Read on to find out about their inspirations behind the work, and some honest discussion of their struggles as someone who identifies as neurodiverse.
During the various lockdowns and shift towards online events, I noticed more people becoming aware of social discomforts that they perhaps wouldn’t ordinarily notice in the lives they had become accustomed to. There were articles about how eye contact is actually quite draining for most people, or about the dysphoria of seeing yourself reflected back at you in a small window constantly, while you talk to others. I was also thinking about my own writing, and the discomfort I have inventing dialogue that sounds like real people, which matched up with the discomfort I feel performing normal personhood in day to day life.
I wanted to make a piece of work about that, and when I think about games and theatre that explore those feelings, Squinky’s* work is the first thing on my mind. So I wanted to collaborate with them and see what we could do together.
*Squinky is a queer new media artist and theatre practitioner based in Montreal, with a background in game development
I’ve made a lot of “games” that focus on interactive characters based on real people, so that you can just have a simulated conversation with them without trying to achieve anything
I’ve been working in indie games for just over a decade now, but until this project, almost everything I’ve made has been a single player experience, something that you interact with alone. I’m very interested in constructing a partner who you are interacting with, and I’ve made a lot of “games” that focus on interactive characters based on real people, so that you can just have a simulated conversation with them without trying to achieve anything.
I like the way that pacing and glitches affect the way you read that software partner, almost like the computer version of body language. I’m not often funny on purpose, and most of my work is kind of serious but chill – this piece is a big shift for me in that sense, as well as being the first theatre-adjacent thing that I’ve made!
I have wanted to get into theatre for a while, partly because I am fascinated by performance and the way that people can completely change the meaning of things just by altering their tone or posture. I’ve also had really moving experiences with improvised story games that are played in person, either around a table or in a theatre space. I want to be able to work with those dynamics that emerge between people and the narrative gaps that we all fill in when given a few very gestural directions. It’s been a real joy to get theatre residencies as part of the development of this project, and I’m looking forward to seeing what I get to explore next.
Back in the day, after a year of running Andro and Eve we started to learn a lot more about the LGBTQ+offer in Sheffield. And it was fairly slim pickings. Then a guide came out describing the gay scene as ‘thriving’. So we wrote this blog in response. We basically were talking about cats in DIY shops as ‘queer’, because we were working so hard to find you all the queer things!
But its 2021, and despite a global pandemic, things have changed a bit for the better in terms of an LGBTQ+ offer in Sheffield. Theres a long way to go, but there is at least *something*.
We were recently commissioned by Visit Sheffield to write this article for LGBTQ+ visitors to the city, and locals too. Below you’ll find much of the info repeated, but with added sass and, (no shade), better font sizing.
Well this guide is not about the spaces a quick web search will help you find, (few though they may be). It’s about the queer alternative, the low-key and welcoming venues that are not LGBTQ+ specific, but where you will find LGBTQ+ people.
It is written by a 30 – something non binary person (androgynous to masculine presenting) who has experienced their fair share of homophobia and misogyny and understands the need for spaces that are genuinely welcoming. This is one of the reason’s I co-founded Andro and Eve back in 2016.
From night – life to cafes, culture and sports, this guide should have something for you to enjoy. This guide focuses on more centrally located places owing to their accessibility to the majority. Access has also been prioritised. The majority of spaces have been chosen because they offer options for those with physical disabilities, dietary requirements or sensory processing issues.
So read on to discover some hidden gems!
Pubs and Bars
Traditionally the LGBTQ+ scene has centered around LGBTQ+ specific venues for important safety and community building reasons. Although this guide is about so much more than that, its still well worth highlighting some Sheffield drinking establishments you can spot fellow queers at, and that feel safe.
The Rutland is a ‘traditional pub’ in the sense that it has original windows, and an excellent selection of cask ales, wines and spirits, but that’s as far as the traditions extend. It stands out from the crowd for its décor. Understated it aint. Think queer with a capital Q, weird horror, placards from previous protests in Sheffield, topped off with a bit of spangle and the surreal. The jukebox creates a real sense of atmosphere (just don’t choose the forbidden songs), and their beer garden is spacious. Their famous ‘Rutty Butty’ is chunky and reyt tasty, and like the rest of their food, gives you a decent amount of vegan options. Reliably open 7 days a week, and situated in a handy to access spot in the Cultural Industries Quarter. Step access at the front, but the venue has a ramp they can grab. Sadly no disabled toilet. Pre pandemic they’ve been known to run LGBTQ+ specific nights, but you’ll always find a selection of Sheffield queers here.
Nearish to this on Sidney Street is Industry Tap. Relatively new to Sheffield’s roaring real ale scene, its already made a mark for its frankly banging, and ever changing selection of draught beers and ales. Its position means the outdoor seating gets that lovely late afternoon / evening sun, and it is unofficially run by queer women. Attracting a real mix of people, from goths to hipster types, its got level access and a disabled toilet and does not play loud music. There are two gendered toilets but they are both self contained off the main space. Gluten free and vegan options, and open Tuesday – Sunday.
Beer Engine is worth checking out for its tasty tapas, (hello vegan and GF options) delicious wine, gin and cask ale selection and decent sized beer garden. Situated on the edge of the city near London Road, you’ll often find some LGBTQ+ community members (often lesbian / queer women) tucked into its cosy snugs and raising a glass to their chosen family. Toilets are gendered, but decent.
Down in Kelham, Bar Pina is the one for those of you who love a cocktail. This Mexican themed bar is refreshingly free of any signs of cultural clichés, and simply serves up mouth – watering margaritas and fresh tacos. Their tacos are so fresh with great vegan options. Staying open late on weekends, the bar can get lively, but their beer garden is the perfect place to chill with friends. As of Summer 2021, they’ve also started doing a monthly queer night. They have ramp access through the beer garden, but the ground outside is gravel. Gendered toilets but with private full – length cubicles.
Over in the upcoming area of Victoria Quays, is quirky waterside drinking hole, Dorothy Pax. LGBT+ owned, it’s really come into its own in 2021, with a lively crowd drinking by the canal day and night. Known for its eclectic live music offer, often featuring folk artists, it comes highly recommended for the service and warm welcome guests are provided with. Sadly, no level access, (unless you stay canal-side, where the ground is uneven).
Nightlife and Entertainment
If you’re after a night out, but want a cultural hit to be the focus, look no further than Andro and Eve!We are most well known as the creator of drag king cabaret, The Kingdom Come. (Drag kings have often been the overlooked artists of the drag scene, so we put them front and centre). Pre pandemic, you could find us popping up in venues around the city, including Abbeydale Picture House, sharing the most exciting UK queer performance with a side order of vegan cake. During the pandemic, drag king workshops previously offered in person, have moved online, along with workshops in zine making, creative writing and gender exploration. Plans are afoot to bring back an in person offer, but in the meantime, you can get hold of our print offer, in the form of Centre zine, or upcoming zine, Joyful Noise.
The ever welcomingTheatre Deli, home of Andro and Eve’s queer cabaret, A Reyt Queer Do, is a great place to find the best in new theatre, with plenty shows focusing on LGBTQ+ stories, and a programme exploring diverse voices. Home to excellent local festivals including Migration Matters, you can also catch some exciting Fringe shows before they make their way to Edinburgh. The venue is quirkily decorated, with level access and both gender neutral, gender specific and disabled toilets.
Newly relocated DINA also serves up a healthy dose of queer performance, including alternative drag shows and locally run variety evening Sounds Queer. Their new venue in Fitzalan Square feels airy, with a bar serving drinks and snacks, and level access and disabled toilet. The performance space however, is not wheelchair accessible. You can also catch bigger drag acts and live music at famous Sheffield venue, the Leadmill, which has level access and disabled toilet.
For late night thrills head down to Gut Level, Sheffield’s new queer club and workshop space, run on a not for profit basis. Gut Level is now the home of long running queer techno / acid house night Club Rush, (@club.rush.party) as well as hosting workshops with collectives including Working Them’s Club and Flaw Collective, focused on making space for marginalised genders. Their courtyard also offers opportunities to garden with Wet Patch. No level access or disabled toilet, but toilets are all gender. To gain entry you need to be a member.
If your after a queer film or two, get down to Showroom Cinema, Sheffield’s original independent cinema which also has a bar where you’ll often spot more mature members of the LGBTQ+ community and bag a drinks offer. Level access and disabled toilet provided.
If you’re keen on some board games you might want to check out Treehouse Board Game Café. Situated at the bottom of London Road, tables are booked in timed slots, and then you have access to over 700 board games. With a café / bar serving a great selection of cask ales, wines and spirits and plenty hot beverages non alcoholic options, alongside homemade food catering for vegans, you can expect a warm welcome here. Pre pandemic they ran Treehouse Rainbow Gamers, for all members of the LGBTQIA community. Keep an eye on their social media to see when this may return. Level access and disabled toilet.
Cafes / Eateries
As well as being famous for its ales and local brewing scene, Sheffield also does good coffee, and has a thriving independent café scene. You can find top quality coffee and your fair share of the LGBTQ+ community in fave local haunts like Tamper Sellers Wheel, a New Zealand inspired café, with sheltered courtyard and level access, which serves delicious fresh cooked food, and Kelham based Gaard Coffee, which also has a cute courtyard with an emphasis on cakes and simple food catering to vegans. Both venues are open daytimes seven days a week, and have level access but no disabled toilet. However, all gender toilets are provided in the form of self – contained bathrooms.
Airy and bright Birdhouse Tea Bar and Kitchen is the home of Yorkshire’s much loved loose – leaf Birdhouse Tea, and open Wednesday – Sunday. Situated on Sidney Street, this independent local business offers a plethora of drinks, with tea both served traditionally, and in cocktails and tea lattes (their chai latte is dreamy). Owner Becky is a whizz at creating moreish cakes and bakes, catering to a range of dietary requirements and they serve stone baked pizza and tasty brunches. Their courtyard is a great place to meet friends, and they have level access with disabled toilet, and all gender private toilets. Birdhouse is welcoming of everyone, and a real mix of people can be found here. Also, rather uniquely for a city centre venue, if you have a canine companion, you’ll be pleased to know dogs are also catered for, with doggy treats and water provided.
Steamyard Coffee is a bit legendary in Sheffield for their dedication to coffee and doughnuts. They also serve up amazing grilled sandwiches, bagels and stock Elly Joy doughnots, for those who need their sweet treats gluten free and vegan. Located on Division Street, and attracting a real mix of folk, their service is always excellent. Toilets are self – contained bathrooms and they have level access and disabled toilet.
Opened in 2020, Terrace Goods is centrally located on a sheltered terrace in Orchard Square, and is open Wednesday – Saturday. This place comes recommended for its very friendly service, delicious diner style food (vegan diets catered for) and cocktails. They are soon to launch bottomless brunch events. If you like your music loud, you’ll enjoy the atmosphere. Sadly it is not wheelchair accessible.
For those of you more inclined to get active, Sheffield is called the Outdoor City for a reason. To be honest, historically it has been harder to meet fellow LGBTQ+ people if you are not the sporty type in this city! Thankfully, Sheffield’s ‘active’ offer now has something even for those who prefer to watch than participate!
You can’t go wrong with some rock climbing in Sheffield, and there are a huge choice of climbing walls in Sheffield. But for guaranteed ‘flirting’ aka, ‘checking in’ with a queer hottie who just fell off a wall / scaled to the top, the Climbing Works bouldering centre wins.
Rainbow Blades is a Sheffield United supporters’ group but they welcome everyone. They meet at Sheffield LGBT+ bar / café Spirit of Sheffield every Sheffield United home match day, where they eat, drink and socialise in this safe & welcoming LGBT+ venue. Even if you don’t feel comfortable attending Bramall Lane, you can still attend their meet up’s to meet likeminded people.
If you like your sports fast and furious, and have some skating skills, you might want to get involved with Sheffield’s ever popular Roller Derby scene. Sheffield Steel Roller Derby (SSRD) are the OG’s with skating opportunities for both 18+ and juniors 8 – 18. The juniors’ league is open to all genders while the adults’ league caters solely to female and non-binary skaters, and they are explicitly trans-friendly. As of Autumn 2021, SSRG are returning to weekly in person training at Skate Central. Matches, when they happen again, are a brilliant way to be surrounded by queer women and enjoy the thrills of this welcoming sport. For those wishing to be part of a more gender expansive team, The Inhuman Leaguebased in the North of Sheffield are open to all adults.
If you like Skating but in more of a chilled, ‘have a go at an ollie and fall over, but everyone cheers anyway’ then Queer Skate Sheffield could be for you. Currently organised by a very informal group of volunteers, in meet up’s around Sheffield, boards or blades are welcome to attend. Check out their Instagram @queerskatesheff for more information.
Trans Active is a social group for trans and non-binary people in and around Sheffield. Their aim is to provide a relaxed space where trans and non-binary people can socialise and improve their fitness and mental wellbeing through sport. Their current offer includes weekly swimming sessions for trans and non-binary people, and monthly activities which are also open to cisgender friends/ family/ partners.
If you’re looking for non – sport based activities to meet fellow LGBTQ+ folk, then read on.
Out Aloud are Sheffield’s LGBT+ choir with over 80 members and have been going strong since 2006. They’re open to anyone from the LGBT+ community with no auditions. Out Aloud’s mission is to sing to build pride and resilience, and to educate people about the LGBT+ community. Singing everything from pop to madrigals, they have performed in Paris, Dublin and London and are regulars at Pride. You can also find them giving a free concert every Christmas in Sheffield’s Winter Gardens and performing at civic events.
E.D.E.N Film productions are a brilliant social enterprise based in Sheffield who offer online and in-person filmmaking workshops for the LGBTQ+ community, producing short and feature films, as well as running events such as trans film festival, Transforming Cinema. Head to their website to find out about free upcoming courses.
Another ace way to meet fellow queer people is at Sheffield Zine Festival. This annual one – day festival showcases queer and margnialised voices making print and zines on all sorts of topics, and is a brilliant way to unearth hidden stories. Although on hiatus owing to the pandemic, they are always up for hearing from folk who’d like to get involved and help support future editions.
For those aged 11 – 25, SAYiT, offer activities and support groups for LGBT+ young people, supporting their emotional wellbeing. LGBT Sheffield is a volunteer-led charity attempting to give Sheffield a unique, centralised and shared LGBT identity, and can signpost LGBT+ people to specific services that may be on offer.
So that concludes this Alternative LGBTQ+ Guide to Sheffield. It is by no means comprehensive, but hopefully has given you some inspiration or helped you discover something new. Happy exploring!
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