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Sounds Queer Reclamation + Return

DIY performance night makes a joyous comeback at Portland Works’ Makerspace, celebrating queer talent in all its forms.

Sounds Queer Tommi left and Talya right
Tommi & Talya by Kala Heatherson

On a balmy June evening I strolled down to Sounds Queer: Reclamation and Return, a one-off performance at Portland Works’ Makerspace as part of Only Lucky Dogs Theatre’s much anticipated opening season. It was Sounds Queer’s first live outing in more than a year and my first chance to enjoy an in-person event since social distancing restrictions had been sufficiently relaxed.

If you’re not acquainted with Sounds Queer, it’s a fresh new variety performance night centralising and celebrating LGBTQ+ artists of all disciplines, from drag artists to musicians, poets to comedians, singers to storytellers, and everything queer and wonderful in between.

Sounds Queer Richard Peralta
Richard P. Peralta by Kala Heatherson

On arrival, the room was abuzz with giddy excitement and a sense that after having spent so many months at home, we could collectively unleash a little of the unbridled joy that comes from sitting in a room with other real-life humans. But in the spirit of catering for everyone, Sounds Queer were also live streaming the event so folks at home could tune in.

Tommi Bryson and Talya Stitcher are SQ’s co-producers and were our hosts for the evening. Tommi got things off to a flying start with a rousing musical number about the challenges of telling people you’re trans in the world of online dating.

Sounds Queer Ruth Nicholson
Ruth Nicholson by Kala Heatherson

The line-up for the night featured a selection of acts from South Yorkshire and its surrounding areas, all with a focus on showcasing queer talent and perspectives. Writer and performer Richard P. Peralta’s deeply emotive monologue shone a stark light on the realities of living with racism, while singer-songwriter Shreya Patel lit up the stage with an easy familiarity and a voice that was delicate and powerful, singing relatable songs of love and depression.

Next up was non-binary autistic comedian Paisley Boyd, who brought a dose of joyous mirth to proceedings. They were followed by queer violinist and pianist Ruth Nicholson, who played a mesmerising set of klezmer pieces of Eastern European and Jewish origin, to which the audience responded with rapturous applause.

Sounds Queer Ding Frisby
Ding Frisby by Kala Heatherson

As the evening reached its crescendo, we were treated to a marvellous turn by ‘guitar-wielding drag thing’ Ding Frisby, whose songs about niche queer thoughts, aliens, monsters and charity shops swept us all along on a space age thrill ride. To close the night, Jade Robinson sang two soaring belters, leaving everyone on a high.

Sheffield has always been a city where the DIY vibe has thrived – a city where passionate people get together and make great things happen – and Tommi, Talya and Sounds Queer are undoubtedly at the vanguard of a new and exciting DIY era.

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