Queersay, the open discussion forum from Elliott and Simon Hatter-Rubio is back in London next Thursday (7 Feb) at The Two Brewers. They will talk visibility with a range of guests including Lady Phyll from UK Black Pride, Asifa Lahore, Boyz’ own Dave Cross as mediator and you the audience. We had a catch up with Elliott to find out more.
Hi Elliott, can you sum up what Queersay is?
Queersay is a safe space for people to come together and talk about whatever they want, an offline forum that allows for face to face conversations. Ultimately a space where we create a conversation.
How did it start?
In Amsterdam we run a creative forum event called Hearsay. Back in July to celebrate Pride Amsterdam, Hearsay No7 was entitled ‘Visibility’. We had such a strong response to the personal stories that were told on the evening and the event itself that we knew that this couldn’t just be a one-off event. After developing the idea ‘Queersay’ was born.
You launched at The Two Brewers last year, was it what you wanted for the first London event?
We did receive some backlash about the lack of diversity within the speaking panel. We take diversity very seriously and from the beginning have reached out to the whole community to come and be part of the Queersay events, which you will see over the coming year. We work extremely hard to gather people and their stories. It’s not as easy as just asking everyone to get up and speak as they are often personal stories that take a lot of courage from the speakers to share. Diversity is about much more than just someone’s appearance, everyone has a story to tell and you should hear their story before you make judgement.
How did the actual event go?
The launch itself was amazing. We had speakers from the UK, Paul Burston and Ripley, share their stories and as our roots started in Amsterdam we brought two speakers from there with us. Photographer Jon Haywood and Joseph Kearney the Social Media Officer for ROMEO. We had a small crowd who were open enough to share their personal stories and opinions during the Fishbowl section. The crowd was a great mix of the LGBTQ community and allies of the community.
Can you talk us through who you have for the second one next Thursday?
We are super excited to have Phyll Opoku-Gyimah and Asifa Lahore speaking at Queersay London No2. Phyll aka Lady Phyll is Co-Founder and Executive Director of UK Black Pride. Asifa is Britain’s first out Muslim drag queen and is pushing the boundaries of what it means to be LGBT+ and Muslim. We also have Sarah Ebisanmi, a spoken word artist, performing.
What is the theme for the discussion?
Visibility is Queersay’s theme for this whole year. We chose to keep a single theme across one year to allow us to look at the subject from varied angles and viewpoints. We hope to look at visibility within many areas of our lives – media, politics, wellness, the scene etc.
How does it work on the night?
Queersay is an event of two parts. In the first half of the evening we hear from our speakers. Who talk about the subject from their point of view. We then take a short break so the audience can grab a drink and quiz the speakers or one another about what they have seen and heard. During this we set up for the Fishbowl portion of the evening – probably the thing that this event is most famous for.
How does the Fishbowl work?
The Fishbowl is about the audience getting the chance to have a say and be part of the conversation. We set four stools up in the middle of the room with the audience sat around in a circle like a fishbowl. Our speakers have suggested some questions that they would like to discuss openly. So they start off sat on the stools, we always keep one stool free. Once the speakers have answered the first question, we open the fourth stool up to the audience. As one person joins the circle another must leave – always leaving one stool free so that the conversation continues with different points of views.
What else do we need to know?
Jimmy Smith and Two Brewers have kindly offered a complimentary glass of bubbles (or orange juice for the non-drinkers) on arrival at the Queersay space. Doors open at 6.30pm. Don’t forget to grab your ticket through our website – you can also pay on the door.
What are your plans for the future?
Queersay is expanding. As well as launching in Amsterdam this year, we are looking to take Queersay to Berlin, and Portland. It’s going to be a busy year!
We are always looking for people to get involved in any way whether it is to tell their story or be part of organising the event. If any of your readers have a story to tell they can get in touch with us via Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. The last thing we would say is before you form an opinion come and be part of the conversation. No judgement is held. We feel if we want to make things better then we need to talk about them.
Queersay at The Two Brewers, 114 Clapham High Street, SW4 on Thursday 7 February from 6.30pm.
Tickets are £6 from queersay.community