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Sheffield’s queer scene is booming post-lockdown

Sheffield’s queer community are raising thousands for charity, creating safe spaces for young queer people, and having a great time while doing it.

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Holly Haynes.

When Holly Haynes, 25, started queer night Piña is Burning at Piña earlier this year, they didn’t expect to raise thousands for charity in just a few months.

“We just kind of wanted to provide another safe space for the queer community to come and have fun, be themselves and have a dance,” says Haynes.

Now on its fifth night, Piña is Burning has been a huge success. With all proceeds going to local LGBTQ+ youth charity SAYiT, the night has now raised over £3,000 and has amassed a huge buzz.

“After the first night we already gained such a huge amount of traction which was just crazy. I had friends of friends telling me that they’d heard people speaking about the night and heard people asking about when the next night is and that’s been really amazing,” she explains.

“I can’t believe how generous people have been. It’s really overwhelming in the best kind of way to just see how much people also care about the thing that you care about. Everybody’s been so supportive with donating, with finding out more information about the charity. It's definitely a cause close to my own heart, being a gay person with mental health problems.”

Piña is Burning is just one example of a queer scene which has exploded in Sheffield since the lifting of lockdown measures earlier this year.

Collectives like Andro & Eve and PSSY CULTURE have been building creative queer spaces. Venues including Gut Level, DINA, Delicious Clam, Hatch, and Bal Fashions have all hosted queer-specific or queer-friendly events in the last few months.

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Gut Level.

For Holly, helping Sheffield’s queer scene grow is more than just creating a space to party: “An amazing thing about the DIY scene in Sheffield is that even if the spaces aren’t queer specific, they have become a very safe haven for the queer community.

“There’s been a really unfortunate rise in homophobic attacks in and around the North recently, and that just stresses the importance of having queer specific spaces because it gives us an element of safely that a regular bar or club does not give us.”

For many, Sheffield’s ‘DIY’ attitude has meant they too can get involved in putting on events that go beyond the standard commercial queer nights found in other major cities.

“It's an incredibly exciting time for the queer scene in Sheffield,” says Steph Robinson, 24, who’s an urban planner by day, and queer DJ by night.

“As an attendee, there just seems to be like this thirst for queer events. For a queer person, going out and partying is such a big thing. It always has been historically within queer culture, there’s always been queer clubs.”

Steph and best friend Sam Cooper organise Love & Lust, a night at DIY venue Gut Level. The night has so far hosted local artists and DJs including Isis Moray and Diessa and aims to champion the strange and unusual.

“So we had a ritual sacrifice happening on Halloween which was kind of a surprise for everyone,” says Steph. “We’re taking the ethos that as queer people we’re already pushed aside and made to feel like freaks, so why bother turning round and trying to fit in or trying to fight that and pretend that we’re normal? Just embrace the fact that we’re freaks!”

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Holly Haynes.

Love & Lust is one of several queer-nights hosted at Gut Level, which has recently found a new home near Kelham Island. They are a members-only space which aims to foster a welcoming and respectful community.

“In our time of partying (around ten years) it’s probably the most popping we’ve seen the queer party scene in Sheffield,” says Hannah from Gut Level. “None of us went to any queer parties as teenagers in Sheffield because they didn’t really exist. We are all completely chuffed with the parties and venues that are available in not only Sheffield but other places in the North.”

Their activities include a community garden called Wet Patch which runs events focused on making nature more accessible.

“Overall, our ethos is that events and parties have way more value to our community than what people think. A really strong part of creating this community within a party scene is providing workshops and events that aren’t completely centred around late night partying,” says Hannah.

Tev Smith, 35, runs Queer Film Club at DINA on the first Thursday of every month. He believes expanding Sheffield’s queer scene beyond drinking-focused spaces is the next step for the community:

“Lots of spaces are centred around late nights and partying and drinking especially. So Queer Film Club does have a bar and we serve alcohol, but it’s less focused on that. At DINA we’d just like to do more low-key and casual things. I’d like to do a queer clothes swap at some point.”

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