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Sheffield's emerging queer scene: going from strength to strength

Charlie Heywood-Heath explores the growing queer scene in Sheffield and what it means for members of the LGBT+ community in Sheffield and beyond.

Rainbow graffiti behind Niche, Sidney Street, Sheffield
KylaBorg

Hidden amongst the hills of Sheffield is a queer scene rising up from the valleys with a loud, proud selection of events, spaces and activities for people across the LGBT+ spectrum.

According to VisitBritain, a website that promotes and celebrates all things GB, the best cities for LGBT+ people to visit are London, Brighton and Manchester - longstanding stalwarts of the LGBT+ scene. When researching various LGBT+ guides across Google, the one thing that stood out to me was the absence of one major city: Sheffield. In fact, when recently at a LGBT+ badminton event in Manchester, someone remarked to me: “I’ve heard there’s nothing for gay people in Sheffield.’

Is this true? Is the city where I first discovered my identity, experienced my first gay night club, and city I call home, devoid of any offer for me and my queer friends? Of course it isn't. Like all things in Sheffield, there is a shy and unassuming abundance of activity that often goes overlooked compared to our more noisier cousins. So, in honour of Pride Month, I am going to prove that Sheffield is here, it’s queer and it’s got some bloody good stuff happening.

Over the last five years, Sheffield’s LGBT+ scene has gone from strength to strength. Despite the pandemic, the city has seen a rise in events and spaces for people across our community. This list is not exhaustive but an indication of what our city offers LGBT+ people.

Piña is Burning

Located in the heart of Kelham Island, tacos and margarita aficionados Piña have curated a monthly queer night of disco music and dancing. Based on the famous documentary, Paris is Burning, Piña offer an intimate space for LGBT+ people to come together, listen to amazing DJs, and celebrate being part of a diverse and welcoming community.

For those who are perhaps shy and new to the LGBT+ community, Piña is an open and friendly space where there is no pressure or expectations, just an opportunity to be your unapologetic self.

Church: Temple of Fun entrance with pride flags
Philippa Willitts

Church: Temple of Fun

When people think of LGBT+ inclusive spaces, I know ‘church’ is unlikely to spring to mind. However, the vegan bar and restaurant in Kelham Island bases its menu and events throughout June on Pride month. With LGBT+ flags and posters plastered across the venue, Church: Temple of Fun shows us that even in Church, you can celebrate being queer.

Dina

Dina is a fierce defender for LGBT+ inclusivity across Sheffield. Set up as an arts venue, Dina regularly provides countless LGBT+ events and activities including its queer monthly open mic comedy night on Wednesdays, drag quizzes and performances, Queer Writes, and a queer film club.

Dina goes to show that LGBT+ events don’t need to be alcohol-driven or only allowed to come out at night; they can happen throughout the day and be a relaxed part of peoples midweek life.

Gut Level

Nestled away in a former cutlery works in Shalesmoor, Gut Level reminds people that Sheffield is not only the great exporter of steel but also electronic and dance music. Gut Level provides a platform to underrepresented members of our LGBT+ community, particularly women and non-binary people, who do not feel seen in the more mainstream LGBT+ late-night spaces. Its emphasis on affordability means our community, who are often economically marginalised, are not excluded from participating in the basic right to have fun and happiness.

Whilst cities like Manchester may host major electronic queer events like Homobloc, Sheffield reminds people that size does not matter. If you’re searching for a place to dance, support grassroots artists (or even become one) and enjoy sheer hedonism, then Gut Level is for you, in fact it’s for everyone.

Leadmill outside

The Leadmill

A shining light as people arrive into Sheffield, the Leadmill has long been a welcoming place for people of any persuasion and has provided a platform for LGBT+ entertainment since way before it entered the mainstream. From LGBT+ comedians, drag performances and queer nights such as No Shade. It is also the host of the upcoming ‘A Reyt Queer Extravaganza’ in July, an Andro and Eve event in collaboration with Ghetto Fabulous with funding from Arts Council England and in partnership with The Civic, Barnsley, demonstrating that the Leadmill is another venue in Sheffield fiercely proud of its LGBT+ community.

The Furnace

Being located at the Heart of the City is not only a geographical fact about the Furnace but a symbol of its role in strengthening Sheffield’s food and drink scene as part of the city’s regeneration. It’ll come as no surprise then that the LGBT+ community is behind some of its most popular and attractive events (we are renowned for our ability to put on a good party!). The Furnace hosts drag and cabaret themed events allowing people to enjoy great food, drink and talented performers.

Whilst Pride Month may soon be drawing to a close, the groups, events and spaces mentioned above do not only exist for one month a year. Those mentioned and countless other groups across Sheffield support the LGBT+ community all year round without fail.

Although Sheffield has a strong, proud history with the LGBT+ community, like any other city it has a long way to go to ensure the fight for the right to be unapologetically queer is won. For now, however, the notion that there is “nothing for gay people in Sheffield” is well and truly debunked. Perhaps one day Sheffield will not only be the outdoor city or the greenest city but also the queerest city in the UK.

Learn more

Piña reports being wheelchair accessible.

We also approached Gut Level and The Furnace to ask about disabled access but did not get a response.

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