Cardiff’s first ever Queer Fringe Festival will platform budding LGBTQ+ artists

The festival, set to arrive this summer, aims to create a space that promotes diversity and inclusion across the city. 

The festival will witness plenty of drag and live music.

As he puts on his outfit that transforms him into the entrancing Esther Parade, Luke, believes that there could be a special place for Esther at Cardiff’s first ever Queer Fringe festival.  

“This is an opportunity to recognise queer art rather than art that just happens to be queer. That means that they’ve got an opportunity to unapologetically showcase their queerness through their artistic talents which is always only ever a good thing,” said Luke Hereford, a gender-queer theatre artist who is helping make the Queer Fringe Festival come to life. 

What will be a month-long gala of festivities, the Queer Fringe festival will begin from the 2nd of June, where queer artists will gather across 40 venues in the city to celebrate what queer pride means to them, through performances of drag, music, and dance. 

Theatre artist Luke says that the festival is about redefining what a queer space is.

The festival, which is being organised by Yan White, the owner of The Queer Emporium, will follow a set of guidelines that puts diversity at its forefront, for which Trans Aid Cymru and Glitter Cymru have been consulted. 

These guidelines aim to ensure representation across gender minorities and for people of the global majority.

“The guidelines, hopefully, will become a really good reference point, so then people can take that and use it in other festivals. So then, if they’re following those guidelines, that means that then it’s going to encourage them to create more diversity naturally,” says Yan. 

According to Luke, The Queer Emporium is not about ticking a diversity box. “I think it means that it’s going to be a really important thing in terms of diversity within the arts but also diversity within the queer world which I think is something that we struggle with,” says Luke, who performs most of his gigs at The Queer Emporium. “I think it’s going to be a game-changer really.” 

Yan says that instead of spending money on advertising for pride month, he decided to help the queer community in Cardiff at a grassroots level, which is what led to his decision to organise the festival. 

Yan White hopes to see new artists platformed at the festival.

The Queer Fringe Festival aims to get creative people who are part of the LGBTQ+ community, paid. “It’s a catalyst in an environment to get as many LGBTQ+ artists platformed and paid as we possibly can,” says Yan, who is relying on money from tickets and donations to fund the artists, as the festival is self-funded.  

“There is a queer economy here in Cardiff, and the hope is to keep growing that, just kind of accelerate that through June. There’re loads of artists who get to be platformed for the first time, hopefully then they’ll get more gigs in the future.” 

“There is a real-life crisis that’s happening with energy and rents going up. So, hopefully this also just means that more queer people can survive and thrive in Cardiff,” says Yan. 

Yan believes that the festival will create a better network of spaces for queer people. He says, “I think it is going to be an opportunity for the queer community in Cardiff to show things which haven’t been seen before.”  

The Queer Gala was hosted by The Queer Emporium in Cardiff City Centre.

Luke feels like there aren’t many safe spaces for the queer community in Cardiff that are not night-life oriented, as there is a sober community within the queer community that exists, which is what he believes that The Queer Emporium is doing for the community by being open during the day.  

“I think starting to move away from the association that queer people only exist at nighttime because they don’t, and even the Fringe Festival is part of that, because it’s kind of saying, we are utilising a number of different spaces that maybe, don’t have an association with queerness normally. So, with venues that aren’t normally night-time venues, we might have events during the day, so it’s kind of already starting to open those channels up,” says Luke. 

Luke says that there is discrimination within the community for identifying as genderqueer. He says that The Queer Emporium, and the events that they host encourage people to be themselves. “I think its queerness with a capital Q that runs this space, which is what I love about it,” he says. 

Luke, who has been helping Yan with the setting up of the event, feels like it could be a full-circle moment for him to be able to perform as Esther, for the festival.