By Kathryn Pierce (MEnt Arts and Cultural Management, ICP, 2018)
Marginalised LGBTQ+ people find community and connection through shared spaces and hidden networks, navigating existing heteronormative cultures and norms. These places (physical and virtual) are where we find chosen family, a sense of belonging and home.
June is Pride month, when LGBTQ+ flags fly throughout most of the developed world (with a few notable exceptions), and where rainbow communities and role models are acknowledged and celebrated. It is also an important place to reflect and remember the high price of societal exclusion, and a reminder that the majority of LGBTQ+ people continue to experience discrimination and hate in many aspects of their everyday lives.
This year, while all the global Prides are affected by the coronavirus pandemic, Sen Raj, Amnesty International’s Rainbow Network committee member has this week said: “COVID-19 won’t stop us celebrating LGBT+ rights. This year, Pride will be inside – in our homes and in our hearts.”
Safe spaces and the power of partnerships
Academic research also has a role to play in our homes and our hearts, as a vital mechanism for social justice and inclusion, a safe space for representation, enquiry, exploration and visibility. Universities are transitional and liminal spaces where ideas and identities are formed before entering the world of work, a place where most LGBTQ+ discrimination and stigma continue to occur.
My LGBTQ+ social enterprise, Somewhere is also about creating a new kind of place for people in the LGBTQ+ community, with particular focus on cultural and enterprise spheres. As a research-led organisation, since launching in Edinburgh in 2018, we are now in our second year of the Somewhere MBA LGBT+ Scholarship in partnership with the University of Edinburgh Business School (inspired by my Masters research findings, and launched by the Princess Royal in 2019) and we currently have a doctoral researcher intern with us from the University of Glasgow, developing on our Somewhere at the Fringe project and impact, ready for August 2021. Our annual Guide supports the 5% of shows at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe which are LGBTQ+, creating space for queer performers to be fully represented and promoted, and a way for budding and established writers from the LGBTQ+ community to get involved as volunteers.
There’s a time for us – it’s now
In collaboration with the Department of Geography at the School of Geosciences at the University of Edinburgh, we are particularly excited about our brand new Collaborative Doctoral Award, Cultural Geographies of LGBTQ+ Entrepreneurship in Scotland, funded by SGSAH, which will further develop our cultural place-making mission and support Somewhere’s strategic direction. By focusing in on cultural places, both in existing physical locations but also in networks of connection and practice, we will gain further understanding and a means of curating a new typology of LGBTQ+ spaces (temporary and permanent), their ownership, organisation and consumption. This will help us explore and acknowledge in depth how queer communities build and thrive through connection and connectedness, the central core of Somewhere’s place and purpose.
This research will examine how space and place creation is vital to queer life, helping reduce social isolation, increase wellbeing and facilitate cultural heritage and diverse identities; and how a lack of these vital ‘third spaces’ further marginalises communities, as invisibility feeds shame, creating closeted and inauthentic lives, with poor mental health outcomes and unrealised potential.
Be proud, be you
Out and proud, and a passionate proponent of entrepreneurship as agency, Somewhere stands for creating space for self-determination to pursue an authentic, visible life out with traditional heteronormative cultures and expectations.
If this also sounds like a place for you, then hurry up and apply, the CDA deadline is 15 June, for an October 2020 start
Between 2015 and 2017, as part of her Master of Enterprise (MEnt) Arts and Cultural Management research at the ICP, Kathryn Pierce began the process of creating a new type of changemaking organisation, a positive, creative, arts-activism-inspired social enterprise, with a mission to champion the LGBTQ+ community. A place for the community, outside the traditional health-orientated charity framework and the volunteer-led community group models, a new type of networked enterprise, with a fifth bottom line: People, planet, place, purpose and profit,* and by taking its name from the West Side Story song, Somewhere was born.
The impetus for Kathryn’s MEnt primary research came, she says, from the sizeable gap in UK-based academic research offering insight into the experience of becoming a minority entrepreneur from the queer community. Kathryn found, in fact, few studies existed at all, at that time less than 10 in total, and none which engaged or represented a spectrum of LGBTQ+ enterprise community voices. This played a key part in her decision to embed research into Somewhere as a principal element of its purpose and impact. She did notice however that nearly all the studies were linked to universities in Scotland, which subsequently formed part of her decision to move north to Edinburgh.
*though as a Community Interest Company, we don’t make profits, we make surpluses.