The UK’s first Queer Prom makes its Birmingham debut at the iconic Nightingale Club
Dedicated to providing the LGBTQ+ community with the prom night that they always wanted but never had, Queer Prom is a new concept offering the chance to re-address a ‘rite of passage’ for young people. At Queer Prom, everyone - no matter their age, gender, sexuality, race and background - has the chance to rewrite their prom experience and attend an inclusive event designed for them, where they can be who they are and be with who they want to be with, without either fear or discrimination...
Midlands Zone caught up with Queer Prom organiser Vicki Cook to find out more about the event.
Prom - an American tradition that’s become widely recognised here in the UK as a celebration marking the end of senior school - conjures up for many teenagers images of beautiful dresses, prom dates and having a ball with friends. For many in our community, however, it’s a time of sheer dread, the assumption being that we will conform to expectations and conventions that simply don’t suit us. While a few have the confidence to be who they really are at prom, there are a number of students who feel they can’t be true to themselves. They either turn up and have a miserable time or opt out completely.
If you were one of the latter and fancy giving it another go - this time with the freedom to be who you really are - then check out Queer Prom, which is coming to The Nightingale this month following sold-out events in Brighton, London and Bristol.
The person behind the Queer Prom initiative is Brighton-based Vicki Cook (pictured left), who came up with the concept in 2014.
“I was speaking to a group of friends, and we were just having a conversation about our experiences of school and prom. No one I was speaking to had had a positive experience of prom. Most people hadn’t gone because they were afraid to go - either because they felt they couldn’t go as their true self or with their same-gender partner. Some people were trans, but they weren’t out at school, so they didn’t feel comfortable going. We ended up thinking how amazing it would be if there was a queer prom that we could go to. So I decided to make it happen. The first event, back in 2014 for Brighton Pride, was really well received, but I just kind of stepped away from it for a few years. Then I decided to revamp it and bring it back in January 2018, again in Brighton.”
Since then, Queer Prom has returned to Brighton and has also taken place in London and Bristol. As well as its July date in Birmingham, the event will also make its debut in Manchester this August, with other locations across the UK also in the pipeline.
Queer Prom is what it says on the tin - as Vicki explains: “It’s everything you see in a kind of high school ‘American sweetheart’-type prom, except that it’s queered up and made into an accessible and safe space for the LGBTQ community. We’re basically reclaiming prom. I read somewhere that proms were originally set up in America as a way of tackling homosexuality and reinforcing the idea of heterosexual norms. The idea is to take that back and make it queer and inclusive of everyone. It’s basically everything you see in a ’90s rom-com that involves prom, but catering for the queer community. We have queer cabaret, we have drag artists, and every venue we go to we decorate as if it were prom. There’ll be a photobooth where people can get a picture of themselves with their friends or their partners, and they can take that away with them and replace the old prom photo they had back in school that just doesn’t fit with who they are. It looks exactly like prom and how you would imagine a prom to look. Feedback so far has been amazing and very touching.”
Looking forward, Vicki would like to take Queer Prom to smaller or more rural towns that wouldn’t necessarily facilitate the LGBTQ community. Events are currently targeting the 18-plus demographic, but this is something that organisers are looking at, very much recognising the need for under-18s to share the experience as well. Currently the age range of those enjoying Queer Prom extends to people in their 60s and 70s, which Vicki reckons is “probably one of the most diverse audiences that I’ve seen in terms of age range”.
So what sells Queer Prom?
“It’s a way of reclaiming a negative experience that you might have had going to your own prom - or that feeling of wanting to go to a prom but never having access to it. It’s an event where the entire night caters for the queer community. You can come as you want. You can bring who you want. You can be who you are without any judgement or discrimination. You can have the prom experience that you always wanted. You can go and buy a prom dress from a charity shop or just wear exactly what you would’ve wanted to wear when you were in school and wanting to attend prom.”
At the time of going to print, performers confirmed for Queer Prom include Yshee Black, House of Allure, Donna Trump, Romeo De La Cruz, Jada Love & Zayn Phallic.
Queer Prom Birmingham: Summer Ball takes place at the Nightingale Club on Friday 12 July.
Doors open at 7pm and tickets, priced from £8, can be purchased via outsavvy.com
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