Queer Picnic, Alternative Pride

While the Pride Parade is a succession of rainbow flags and Stonewall as an organisation focus on gay/lesbian rights, the origin of both was the Stonewall riots. A quick history lesson can be easily googled, but the rioters were mostly trans women and drag queens, and there are four letters in LGBT (and that still doesn’t cover everyone).

Torn between wanting to celebrate the successes and not wanting to stand in a parade where that isn’t really recognised and diversity is sorely lacking, I went to an event called Queer Picnic in Burgess Park in Southwark.

“Can you say that word?” I hear you gasp. Yes, for one thing it applies to me. It’s also becoming a more and more acceptable umbrella word for those who are comfortable using it, as used in the word genderqueer, the phrase Gender Studies and it’s use in LGBTQ. It’s also used more politically, in a way that can be summed up by the t shirt slogan “Not gay as in happy, queer as in fuck you”.

With activism banners and a deliberate effort to encourage diversity, the Queer Picnic was exactly what I wanted. It was publicised as a space for people of colour and trans people of all genders, and as including alcohol-free areas and food-and-drink-free areas for those fasting. The accessibility of the area was also noted, and various helper dogs, wheelchairs and crutches were visible, with disability and medication discussions casually had.

As for the picnic aspect, food was shared and people went from group to group, reading name tags and swapping contact details. Having been to the official Pride Parade last year and spoken only with my own friends all day, it was an event with much more of a community feeling for me.

If you went to the Queer Picnic, I hope you had as good experience as I did; you might have seen me, I was wearing a rainbow flag as a cape. If you didn’t, I’ll definitely be going back next year and I would definitely recommend it!

Bar Soho’s Rude Staff Drove Bride-to-Be to Tears

On Saturday 13th June, I went to a hen party at Bar Soho; unfortunately, our treatment by the staff ended with the bride crying as she felt her night was ruined.

Two months prior, we had booked a table for 11 with a pitcher, shots, and table snacks. When we arrived, we were given a booth table for 6 – when we pointed out we were a group of 11 and asked for a bigger table, we were insincerely told by the manager that we were the smallest group that night, that they were booked up, and that there was nothing she could do despite the other tables which had not been reserved.

We asked for extra chairs and were given one. We asked if there were other chairs we could have, even if they were too short for the table. They told us they would not get us any more chairs. Later, a server told us that towards the end of the night, they would clear the unreserved tables and chairs, and they would see what they could do, but when that happened we were the first table to be asked to give them the chairs to be put away.

Once our pre-ordered pitcher arrived and we were given 11 glasses and 11 shots, it was less than a minute before another server came over to the table and tried to take our ‘empty’ glasses – the ones we had not even had a chance to pour drinks into. Servers came over to ask us for empty glasses every other minute for the rest of the night.

In an incident that definitely ruined the night for me, I went to buy 2 glasses of wine. It was happy hour, which is advertised as half-priced drinks for 2 hours, but I asked if wine was covered before I ordered. I was told yes, but when I asked for 2 glasses of wine that cost £5.75, I was charged £7.00. I questioned this and was told that, no, actually that was half price.

I talked the server through the math, and she got her manager, who told me the same and I repeated the math. She told me that only bottles of wine were half price, which was on the receipt, but isn’t advertised anywhere else, meaning there is no way to find that out before buying a drink. She then patronisingly told me that £7 was “more than 40% off, anyway” (by 10p

) as if I was being highly unreasonable to be upset that I was charged £1.25 more than the advertising implied, if not stated.

What was most unpleasant about all this, and what ruined the night for me, was the way the server and the bar manager talked to each about me not 2 foot away. Despite my obvious male presentation at a supposedly LGB*T* bar, they repeated used she/her pronouns for me.

After this, our pre-ordered snack arrived, but we were only give one 4-person platter, so there was barely enough for everyone to have something. It was also very bad quality – the garlic bread tasted literally like cardboard, the onion rings and calamari (which were next to each other) were both soggy, and both dips were room temperature, which wasn’t unbearable for the barbeque sauce but made the sour cream inedible.

Overall, the staff were unfriendly and impolite, and their behaviour made us feel like we had gone to someone’s house and expected them to act as servers. Having not seen one smile, I asked one of the door security staff if he enjoyed his job. He immediately said, “Why, are you offering me a job?” in a jokey tone, but followed that up by admitting that he only worked there for the money.

The bride-to-be was driven to tears by the way the staff treated us and the way they spoke to her. She said she felt that her night was ruined, and because it was her hen party it was a one-off event that she was never going to be able to fix.