Queering Camden: How you can help draw a new LGBT+ map of Camden
"Look at the map and see there are dozens of other people who have gone through the same or similar experiences as you and know you’re not alone"
Thursday, 30th July 2020 — By Bronwen Weatherby
Sarah Allen, creator of Queering Camden
PEOPLE are being asked to share their moments, memories and histories as part of a community-arts project to create a queer map of Camden.
Queering Camden, set up by performing arts student Sarah Allen, is intended to reclaim spaces in the borough for the LGBTQ+ community by digitally mapping their experiences.
Submissions, made via a website, can include anything from the location of a first kiss, night out, protest or home and contain words, pictures and even audio or video.
Ms Allen, 22, said she believes the initiative is needed now more than ever after the coronavirus crisis worsened many people’s feelings of isolation.
“The last few months have been a perfect storm, especially for people from the LGBT community,” Ms Allen said.
“We’d already had the closing of venues – around 40 per cent lost in just over a decade – and on top of that the lockdown, which has forced many people to have to stay at home sometimes with families who don’t accept them. So it has also meant a loss of connection with their second families.”
A post pinpointing the first date, and first kiss, with their partner, see here.
Ms Allen had been living in Kentish Town for almost two years but was forced out of her flat by her landlord during the Covid-19 pandemic. She has had to return to stay with her parents in Taunton, Somerset, temporarily but plans to return to Camden as soon as possible.
She said: “Fortunately I’m very lucky and I love my parents and get on with them but I have friends who are in the same position who have had to go back into the closet for the first time in years. It’s not always because of parents, it could be because of extended family or people in that community.
“So I think for me, this was about trying to find ways of staying connected with Camden, the first place I was out without exception. And to give others a way of reclaiming space in the borough that means so much to them.
“Because there isn’t a street in Camden that an LGBT person hasn’t walked down, a restaurant they haven’t eaten in, a park bench they haven’t sat on even, and those places all hold important memories outside the traditional venues such as the Black Cap and Her Upstairs.”
Places highlighted currently include the School of Arts, Birkbeck College in University College London, where a person called Sasha taught their first seminar on queer theory. Another contributor called Blair shared the place they told their mum their new name for the first time. “This is where my new life began,” Blair writes.
Another entry by ‘anonymous’, see here.
An anonymous story about a first date reads: “Me and my partner had our first date here… The security guard gave us a flower necklace. This night was full of laughter, one of the best of my life.”
Ms Allen said: “People desperately want to talk about their partners which is great. But, we’ve had all sorts of stories including more serious ones about losing people and experiences of homophobia.”
Ms Allen is studying her Masters at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in Camden, launched the project as part of her final research project but hopes it will continue for many years long past the end of her studies.
Forum+, an anti-homophobia organisation, have said they are interested in paying for the website to remain active over the coming years. Others such as Mosaic, an LGBT youth centre, and MCC Church, which supports its LGBT communities, are also keen to support it.
Ms Allen said: “I’d love it to be a long term thing, hopefully five or ten years or however long we can keep it on the internet and hopefully in future we can do events from it and get the community together around these locations and celebrate what’s happened there over the years.
Ms Allen said: “What I’d say to people is, look at the map and see there are dozens of other people who have gone through the same or similar experiences as you and know you’re not alone. Then, if you want to, label your own place so you can show others in turn that they’re not alone either.”