Image above: Myra DuBois
Chiswick is getting a visit from one of the Queens of drag. Myra DuBois shot to fame on Britain’s Got Talent in 2020, having previously won Best Drag Act in the 2015 London Cabaret Awards. Variously described as ‘The Northern songbird’ and ‘The Siren of South Yorkshire’, Rotherham’s finest is regarded as royalty in the LGBTQ+ world for her acting, dancing, singing and all round entertaining shows.
‘A true 21st century icon of stage’ – Vauxhall Tavern.
She will be performing at the Queen’s Head Pub & Kitchen on Sunday 22 August at 7.00pm. Book by reserving a table: Queens Head Pub & Kitchen.
The Queen’s Head has gradually been building a reputation for Cabaret nights since May 2021, when it started hosting a weekly LGBTQ+ “Sunday Social” in partnership with the West London Queer Project.
The Chiswick Calendar’s reporter Matt Smith went to WLQP’s most recent Sunday social to find out more about it from organiser Aubrey Crawley.
Image above: an inclusive LGBT+ pride flag flying outside the Queen’s Head, Chiswick
Reviving west London’s queer spaces
The LGBTQ+ community has historically relied on clubs, bars and general meet-ups with like-minded people to be themselves and relax without fear. Years ago, there were ‘queer’-friendly venues all across west London including Chiswick, Brentford and Ealing.
Over time these venues have gradually trickled away, and local options for queer people have been pretty limited. West 5, a bar frequented by university students inside a converted pub in South Ealing, is the only space locally that LGBT+ people in west London have had available to them for several years now.
Compounding the problem, coronavirus restrictions throughout 2020 provoked a mental health crisis among the LGBTQ+ community. Bars and clubs were closed, which removed for what for many was their only support network. Many more queer people had to move back in with homophobic or transphobic parents and cut off from their safe spaces.
Image above: WLQP group photo; Aubrey Crawley second from the right
Founder of WLQP, Aubrey Crawley, said the popularity of the Sunday socials was evident soon after launching in Summer 2020.
“They started doing really well in the summer, but when the second lockdown happened it just was cut dead” said Aubrey.
“Since then and especially over Christmas I had loads of messages from people who were saying: ‘thank you so much, I met my boyfriend there’, ‘I met my friends there’, ‘I met loads of new people’ and I was like, well, clearly there is a need for this.”
The WLQP facilitates making new friends and makes it easy, even if you come alone. Aubrey will go out his way to make everyone feel welcome and make sure nobody is left out. On Sunday, a girl from Trinidad & Tobago who was studying in London was sat with me and my friend. We ended up talking and sat together for most of the evening. She came alone, but we left being friends. Aubrey was chuffed.
Images above: Pride decor and WLQP’s banner inside the Queen’s Head, Drag queen Ginger Phlappage hosts Sunday 8 August’s bingo night
A move away from apps
Aubrey hopes to steer the queer community away from its over-reliance on meeting new friends & lovers solely through dating apps, something which again has been compounded by Covid lockdowns.
“I think we have all become so used to apps, and meeting people on apps and I don’t think it’s healthy. I think we waste so much time sitting on apps speaking to people and nothing ever materialises, whether that be on a friendship basis or romance” Aubrey said.
“You end up speaking to 20 people and these conversations go in cycles, one drops off, another one drops on and it just keeps rolling like that and nothing ever really ever happens. So I want that to be an element to [the WLQP] too, to get people off apps and back meeting in person.”
A 2018 survey of 200,000 iPhone users showed that 77 percent of users of gay dating app Grindr felt regret after using it. The dating app is the go-to for queer people but it has been criticised by mental health professionals in the past. Heavy users often report feelings of anxiety, depression and there have been users diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorders related to the app’s use. It’s part of a pattern fostered by social media of the creation of relationships which are by definition one dimensional, not grounded in actually meeting people and getting to know them in a more rounded way.
Image above: a photo posted on WLQP’s Instagram page
Plans for the future
Far from focusing on just Chiswick, Aubrey hopes to have the West London Queer Project live up to its name, and has been in talks with a lot of different venues throughout west London.
“The problem is, with Covid, people are scared to make any kind of commitments to anything. I’m hoping that one of the bars on the High Street in Chiswick is going to start a weekly Friday night event” he said.
A few other things are in the pipeline too. Aubrey is in talks with Chiswick Cinema about the possibility of a gay film festival, as well as more formal business networking events and a queer forum at The Bush Theatre.
“I’m also partnering with a charity called Micro Rainbow to do some sort of charity walks, again keeping an open mind and meeting people and just seeing what works.”
Micro Rainbow provide safe housing to LGBTQ+ asylum seekers and refugees and facilitate access to employment, volunteering, training and education for LGBTQ+ refugees through their moving-on” programme.
All these conversations are still ongoing, but the future for the West London Queer Project looks promising. Hopefully they will continue to provide a breath of fresh air to west London’s queer community for some time.
Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar
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