> Where are all the lesbian bars? (EXHIBITION REVIEW) - SNACK: Music, film, arts and culture magazine for Scotland

Where are all the lesbian bars? (EXHIBITION REVIEW)

Venture beneath Edinburgh’s Kafe Kweer and find yourself transported to Scotland’s sapphic scene of the 70s and beyond.

The Pride month exhibition (which is only the latest of monthly instalments put on by the cafe) asks the titular question ‘Where are all the lesbian bars?’ 

A lesbian bar for the purpose of the exhibition is (as one would expect) defined as a bar that explicitly labels itself as being for queer women.

Well, where are they?

Photo Credit: Carlin Braun

The answer as to where they all are is pretty straightforward according to exhibition curator Katie Marson: there are none, at least not in Scotland.

According to Marson when ‘gay bars did pop up there was a lot more focus on welcoming queer people across spectrums as opposed to establishing spaces for queer women.’

Contemplatively she goes on to explain that queer ethnographers of the 1980s ‘found’ that lesbians were not sexually driven and consumerist in the way gay men were and didn’t want or need nightclubs.

Marson’s exhibition strongly contradicts this idea; while there might not have been lesbian bars, that does not mean there were no sapphic spaces.

Wonder women and girls who like girls

Walking down Kafe Kweer’s aptly rainbow staircase, the exhibition space greets you with posters and magazine clippings from the queer nightlife scene of the 1990s and the early 2000s. 

From an article titled ‘Pussy Galore’ that explores club night Furburger for ‘girls who like girls’ to a poster for Divine Divas which promises to be full of ‘wonder women’, Marson explores and honours the spaces created by those who came before.

The idea behind the exhibition, though, is that it does not end with just Marson’s efforts.

Marson acknowledges that as the exhibition pulls from events that would be mainstream enough to be advertised – there is the question of what the underground scenes would have looked like.

For instance Marson uncovered the Auchinleck housing co-operative that was run by lesbians who hosted house parties in the 1970s.

But besides this, space is left on the walls to encourage viewers to leave their own information through post-it notes.

Photo Credit: Carlin Braun

A collaborative effort

Explaining the decision Marson says how ‘…something like queer heritage should always be a collaborative effort.’

A collaborative effort it undoubtedly is with post-it notes accompanying a portrait of DJ Trendy Wendy that read ‘hot’ and ‘smash’, and another reading ‘Lesbian nights aren’t dead! Only if we let them be!’

On the existence of these spaces Marson reflects how it’s always been important to give ‘people spaces to feel comfortable and feel like they can plant their feet and really take up the space where they are.’

Queer book archive, Lavender Menace, is one such space and has been running since the 1980s.

On the exhibition, Lavender Menace co-founder Sigrid Nielsen says, ‘I’m really happy to see this exhibition – the lesbian party and dance scene in Edinburgh meant a lot to us and there hasn’t been interest in it for a long time… I enjoyed seeing the pictures and the comments left by other visitors – and I hope more dykes will tell their stories.’

From Edinburgh Dyke Bar, a free pub night with the tagline ‘all dykes welcome’ to Glasgow’s Grind Yer Axe, a queer night for anyone with an axe, the scene is still thriving today with more stories to be told.

A space to be

Photo Credit: Carlin Braun

Marson, who started this project as part of her dissertation, reflects how ‘I had all these things pulled and they’ve been sitting in a folder in my room for the past year. So being able to see it laid out on the walls has been really rewarding.’

A space to plant one’s feet is undoubtedly what this exhibition is. While the future of an explicitly lesbian bar in Scotland remains unclear, standing in Kafe Kweer it’s clear that queer safe spaces have always and will always find a way.

Where are all the lesbian bars? is running until the 29th of June at Kafe Kweer from 08:30-17:00.

Featured Image Credit: Kafe Kweer

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