New documentary showcases the history of iconic Cork LGBTQ+ bar Loafers

A new documentary by historian Orla Egan paying tribute to the legacy of the Cork bar Loafers will premiere at the IndieCork Film Festival.

The image shows a photograph used in the new LOAFERS documentary. It shows a man serving a pint of stout across a bar. The photograph is taken on a film camera and dates to the 1908s so the colour is saturated and slightly faded. The man is wearing a grey jumper and has his arm raised to shoulder height as he hands a pint forward. On the counter in front of him is another pint of stout and behind him are bottles of alcohol.
Image: © Arthur Leahy Collection / Cork LGBT Archive

Cork has a long and transgressive history of LGBTQ+ activism fueled by a thriving community. This community has grown up through a number of social and political spaces, but arguably, the most formative of these has been Loafers Bar. In tribute to the 40th anniversary of the opening of this iconic landmark, historian, writer and activist Orla Egan has created a brand-new documentary, simply titled LOAFERS.

Recorded as one of Ireland’s longest-running gay bars, Loafers opened in 1983 and closed suddenly in 2015. As Orla describes, “Loafers was much more than a bar – it was a crucial community space, a home for the weird and wonderful of Cork and a refuge for the Cork LGBT community.” 

She continues, “Its rooms were filled with love, laughter, dancing, political discussions and activism.”

Using a combination of interviews, archival footage, photographs, illustrations and animation, the LOAFERS documentary gives a glimpse into the legend and legacy of Cork’s beloved bar.

The documentary explores what the legendary bar meant to the people who ran it, worked in it and frequented it, and the impact of the loss of such an important safe space for the community.

As founder of the Cork LGBT Archive, Orla is perfectly positioned to direct the new LOAFERS documentary, but the archive is just the tipping point. In 2023, she curated The Art & Activism Exhibition, which launched as part of the Cork Pride Festival in July 2023. 

In 2022, in collaboration with illustrator Megan Luddy O’Leary, she published her first novel, Diary Of An Activist, a graphic social activism memoir published by Cork City Library. She also directed I’m Here, I’m Home, I’m Happy, a short documentary on LGBTQ+ life in Cork during the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s, and her CV includes much more besides.


The LOAFERS documentary will have its world premiere at the IndieCork Film Festival this Friday, December 15. Director of the festival, Úna Feely, explained, “IndieCork is thrilled to host the world premiere of ‘Loafers’ directed by Orla Egan. This is a brilliantly made and important piece of social history, carefully assembled on film. 

“The story of a venue becomes the story of a generation and a community. The immense value of ‘Loafers’ is not only for those who frequented this much-loved bar but also the entire history of Cork and Ireland.”

Paying tribute to the significance of the film, Orla fondly recalls, “I miss Loafers so much. Loafers was such an important space for us, for the Cork LGBT community, for decades. I wanted to mark the 40th anniversary of the opening of Loafers in 1983 and show what it meant to those of us lucky enough to have experienced it. This documentary is my Love Song to Loafers.”

LOAFERS will premiere at the IndieCork Film Festival on Friday, December 15, 2023, at 6pm in the newly refurbished and renamed ARC Cinema (previously Gate Cinema). Tickets go on sale shortly from the cinema’s website.

© 2023 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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