mystery talking about queer history, and Crayola the Queen, hosting drag night Madhouse, with guests such as Clay Taurus and Peaches Monroe.
Crayola the Queen has also been streaming on Facebook, with family drag show Storytime w/ Cray and taking on digital solo cabarets.
Queer promoter Punka has also moved entirely online. Founder Stu has put together a ‘positive power pandemic playlist’ on Spotify and is regularly holding Facebook livestreams with local talent such as Dis Charge, Fey Militia, and hosting a Q&A with Clare Lowe of Wig in a Box Promotions.
Clare seemingly hasn’t stopped since the lockdown came into place.
As well as launching a fundraiser to keep their company going and support vulnerable queer people, they have also moved all content online.
Every week on a Wednesday, they are running Dungeons and Drag ’uns on Twitch. Led by Dungeon master Jamie each session will play out the adventures of Mariana Trench, Pom Pom Sneeze and Clare Lowe, as they bring some of Bristol’s favourite drag stars into new worlds. There is also a guest star each week.
Clare is also hosting Beautiful Thing, an online film club, running weekly performer master classes, and hosting Quiches Loraine each Monday afternoon on Instagram live.
Bitch, Please!, another staple of Bristol’s queer nightlife, is also hosting a live stream every weeks with DJs from across the country. Each live stream takes donations for akt.
akt, formerly known as The Albert Kennedy Trust, works passionately to make sure LGBTQ+ young people have safe homes and better futures. They already operate in Manchester, London and Newcastle and has recently expanded to offer support in Bristol.
They are one of several charities working to support the LGBTQ+ community during the pandemic, launching an emergency appeal, working with young people online and linking to resources on their website.
Similarly, MindLine Trans+, are continuing their work as usual, running a free helpline for transgender and non-binary people from 8pm to midnight every Monday and Friday.
Talk to the Rainbow, a recently launched collective of LGBTQ+ friendly counsellors, psychologists and practitioners have stopped face-to-face appointments since the lockdown, but are continuing to offer counselling via Zoom and Skype.
“What we are finding is that therapists are looking at increasingly innovative ways of supporting their clients so as to ensure continuity of care as much as possible during these very turbulent times,” say Talk to the Rainbow. “Coronavirus anxiety is also very distressing for many and we are likely to need to support even more people than ever before right now.”
Of course, there is more to Bristol’s queer population than nightlife and the need for support, there is also a continued need for community and togetherness during the pandemic.
GayWest has suspended its Rainbow Cafe, but are keeping in contact with members by Facebook, and are signposting to support and other local organisations.
Out on the Page, a national LGBTQ+ writing group founded in Bristol, has halted in-person meetups, but are holding ‘cafe’ events online, as well as live forum chat and workshops.
Kiki, the city’s group for queer people of colour, are also signposting to events on their social media, such as Lady Phyll and Amber Hikes in conversation on Gay Times’ Instagram and Rainbow Noir’s online events.
Hidayah, a support network for queer Muslims, has cancelled all monthly meet-ups and socials, saying: “Some of these meet-ups are being substituted by virtual sessions. We will be keeping our events page updated with these details and once regular events resume. Hidayah WhatsApp groups, social media, emails and other digital services are still running as normal.”
Bristol’s LGBTQ+ sports groups are also changing how they operate during the pandemic. The Easton Cowboys and Cowgirls, for example, are supporting staff at the Plough Inn, the Chelsea Inn and Red Lion to assemble and deliver 220 boxes to vulnerable members of the community. Bristol Queer Yoga has moved completely online as well.
Bristol Pride, the city’s largest and most well-known LGBTQ+ event has also been affected by the pandemic. 2020’s Pride has been postponed until September, with the organisers saying:
“We know this will be disappointing, BUT we are already working with the council, contractors and our performers to work on a date to deliver the festival later this year and we hope to be able to share a confirmed September date for the festival as soon as possible.”
For anyone needing additional support during the pandemic, please contact one of the organisations below:
Main photo: Kiki Bristol