A demonstration took place last week to protest the removal of LGBTQI+ decor from Chambers, Cork’s only gay bar. Photo: Cork Pride/Facebook

Fundraising underway for new LGBTQI+ venue

Fundraising efforts are underway this week in the hopes of finding a new LGBTQI+ venue in city. It comes in response to recent changes at Chambers, the city's sole gay bar, where LGBTQI+ decor such as flags, images and pride curtains had all been removed, and the bar was temporarily rebranded as Sinners in a bid to attract returning college students.

Krystal Queer, a drag queen who performs at Chambers, took to Instagram last week to express shock when she arrived at the venue to discover that her performance had been cancelled, and the bar's LGBTQI+ iconography removed. In a show of support, eight other performers at Chambers also announced their decision to discontinue their association with the bar.

In solidarity, hundreds of people attended a protest last Thursday night supporting the drag performers' boycott of Chambers. In heavy rain, the protestors stood on the steps of the courthouse, directly across from the bar, where they chanted: "We're here to stay, you can't paint the gay away."

The venue's management told Red FM that student nights were implemented at Chambers a number of years ago. “As has been the case since 2016, we've hosted student nights at Sinners for all students during the third level terms. So just in case anyone is worried, nothing has changed, and Chambers will be as it has been every weekend, since the day we opened our doors 18 years ago,” they said.

Over the years, Cork has hosted a number of venues which provided spaces for the LGBTQI+ community. Loafers Bar, founded by Derrick Gerety in 1983, was located on Douglas Street, however, it shut its doors in 2015.

The Quay Co-Op on Sullivan’s Quay was founded in 1982 “as a radical community project by a collective effort of feminist, lesbian & gay, environmental and other alternative groups”.

In the 1990s The Other Place on South Main Street and, several years later, LINC (Lesbians in Cork), provided community support and opportunities for social engagement.

However, with the number of LGBTQI safe spaces in the city dwindling, Ailsa Splinder of the Gay Project said it is more important than ever that the community have their own dedicated places where they feel comfortable.

“There’s a whole bunch of issues around Chambers specifically, but there’s a larger issue is where do we provide safe spaces for younger and older people who just want to have a normal social life with people, they feel comfortable with?" she said.

“We’ve still got a lot of older gay people who have never developed social links. Many individuals lose family support when they come out, and they need a support network. The social aspect is so important, it’s not about dating, it’s about developing these networks that you can go to when you have a problem,” she added. Ailsa says that the city must do more than just pay lip service to the LGBT community. “Cork is so proud of being Ireland’s only rainbow city, but you have to walk the walk as well as talk the talk. “Dublin has Outhouse, which is a permanent home for the LGBT community. We desperately need something like that. Everyone feels a bit vulnerable at the moment, and we do need a safe, permanent space for the Cork LGBT community.”

Several events have been scheduled in the upcoming days as part of the fundraising efforts, including Our Haus which will take place this Sunday 24 September at The Pavilion at 7pm. Fortnightly drag brunches have been organised by Instinct on Sundays from 12-2pm in the Oyster Tavern, and there is also a GoFundMe page set up by Evan Murphy Keogh which has already raised over €13,000.