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Review: Queer Places at Unit3 Design Studio

Liverpool Architecture Festival (LAF) took over a bunch of spaces last month. Some were for partnered exhibitions, others were events that fit the brief. Queer Places is the latter, presenting a labour of love and joy pulled together for the most part by Luke Fawcett.

The project records Liverpool’s past, present and future LGBTQ+ spaces in a series of social, architectural and human histories. Every print, illustration, collage, and text is a considered reflection of somewhere that means something to a lot of people.

Each space is, as the project describes, inhabited by LGBTQ+ people, not necessarily created by or for them, but some are created with safety, resilience and support in mind, and some aren’t places at all.

Trans & Enby Foot Club is one of the most wonderful examples of this. A safe space, without space. A trans and non-binary group that meets once a week on a Saturday at Sefton Park to have a kick about, and everything that comes with it. It’s one of the few places in Queer Places that was deliberately and solely set up for the purpose of supporting trans and non-binary people living in Merseyside, and a perfect example of what it means to create a safe space.

But something stands out in this exhibition, and the book that accompanies it; the word ‘was’.

Over and over again, we’re talking about safe spaces for LGBTQ+ people in Merseyside as in the past tense. Garlands, gone. The Magic Clock, gone. Jody’s, gone. Sadie’s, gone.
But some sites outlast development. Stanley Street and Eberle Street offered homes to some of those spaces when they lost their buildings. And saw new bars rise up.

So many of those active spaces for activism are gone, mostly due to time. But place isn’t always bricks and mortar. The present and future of Liverpool’s queer places is more hopeful. It’s less about buildings, and more about people supporting people.

And without dwelling on the past and getting mired in mourning, there are outcomes of the Queer Places project that offer an insight into that history. The original Masquerade Club on Clayton Square is being brought back to life through memories, and human histories, so its memory becomes visible.

Similarly, The Magic Clock pub has been recreated as a digital model using the memories of Jo Stanley for reference.

Every fibre of this project is a memory, a history. Re-built where necessary from the people who passionately loved the spaces that helped them to exist. And at the same time, documenting the spaces that exist now, so they’re never lost.

Luke Fawcett proves that there’s no point pushing forward without understanding the past. It’s not about repeating history. It’s about celebrating it and using it to boost what we have. The fact this project engages those existing organisations makes it a really powerful thing. It’s like a network but without the awkwardness because everyone wants to be there.

Liverpool Architecture Festival ran throughout June but, thankfully, Queer Places is open to view at Unit3 Design Studio on Jamacia Street until 30th November this year.

3rd June – 30th November 2024, Unit3 Design Studio
Follow the rogress of Queer Places online at www.queerplaces.co.uk

Words, Kathryn Wainwright

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