In Londonderry, the absence of safe spaces for the LGBT community is posing significant challenges. The demolition of Envy nightclub in 2020 following an arson attack left a void, making it increasingly difficult for queer individuals to find their community and socialize in a secure environment. Aaron Deery, also known as Robyn Diamonds, a drag performer, emphasized the importance of safe LGBT spaces while growing up in Londonderry. He described such spaces as a source of comfort, where he could meet others and feel safe.
However, with the loss of Envy nightclub, Londonderry no longer has a dedicated LGBT community venue. Aaron Deery expressed concern that this absence might lead members of the LGBT community to leave the town, feeling unwelcome. Eimear Willis from The Rainbow Project highlighted the high level of isolation experienced by the LGBT community in the north-west of Northern Ireland. She stressed that a queer-specific venue is essential for allowing the community to connect openly and harmlessly.
Derry DJ Orlagh Dooley, also known as Or:la, echoed the sentiment, calling for a nightclub that caters specifically to young queer people, where they can freely express themselves. LGBT community support group Cara Friend underlined the need for more venues in the north-west, emphasizing that they won’t allow hate attacks to take away their safe havens.
Journalist Damian Kerlin, an advocate for the LGBT community, emphasized that Derry is missing out by not having a dedicated venue. He pointed out that such spaces are not just for celebration but are essential for providing safety and a sense of belonging. Growing up in Northern Ireland was once dangerous for people in the queer community, and inclusive venues played a crucial role in providing a secure environment for self-expression.
While a planning application has been submitted for a three-storey nightclub at the former Envy nightclub site, it remains uncertain whether it will cater specifically to the LGBTQ+ community. The need for safe spaces for the LGBT community in Londonderry continues to be a pressing issue, with many voices calling for change.