The talented line-up of queer poets moved the sold-out audience from laughter to tears


On 16 December, facing subzero temperatures across London, the Big Queer Poetry Show took over Peckham levels with a sold out crowd. The showcase, hosted by Char Bailey and Em Hunter, sought to raise money for Stonewall Housing, a charity that supports LGBTQIA people living in unsafe environments or facing homelessness. 

Stonewall Housing was founded in the 1980s to offer housing for the LGBTQIA community who couldn’t access housing. Starting with an eight bed co-op, they have since built their services to offer a national housing helpline, supported accommodation for 15-25 year olds forced out their homes and services for people fleeing domestic abuse. 

The charismatic Char and Em hosted the evening with a delightful mix of  wit and charm, switching to a more serious and emotive register at times to reflect the varied themes of the poems delivered across the night. Em said to DIVA:

“Part of my role as ambassador for Stonewall housing is to raise money for the charity… and queer people are massively underrepresented in the arts so to have a lineup of all queer poets all coming together to raise money for Stonewall Housing seemed like the most beautiful idea.” 

And this showed in the atmosphere on the night. There was a rare, beautiful energy that truly reflected the fact that this event was hosted by the community for the community. In turn the talented line-up of poets delivered their words with precision and poise and when on occasion they did slip up, the generosity and support of the crowd picked them back up.

It is truly rare to experience such a range of emotions in one evening and welcome them all. Poems ranged from the sultry and witty lines delivered by self-described “baby gay” Bethany Down (@bethanygdown) to the heartfelt piece by S-bars (sbarks_), Say It With Your Chest, that explored the intersection of their gender identity and the impact of growing up whilst their mum had breast cancer. Bella Cox’s (@bellacoxpoet) sensual piece on lesbian sex had everyone suspended on their every word and the audience were visibly moved by trans bodybuilder Cairo Nevitt’s (cairo_leon) poem, written for Trans Day Of Remembrance, on the passing of his dear friend Shay. 

Cairo reflected on the evening, “This is such a warm space because everyone is being vulnerable. There are moments of joy, moments of sadness, the atmosphere just feels like one big hug.”

Bella Cox added, “It’s so special to perform at this event, especially when we are travelling through snowing, freezing cold London and walking past people who are having to exist on the streets right now when it is too cold for any of us to be out there. To perform and support it feels like you are actually engaging in a small act to help, which is big.”  

The event, which host Char Bailey described as an “overwhelming success”, has so far raised £7,085 for Stonewall housing and is set to return next year for much more.

She continued, “unhoused members of our community are some of the most vulnerable, being able to raise over £7000 is a testament to the strength we have when we come together.”

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