A look at Irish Queer cultural highlights of 2021

Ireland's LGBTQ+ creative community outdid themselves this year. Here are just some of the fabulous highlights.

Queer Cultural highlights 2021 - Split screen with four panels. Far left, black and white photograph of a man dressed in bubble wrap with an oversized slice of lemon on his head. Mid left, photograph of drag queen Panti Bliss in a pink power suit looking over her shoulder. mid right, black and white photograph of a man from the torso up. He is nude with his eyes closed. Far right and photograph of a man with a mohawk haircut and piercings. He is wearing a yellow and blue silk scarf with a pink and white tie-dyed denim jacket.
Image: Seán Gilmartin / Christpher Robson / Outburst / Hazel Coonagh

Despite ongoing Covid restrictions, 2021 saw Ireland’s LGBTQ+ community put their best foot forward and really live it up. The pickings for this year’s queer culture round up were too many to name but we’ve done our best to give you a taste of just some of the queer cultural highlights that we got to experience.

Living with Pride 

Slightly delayed due to the pandemic, The National Library of Ireland launched ‘Living with Pride’,  their excellent series of events to uncover the Irish Queer Archive (IQA) in March. As well as a host of online talks, the series included a stunning exhibition of images from the Christopher Robson collection and an IQA residency with poet, Seán Hewitt.

Queer Love

March also saw the publication of Queer Love, a collection of love stories by writers from the LGBTQ+ community, edited by Paul McVeigh. The book features work by Colm Tóibín, Emma Donoghue and John Boyne among many other talented contributors.

Poz Vibe podcast

Now in its second season, it’s hard to believe that the amazing Poz Vibe podcast has only been going since May. Hosted by Robbie Lawlor and Veda Lady, the show invites guests to openly discuss their experiences of living with HIV. Already Poz Vibe has done wonders for dismantling the stigma surrounding HIV in Ireland and we wish the dynamic duo every continued success.


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I Am What I Am 

To mark Pride month, Ballina Arts Centre in partnership with Mayo County Council, hosted ‘I Am What I Am’, an extensive exhibition of Irish queer art. Curated by Sinead Keogh, the show included works by artists such as Louise Walsh, Denis Keogh, Breda Lynch and Bassam Al–Sabah.

Out in the World

EPIC: the Irish Emigration Museum also launched the ‘Out in the World: Ireland’s Queer Diaspora’ exhibition in June. The exhibition which was researched and curated by Dr Maurice Casey explored stories of the Irish queer diaspora, many of whom played a profound role in LGBTQ+ rights across all parts of the globe.

The Narrow Gate of the Here-and-now: Queer Embodiment 

In July, IMMA (Irish Museum of Modern Art) launched a museum-wide exhibition showcasing works from their extensive collection, to mark their 30th birthday. ‘Queer Embodiment’ formed the first chapter in the series. Curated by Seán Kissane, it features Irish and international artists such as Alan Phelan, Eimear Walsh, Jaki Irvine, and Doireann O’Malley.

Cork Queeros

Queer Cultural highlights don’t come much more wonderful than Cork Queeros. Developed by Orla Egan, founder of Cork LGBT Archive, Cork City Library hosted Cork Queeros in July as part of Cork’s Pride celebrations. The photography exhibition showcased queer folk connected with and contributing to Cork’s LGBTQ+ community. 

Queer Mind, Body and Soul 

July also saw the National Gallery of Ireland launch the ‘Queer Mind, Body and Soul’ exhibition. The works in the show were developed by young LGBTQ+ people as part of their Gaisce Awards. The show aimed to introduce the complex issues which young LGBTQ+ people face in Ireland.

Domestic Optimism

Emma Wolf Haugh’s ‘Domestic Optimism’ at Project Arts Centre, reflected upon the life and work of Irish-born architect and designer Eileen Gray. In the show, Wolf Haugh delved into the absences and complexities of Gray’s sexuality to reimagine an expansive interpretation of her legacy.


In September of one of the most beloved LGBTQ+ events in the Irish queer calendar, the GAZE 2021 International Film Festival made their glorious return to the big screen for the 29th instalment of the festival.

The festival hosted eleven Irish Premieres for feature films and thirty-five Irish Premieres for short films, including European and World Premieres.

The festival made its way out West later in the year introducing a new initiative, GAZE West, which brings five screenings to Galway’s Pálás Cinema.

Mother Block Party

Mother Block Party made a triumphant return to the grounds of Collins Barracks in September. Headlined by the amazing Denise Chaila, the evening saw revellers dance the night away to Elaine Mai, MayKay, Ailbhe Reddy and of course, Mother’s finest DJs.

Once Before I Go

In October, Dublin’s Gate Theatre finally reopened its doors with a “gay odyssey” no less. Philly McMahon’s opus Once Before I Go explored Ireland’s rich LGBTQ+ history and paid homage to the devastation of the AIDS Epidemic. 


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2021 also saw Outburst, Belfast’s queer arts and culture festival return to theatres across the city. Although the programme was a raging success, one of the highlights was the ambitious MASS, an epic performance of queer ritual and connection. The show saw Conor Mitchell’s sublime score performed by the Ulster Orchestra inside the iconic Telegraph Building. The performance was accompanied by projections of six films by international artists, to create a truly unparalleled queer euphoria.


Rounding out our whistle-stop tour of Queer Cultural highlights is a project very close to our own hearts. To mark World AIDS Day 2021 and the 40th anniversary since the first diagnosis of AIDS, GCN teamed up with EPIC: The Irish Emigration Museum and HIV Ireland to bring you Living: A Unique Portrayal of People Living with HIV in Ireland. The initiative launched with an exhibition of photographs by Hazel Coonagh presenting people openly living with HIV in Ireland. The exhibition has been accompanied by short films and a forthcoming limited edition publication.

© 2021 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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