In light of recent events concerning Cork City’s only queer bar Chambers, the LGBTQ+ community came together on the evening of Thursday, September 14, to take part in a peaceful protest on the courthouse steps on Washington Street. This allowed them to be in full view of their previous beloved hangout that employed many of Cork’s drag queens over the last number of years.
In recent weeks, people began to notice a change in the appearance of Chambers Bar, no longer recognisable as an LGBTQ+ space. A new sign had been displayed above the doorway with the name ‘Sinners’ in black and white, a stark contrast to the venue’s once vibrant appearance.
This name is nothing new to people in Cork, as Chambers Bar has been hosting student nights under this name for a number of years. Even so, this year was the first time that, in addition to hosting a student night for ‘Freshers’ Week, all Pride flags, rainbow curtains and posters for upcoming drag shows were also taken down.
However, the catalyst for sparking an onslaught of backlash seems to have come from the cancellation of a weekly drag show. This was to be hosted by Cork drag queen Krystal Queer, who took to Instagram to express her disappointment in a video that now has over 300,000 views.
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The protest was in direct support of resident drag queens, like Krystal alongside Mia Gold and Letycha Le Synn, who have worked in Chambers Bar for many years and who made a public statement announcing they would no longer be working in the venue. This is what gave the LGBTQ+ community the push it needed, which resulted in a phenomenal turnout on the courthouse steps at 9pm, the same time that Krystal’s show was due to take place before being cancelled.
Despite weather warnings, queer folk and allies showed up with their Pride umbrellas, flags and signs. It seemed that it was no longer just about the loss of their venue, but a celebration of moving forward to create a new safe space with the values of the LGBTQ+ community staying front and centre.
The scenes were captured by Avril O’Sullivan, who has an eye for photographing the LGBTQ+ scene in Cork.
Moved by the turnout of the protest, Krystal Queer shared: “Last night went to show that whether it be a metaphorical storm or a physical one, nothing is going to halt us from making change. I think Sinéad O’Connor would have been extremely proud of us.”
She added, “We have started a GoFundMe to open up our own queer club – you can find the link to donate in my Instagram bio (@krystalqueer). We cannot wait for the future ahead – time to put the stiletto to the metal.”
Other members of the LGBTQ+ community have also been very vocal, with the energy of the Chambers protest taking over online spaces too.
Evan Murphy Keogh, who set up the GoFundMe, posted, “We have Justice on our side. When you pick a fight with one of us 2,500 plus of us will turn up. We’ve got your backs!”
Lucina Schynning, who has also been very vocal as the controversy unfolded, similarly shared: “The weight, pain, and hurt of the last few days was washed away in such a beautiful stand for queerness. To see our community out and fighting for the queens of our scene was phenomenal. I have never in all my days been so moved by the actions of my people.
“I promise to continue to build safe and welcoming spaces for queens and queers alike,” she continued.
Now, organisations such as Instinct Cork are stepping up to show their support by continuing to run LGBTQ+ events in the city and welcoming new talent to their shows.
Cian O’Sullivan, the organiser of Instinct, shared: “Rain or shine, the community of Cork is ready and galvanised for change.
“The LGBTQ+ community came together in love to advocate for our social leaders and friends. It brought tears to my eyes to see thousands of people not only protesting in the rain but queuing in their cars to drive by and scream/beep their support. Social change is coming. The people have spoken.”
Additionally, Krystal Queer and her drag sister Lucina Schynning are coming together to host a celebration of LGBTQ+ spaces with their upcoming event, ‘SAINTS’, to be held in the Oyster Tavern on September 20.
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Further, Cork’s emo drag queen Boo Boo Oopsie has announced that her show ‘Making a Scene’ will now run on a monthly basis starting in 2024. Boo Boo shared she was moved by “Hearing the loud voices ring out demanding change, respect and dignity,” adding “Our community stood together proud of who we are.”
It is clear that the LGBTQ+ community in Cork is ready to step up and create its own spaces and events, and if the defiant chants of “Thank you, queens!” from the protest at Chambers is anything to go by, the support for these new endeavours will be strong.
We’re hear, to stay, you can’t paint the gay away @CorksRedFM @UCCSU @UCCLGBTQsoc @Corks96FM @GCNmag @hotpress @corkpride @NewstalkFM @ItsPaulRyder @Victoria_Secret @PantiBliss @BluHydrangea_ pic.twitter.com/XzKOKMUCpY
— Ken O Mahony (@kennethom) September 14, 2023
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