Cork boasts a fascinating history, with activism rooted in the Rebel County instrumental to the progression of LGBTQ+ rights in Ireland. There has always been a vibrant queer community in the area, but there have not always been the facilities to properly cater for it. Noticing this gap in the market, drag performer Lucina Schynning took matters into her own hands, establishing a new and exciting LGBTQ+ bar in the city. Atlas is a self-proclaimed “space for everyone” located on Marlboro Street in the centre of Cork.
While not newly opened, the bar has only recently rebranded and become a queer space. Speaking to GCN, Lucina explained her motivation behind reimagining the venue, saying: “As long as I’ve been on the queer scene in Cork, there’s only ever been one gay venue in the city… It’s only ever been Chambers”.
Although she acknowledges that Cork’s most notable LGBTQ+ hub is “fantastic,” she says “It’s not enough for us to only have one choice. We deserve to have options like the straight community does.”
In contrast to the typical nightclub environment, Lucina wanted to provide a space that was more lowkey and laid back. She knew the demand was there, all that was left was to find the supply.
“I knew this bar Atlas in the city that was kind of lying dormant, it wasn’t ever open. So I approached the owners and the board of directors and pitched to them that they give the space to me to run as a new queer hotspot for the city,” she recalled.
“It’s very difficult for new queer spaces to pop up if the queer people on the scene aren’t forcing that to happen. So, completely in over my depth, I decided I was going to throw my hat in the ring for the space, and they loved the idea! The gent who owns the place actually used to be involved in setting up Chambers. So it’s something that was quite close to his heart as well.”
And just like that, her vision materialised with Atlas now operating as a much-needed LGBTQ+ safe space in Cork. Just like its clientele, its offerings are delightfully unique as along with a traditional drinks menu, the venue also serves Sri Lankan Street Food from Friday to Sunday.
Since its opening, Lucina has already seen first-hand the value that providing more queer spaces has on the local community. The queen described the scene in Cork as “blossoming,” and “riddled with so many alternative subcultures”.
“I reckon five years from now, Cork will be a European queer hotspot just because there are so many young passionate people. I feel like I’ve met so many people working in Cork who I can see from the second I first meet them, their hearts are in the right place.
“They’re genuine salt of the earth people and they really, really care about the community and the queer people around them.”
Reflecting on her own struggles of not being able to access queer-specific facilities while coming out, she admitted: “I found that very difficult to deal with personally. I felt very ostracised, very outside of everything, and it really made it difficult to find my identity in the scene.
“So I swore to myself that I wanted things to be an awful lot easier for the people who come after me. And it’s nice to actually be able to give young questioning people a space where they can come in, meet the community, be relaxed, laid back, there’s no pressure there.
“It’s really gratifying to actually be enacting the change that I promised my younger self I was going to bring into effect,” she added.
This desire to give back is an integral part of her drag identity, and the name Lucina Schynning is inspired by a poem from Corkonian Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin that focuses on “endurance and enacting positive change”.
“Drag at the end of the day at its roots is about activism. It’s about enacting change, being a face for a community, and being somebody who’s gonna stand up and try to make things better for the people around that.
“Once I had that realisation in myself, I completely changed the way I was doing drag,” Lucina explained, and fortunately, this has ultimately led her to her current position as the manager of Cork’s new LGBTQ+ bar.
Whether you’re a local, or are simply planning a trip to the people’s capital, make sure to pay Atlas a visit for what’s sure to be a wholesome, fun and fulfilling evening.
© 2022 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.
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