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Lesbian Visibility Week - Interview with Roisin

Lesbian Visibility Week aims to show solidarity with every woman within the LGBTQI community, as well as celebrate lesbians. It is essential that Lesbian Visibility Week is a voice for unity and lifts up ALL women, especially those who come from marginalised communities. Recent research (Pride Matters survey, conducted by Pride In London 2018) has shown that gay women are almost twice as unlikely to be out in the workplace as gay male colleagues. There has been a Lesbian Visibility Day since 2008. Lesbian Visibility Week is a DIVA initiative.

Manchester has always been at the forefront of the LGBTQ rights movement. In 1970, the students of the University of Manchester founded one of the first university gay societies: the Homophile Society. In 1978 The Manchester City Council funded the opening of a Gay Centre in, adding funding specifically for lesbian support in 1979. In 1998 one of the biggest LGBTQ+ rallies took place in Manchester city, when over 20,000 people marched in protest against Section 28.

As a community, lesbians have often struggled with visibility. Historically and presently they have had less access to community spaces, less disposable income, and less time to spend on their own pursuits. All of these factors make lesbians harder to track down in the historical record. We have to look elsewhere, and often harder, to find lesbian stories.

For Lesbian Visibility Week, we spoke with Manchester-based Roisin Murray, organiser of What She Said Club. What She Said Club runs club and gig nights for LGBT/Queer women and non binary folk (and their queer friendly friends).

What She Said Club’s is a website that says “there are not enough events designed specifically for LGBTQ+ women and non binary folk. We think there are not enough spaces where people like you and me can go and feel safe to be ourselves; to not be judged and to have fun till the early hours. So we're here to change that. We organise exclusive parties, club nights and gigs. We want to promote the best up and coming and current LGBT/Queer female and non binary singer song-writers, DJs and producers.”

Hi Roisin. Can you tell us about the origins of What She Said CluB? When and why did you start these events, and what has the reaction been like?
I’ve been living in Manchester for 11 years and visiting Canal Street maybe double that. I love the Gay Village; I love how it makes you feel safe; I love the people you can meet in a smoking area or outside McTucky’s. But in all those years I’ve always been slightly aware that it was a boys club. The bars are all full of men; the men have a private members pub or men only; there’s no place an LGBTQ female or non-binary person can say, 'that’s ours'.

In 2019 after a night out with the lads, I decided to finally do something about it. I wanted to make an event that thought about LGBTQ+ women and non binary people first when it was organised. I wanted to have a space that was safe for this group, that even if you were by yourself you knew you could walk into that area and be confident you would see and meet people just like you.

Our first event was held in a pub in October 2019 and our ethos is we like to promote female and non-binary singer song-writers, DJs and producers (queer or otherwise) so we booked a couple of singers and a DJ and we completely sold out. Following that we had stints at YES bar with a line up of female DJs and, again, sold out. The reaction has just been overwhelming. I’ve lost count of the amount of messages I receive after events with
people thanking me for creating this safe space but also for creating such a fun space as well.

How important do you think it is it for lesbians, queer women and non-binary people to have their own spaces - both for those attending and those performing?

I think in this day and age, what with the ‘Me Too’ movement, and the ugly truth that misogyny can be found even within our own community, having safe spaces for LGBTQ+ women and non binary people is so important. These marginalised groups are not finding places where they can feel comfortable or confident to be themselves - they’re not finding places where they can meet others just like them. We need to interact with people who look like us, who feel like us, who love like us, to know that we’re not alone, and this can only happen in spaces made just for us. All the artists that have performed at our events, singers and DJs alike, have said they’ve never performed at an event made specifically for women and non-binary people. They said it made them feel very empowered with being on the all female line-up and the room had a powerful vibe. I think it’s so hard for this group to make it in the music world already so any help What She Said Club can offer, I’m totally here for.

Are there any other nights out / events that you’d like to give a shout out to?
I want to give a massive shout out to Bollox which is held every few months at the Deaf Institute. It’s an alternative queer night where they play everything from Kylie to Nirvana and everything in-between and it doesn’t matter what you wear, who you love, it’s just a feel good, welcome vibe from the moment you walk in; so, great!
Also a shout out to HearHer Festival which is run by Heather Peace. It’s a weekend long festival aimed towards LGBTQ+ females and the line up is all women and non binary people, which is an absolute first and always has a great vibe!

You organise exclusive parties, club nights and gigs - as we come out of the pandemic (hopefully!) What plans do you have coming up for What She Said Club and how can people get involved?

I’m so excited to be getting back to organising What She Said Club events and being able to DJ again! We’ve an event coming up on Saturday 17th July, as I just want to wait and see that it’s all ok, you know? So we’re testing out a new home at Lock 91 to see how that fits; then after that we’ve our big Pride event happening on Saturday 28th August, also at Lock 91, and oh my days the line-up of LGBTQ+ female and non binary talent is off the Charts. We can’t wait to share that with everyone!! If you’re an artist who wants to perform, please get in touch, or if you want some hands on experience at event organising we’ve always so much to do, so yeah, send us an old DM and to everyone else? See you on the dance floor very soon!

You can follow What She Said club on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

Lesbian Visibility Week is a DIVA initiative. As the leading LBTQ media group in Europe, DIVA Media Group reaches an audience of 250,000 users every month. In its engagement it is increasingly finding LGBTQI women feel that they are misunderstood and under-supported. ​Building on this, DIVA want to create a week that recognises, celebrates and importantly supports lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer women across the UK and beyond to be their true selves at work, at home and socially.

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