Charitable Trust

HOPE not hate

Merthyr’s 1st LGBT+ Club Night

posted by: Harriet Protheroe Davies | on: Tuesday, 28 February 2017, 11:03

Merthyr Tydfil is my home, a place that for most of my life I was told was void of opportunity and investment, abandoned by consecutive governments and local politicians.

Growing up, there was very much a feeling that nothing ever happened in Merthyr: nothing to look forward to, the future bleak. I had very few things to do and very few places to go. I had always questioned my sexuality (my straightness) but never had a place to publicly do this, sat alone with my thoughts confused in my bedroom. At times I was quite lost.

These experiences of isolation and loneliness were precisely what inspired me to create Merthyr's first ever LGBT+ night. I wanted (and want) to make sure that the work I do with HOPE not hate on post-industrial communities included organising with the LGBT+ community, which often faces similar problems to the migrant community – being "othered".

I wanted to make sure that LGBT+ people living in Merthyr knew that there was a space for them to express and explore themselves, knowing that Merthyr would always be a welcoming, tolerant and accepting place.

On Saturday these dreams came to fruition as we – Visible Merthyr (a local LGBT+ group) and HOPE Not Hate Merthyr (run by myself) – organised Merthyr’s 1st LGBT+ club night.

We invited a range of performers from Wales’ LGBT+ community, including a trans woman who specialises in LGBT+ photography; Alex Shepard, a gender queer burlesque performer; famed LGBT author, Eddie Kelly; Norena Shopland, a gender queer polaris beat poet; and Carey Wood, a gender queer Egyptian belly dancer. We also had DJ sets from Lukas Matisse, who played disco, soul and funk, and DJ Matt with late night cheese. A very busy evening!

The venue was incredibly dressed: as you drove up the hill you could see the colours of the LGBT flag 🏳️‍🌈 lighting up each of the enormous old windows. The room was filled with handmade decorations that were made by the local LGBT group (Liberace style), all accompanied by a retro funk and disco soundtrack. People who I'd never met before (which is surprising for Merthyr) came, one declaring as she entered the building: “I'M FROM MERTHYR AND I'M A LESBIAN. AT LAST!”

The attendees were mainly older couples. One explained to me that he had rarely been given the opportunity to go to public events in the valleys with his partner without feeling intimidated. Another woman explained that she was trans and had never felt safe coming to Merthyr as a trans woman before, and that she had come over from the neighbouring valley to be with us on this night. She also told me that she wanted to bring the club night to her valley, admitting “it would be tough” but that she was enthusiastic that she could do it after our night here in Merthyr.

As a result HOPE not hate is now looking at collaborating with local groups in each of the South Wales valleys, with the aim of launching a similar event in each.

Following the success, appreciation and love that came from our 1st LGBT+ club night, I believe that with the support of local groups, HOPE not hate can have a significant impact in creating welcoming, inclusive and friendly spaces for the LGBT community here – and can begin turning back the tides of hatred and prejudice.

 Posted: 28 Feb 2017 | There are 0 comments

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