Happy Pride! June is a big month for our community, marking the anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall uprising – a turning point for the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement, and testimony to the importance of queer venues where we are free and safe to be ourselves. But behind the rainbow-tinted wave of support that comes with Pride, queer spaces are disappearing. We spoke to the dedicated group of people in the performance sector who are working to change that.
Raze Collective is a charity that supports queer performance in the UK, helping to develop performing arts that are undertaken by LGBTQI+ creatives or explore LGBTQI+ themes. The charity’s name comes from them being established in response to queer spaces being ‘razed’, with iconic queer performance spaces in London such as Camden’s The Black Cap closing their doors in recent years, and many more of these spaces around the UK being threatened with closure. Raze works with people across all areas of these spaces, from performers and producers to venue owners and audience members, in order to protect and promote queer performance in all of its forms.
“Queer spaces are integral to the safety of queer people,” Cassie, who has been a producer with Raze for two years, tells us on why a charity like Raze is so vital. “Everyone needs spaces in which they feel they can fully express themselves as who they are without judgement, fear of violence and and negative repercussions.
“Queer spaces need protecting as they provide community in which people are able to meet others with similar experience – people who they may have never come across. Queer spaces offer social education where creativity and debate can thrive, and in which important change can be made to oppressive systems. Queer spaces offer queer perspectives that need to be celebrated.”
The positive feedback Raze has had from the artists they support, Cassie says, is due to the “care and commitment” that the organisation has for each project. “Each commission we produce has been imagined by one of the team, so it’s really exciting to see the progression of projects, the artist interaction and the final products.”
Raze runs a program of events to support queer talent, including their Queer Performance Network, which provides networking opportunities for creatives within the queer community. The network is for everyone working in the performance sector, from performers to producers to programmers, and offers a rare chance to socialise and create relationships with other people working in queer performing arts in London. “It helps to be able to share resources, develop good contacts for the sharing of queer work, and to build a community of people with similar interests and artistic journeys,” Cassie says.
“We need queer spaces so the community can thrive and develop; so we can demand a seat at the table, be included in conversation, and create social impact.”– Cassie Leon, Raze Collective
Raze continued to be a vital resource for the community during the pandemic, teaming up with Something To Aim For to run projects that helped queer artists develop and showcase their skills – adapting, as many of us did, to online spaces. “We were able to support 10 artists who usually work in live spaces to create a digital project, something which they were able to learn from and expand their digital practice,” Cassie explains. The project explored “how to build connections, conversations and social interaction whilst continuing to highlight critical voices in the digital space”.
Raze Collective are now working with more artists than ever before, developing relationships with organisations to ensure queer representation. For them, the future entails continuing their important work to preserve queer performance spaces. “Without these spaces, events, and platforms that centre queer people, the world can often be isolating and frightening,” Cassie says.
“People need community, celebration and safety. Queer spaces also offer a chance to be represented and visible within the heteronormative space we often frequent. This is very important so the community can thrive and develop; so we can demand a seat at the table, be included in conversation, and create social impact.”
To find out more about Raze Collective and their work, you can visit their website here.