Rathaus co-founder Michal Mencnarowski conducted a study on Dublin’s queer nightlife to better understand the factors that contribute to a sense of community at these events, as well as to identify necessary safety precautions and propose strategies for creating more inclusive environments.

Words: Michal Mencnarowski

By analyzing the experiences and opinions of attendees, the study sought to provide insights that could serve as a blueprint for improving nightlife experiences and to emphasize the need for governmental support to protect these vital spaces from further closures. This research underscores the crucial role queer club nights play in the lives of many and advocates for their recognition as cultural hubs in Dublin.

While queer clubs and bars provide entertainment, throughout the years they acted and still act as an escape for many queer people. They are a result of oppression and the root of them is not entertainment which makes me argue that in today’s society, while attitudes toward the queer community are a lot more progressive, they are still more than entertainment spaces – many of them still carry their protest ethos and provide a safe space for minority groups within the LGBTQ+ community.

Many queer people mask their identities while growing up for survival, however, when they enter a club full of like-minded and queer people, expressing themselves with their outfits and dance moves, this can be inspiring and push others to do the same through observation.

Throughout history, queer people of colour played a pivotal role in shaping electronic music, especially black and Latino queer artists in the 1980s in Chicago for House music and in the 1990s in Detroit for techno music. While we cannot say queer people own electronic music, we can trace its roots to the LGBTQ+ community (Orejuela and Shonekan, Black Lives Matter and Music.)

The German government recognises that clubs serve as spaces for artistic expression, community building, and identity exploration rather than just entertainment. By looking at Berlin as a model, we might get valuable insights as to how the Irish night-time economy could work.

A total of 100 respondents participated in the survey, the sample consisted of individuals who have attended queer club nights in Dublin and identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community to get an accurate representation of queer people’s opinions of these nights.

Following a thematic analysis of the interviews, the main themes were generated: Community, Culture and Safety. The interview backed up the results from the survey and highlighted how community-focused the operations of a queer party are.

Emma Murphy who is the co-founder of Honeypot, a lesbian club night ‘Founded in order to fill a void for gay women in Dublin’s nightlife scene, HONEYPOT’s playful approach, support for local talent and genuine sense of community has made it one of Ireland’s most crucial club nights’ (Mixmag) was interviewed to provide an insider perspective on the significance of queer club nights.

Emma expressed that her club night goes beyond entertainment. From the very start they identified as a ‘club night and community’ which gives a platform to underrepresented artists through their bookings and activities such as free DJ lessons. Their events are attended by a loyal group of regulars, with many of them having met their partners at Honeypot.

By implementing a collaborative approach, Honeypot has created a space which celebrates queer culture. They book not only DJs but also queer photographers and visual artists, involving as many people as they can. It creates a welcoming atmosphere where people are free to express themselves

A time where they can kind of let loose I think and people do let loose I mean I wear stuff in the club that I don’t wear outside”.

The data from the interview backs up the findings from the survey which stressed the importance of safety in a club setting. Honeypot is a great example of the proactive measures that have to be taken by club promoters to create a safe space including policies and educating door staff’

We arrive early and just to kind of brief the security and we haven’t had a problem yet.”

When asked what safety means in terms of clubbing these were the main themes – Freedom of Self-Expression, Protection from Harassment and Discrimination and Policies and Staff Support.

Overall, most attendees feel like people look out for each other and the visibility of organisers plays a big role in this. Those who responded with ‘no’ shared some mixed opinions including the variability of venues/promoters and incidents of assault and racism/ageism.

The theme of recurring and reliable spaces was strongly in the foreground when club night participants were asked to reflect on what makes them act as community hubs. Participants highlighted the importance of these events in providing continuity within the queer community.

“The club nights provide visibility of the queer community and continuity as the same people often attend each event, creating a sense that there is a hub for queer people.”

“I feel myself growing a bond with these nights and the people who attend. It’s a great feeling to know that you are recognized as an active member of your community.”

Many respondents highlight the importance of having clear policies in place to ensure safety, as well as supportive and attentive staff who prioritize attendees’ wellbeing. Many queer club nights have strict policies in place which attendees seem to appreciate. The sense of security at these events is the fourth key issue that makes people view queer club nights as community hubs.

The implementation of a zero-tolerance policy against discrimination and any kind of harassment has been highly regarded by participants, showing a commitment to creating a welcoming and friendly environment for the LGBTQ+ community. It appears that attendees automatically feel a sense of comfort going to club nights that have these policies in place as they naturally discourage people who might not have the same beliefs from entering. While this is based on assumption, it seems to improve the attendee’s sense of safety. 

Many participants underscored the significance of being able to express themselves without the fear of being judged or discriminated against. This consists of having the freedom to express their gender identity, dress in a manner that aligns with their identity, and engage in affectionate displays with same-sex partners.

“The shared sense of expression. I feel like a lot of people I see on queer nights out dress and act in a way that is very expressive and perhaps a more open version of themselves as opposed to how they would act in a heteronormative environment.”

It is evident that queer club nights in Dublin are more than just entertainment spaces; they serve as essential community hubs for the LGBTQ+ population, with 92.9% of respondents affirming their importance. This research highlights their role as safe spaces for self-expression, relationship-building, and community support. However, challenges like racial exclusion, ageism, and harassment must be addressed to ensure inclusivity and safety for all.

Survey results showed that the main reason queer people go to these nights is to socialise (94%) followed by dancing (87%), escapism (50%), and cultural (36%). This is the first indication we have to establish these club nights as third spaces for the LGBTQ+ community in Dublin, as they are places outside of their home and work where they can go to, enjoy themselves and socialise.

Promoters can improve the experience by employing awareness staff, following up on incidents, making themselves visible on the night, setting clear rules, and imposing anti-hate policies. With many clubs closing since 2000, the Irish government must protect these cultural spaces, possibly by adopting Berlin’s model of recognizing nightclubs as cultural institutions.

If you want to read more: Michal’s full dissertation is available here.

No more articles

We use cookies to monitor usage on our site. Your information will never be shared! read more

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.