community

New LGBTQ sober space to open in London's Shoreditch

A new café, restaurant and event space catering to the community's most marginalised is set to open its doors in June.

2021-05-11

Words: Alastair James / picture: Shutterstock

A new sober space for the LGBTQ community is set to open in east London next month.

The as-yet-unnamed venue on Brick Lane in Shoreditch will be made up of a bookshop and café, a downstairs event space, two equipped podcast pods and a restaurant/bar space.

The space will prioritise QPOC, queer women, non-binary people and the trans community.

"People have been saying this is what they’ve been dreaming about"

One of the organisers, Aisha Shaibu, tells Attitude the venue will be an affordable and inclusive space for any group, but especially for those that struggle to access existing spaces.

"It’s so difficult to have access to spaces and if you want to do something different that isn’t commercial," says Shaibu.

"We’ve had so many issues with trying to hire out spaces. If they know I’m black they might not respond. They might also monitor the types of music we play or they don’t want us to make out ’too urban’. In the end a lot of people give up."

"We want everybody to feel like they are welcome but we do recognise marginalised groups struggle the most and that they have that access."

Among the events being hosted at the space will be wellbeing workshops, art exhibitions, readings, live music, and yoga sessions.

Aisha says the reaction to the announcement has been very positive.

"I didn’t realise there was going to be such a big response. People have been saying this is what they’ve been dreaming about. Others are gutted they’re not in London. They think it’s a godsend."

She adds the space was offered to them by an ally, which is the kind of support needed.

"We need people to provide certain resources. Support is really key and if you want to show the type of ally you are - contribute."

The bookshop will be open in June with the restaurant/bar and downstairs event space are due to open later in the summer.

"People have re-evaluated their relationship with alcohol"

The new LGBTQ sober space in Shoreditch isn't the first such venue to open in the UK: Oskar Hansen, 26, and Zak Riding, 25, are the co-owners of the Greenwood shop, cafe and arts space in Edinburgh.

Greenwood cafe in Edinburgh. Find out more @greenwoodkafe

 

They opened in September 2020 - in the middle of the pandemic. 

"It's gone really well actually. We could stay open because we counted as a shop doing takeaway. Last week we got tables back in so we have had more of that shared queer space again." says Oskar.

He explains it was "very important" that the space was a sober space for the LGBTQ community.

"I think it's incredibly important. Not everyone in our community is someone who can drink because of their age, or if they don't want to."

Greenwood cafe in Edinburgh. Find out more @greenwoodkafe

"Often there is that feeling of queer spaces being centred around alcohol. I do love queer bars and everything, but we've got to have the option for spaces that are visibly queer but don't centre around alcohol"

Oskar says there is "definitely" more of an appetite for this kind of space.

"I think the pandemic helped with that. From what I've seen people have re-evaluated their relationship with alcohol and just want to see their friends after not seeing them for over a year."

Those who are interested in getting involved with the space in Shoreditch are being encouraged to sign up here