For the Queer Joy of it

For the Queer Joy of it

By Alex Thurley-Ratcliff.

Image of Ri Baroche at Art House show by Anita Foxall.


ArtfulScribe, that provoker and promoter of writers and writing in Hampshire and Dorset, recently enticed me into their workshops on Queer Joy.

It’s not a phrase I had heard before; growing up in an era when ‘queer’ was a sneer and a slur and a burr that stuck in my fur… 

See what I did there? This is infectious I warn you. (I didn’t say it was good…)

Anyway, ‘Queer Joy’ was so appealing, so different, felt so wrong, I had to go and find out why it felt so right (shades of Madonna there, darlings). If you are queer, and that’s a wide and gloriously colourful parasol under which many folk strut, then joy might not be the word that springs to mind. Certainly I have had polite arguments with others in the LGBTQIA+ community who cannot stand the word queer – so joy is not always likely for them.

I asked course co-creator, Ri Baroche, who brought their own brand of exuberance to the first full day’s workshop, and they explained:

“I wanted to create a space where queerness could be examined and celebrated from a joyful starting point with local writers. We all know the challenges faced by the LGBTQIA+ community, and that needs to be supported and championed, especially in hard times as we’re in now. But often, not enough is spoken and inquired into about the joy of being who we are, as queer people, as LGBTQIA+ people.

“I’ve denied myself joy in the past because of the way society perceives me. I’ve since made more of a conscious decision to be defined in my life and my work by joy and celebrating my unique, queer perspective on the world.

“This project in collaboration with ArtfulScribe has brought together writers and speakers to ‘enqueer’ into queerness, joy and queer joy, through writing workshops, a podcast series ‘PSST…’ and a live community showcase. I’ve been overjoyed by how it has stirred up discussion, invited whimsy and free-thinking, held space for tender emotions, and positively defined the various incarnations of queerness and joy in our community and beyond.”

Ri is right. Working with writer, actor and performer CJ Turner McMullan, they took us through a day of exploration of the themes of joy – and prompted us to link this to our own concepts of queerness and queer identity. This was an uplifting and insightful experience – getting to connect with our own joy is so important when the world around does not always want to allow us joy. And that’s true for all humans, not just those who are gladly queer. Unsurprisingly, the intersection of poetry, queerness and nature was strong. Nature unashamedly embraces and displays its queerness – humanity does not always do so.

Then, last night we were treated to two hours with Bristol City Poet (2020-22) Caleb Parkin, who took us deeper in, reminding us that queer joy encompasses the camp, the silly, the failed and failing human aspects of us all, the messy, sexy bits and the incomplete as well. Being LGBTQIA+ is a triumph, is a rallying cry, and is, at times, a bloody nuisance. But finding queer joy is a step to a further, deeper, wilder, longer-lasting and more satisfying queer life.

I invite you into it too, whatever your reservations.

If you would like to hear some of the work that has been created through the workshop, some of the writers will be performing their showcase at The Stage Door, Southampton, on Weds 28 June at 7:30pm – pay what you can. Come and celebrate the end of Pride month with a slightly different event.



Ri Baroche

CJ Turner-McMullan

Caleb Parkin

Book Tickets for Stage Door – Live Showcase

PSST… podcast series

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