Photo of drag queen Beary Poppins in front of the LGBTQ+ flag.

‘Beaming with Queerness’ – How the West London Queer Project has transformed the LGBTQ+ community

The West London Queer Project, a non-profit Community Interest Company (CIC), aims to provide a support network and give a voice to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and other sexual and gender identifying people (LGBTQ+) in west London at a time of great uncertainty and challenge.

Their LGBTQ+ History Month quiz, hosted by London-based drag queen Beary Poppins on February 29, sold more than 75 tickets. 

Aubrey Crawley, the organisation’s founder, started engaging in discussions with LGBTQ+ people across west London during the summer of 2020 and soon realised the desperate need for more community. 

He said: “The more of these events we do and the more stories I hear from different people, the more it becomes clear there is such a massive need for it all.

“It’s confusing because on the one hand you think that maybe we shouldn’t need our own events because the world has become more liberal, but then you look at some of the public debate and comments being made about our trans siblings, or the rising closures of LGBTQ+ spaces, and you suddenly realise how necessary they are.”

Recent data by the Greater London Authority shows that more than half of London LGBTQ+ venues closed between 2006-2022, falling from 125 to 50.

Venues have cited the cost-of-living crisis and rising rent prices among the reasons for their closure.

In light of these closures, for Beary Poppins the project is vital in helping to preserve a support network for members of the LGBTQ+ community. 

She said: “People really need to understand how important queer spaces are for queer people. 

“Anyone is welcome in them, but a queer person needs them.”

Referencing the lack of LGBTQ+ venues across west London in particular, She said: “It’s just bizarre because west London is actually beaming with queer people, here they are in a library!”

Group of people at Fulham Library for West London Queer Project's LGBTQ+ History Quiz Event.
FULHAM LIBRARY’S DANCE FLOOR: The final music round of the quiz got everyone up on their feet

The tangible effects the project has on west London’s older queer community is evident, with Keith Lewis, 60, who only recently came out to his friends and family, attending his first ever event in an effort to meet other like-minded individuals.

He said: “What I’m really enjoying about this event is that it’s pulled in all of the colours and is for everyone of all ages, backgrounds and experiences.”

The event was in partnership with Hammersmith & Fulham Council with many councillors in attendance, including the mayor, Councillor Patricia Quigley. 

She said: “Given my disability, I know what it is like to feel like you don’t fit in. 

“We really need more fun events like this where being queer is normalised and celebrated.”

Their next event, a ‘Fruit Bowl Friday’ social, is on this Friday (March 15) at No. 17 Dickens Yard in Chiswick, with tickets free.

The project has a five-year strategy going forward to try and combat the challenges created by a decline in safe and accessible spaces for LGBTQ+ people across west London. 

The four different divisions of this strategy are Let’s Talk, which hopes to further their previous mental health workshops; Let’s Get Physical, which continues their ongoing and widely successful mixed-gender sport events; Let’s Make a Difference, working with local authorities to help make tangible changes for the LGBTQ+ community; and finally, Let’s Have Some Fun, which encompasses a number of social events. 

For more information on the West London Queer Project’s upcoming events, or to donate to help them further their work, visit them on their website.

Featured image credit: Ruth Stainer

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