Queercircle: Introducing London’s New LGBTQ+ Cultural Hub


Michaela Yearwood-Dan ‘holds the community’ at Queercircle, London’s new LGBTQ+ arts hub

As Queercircle unveils its new cultural center, we spoke to founder and curator Ashley Joiner and artist Michaela Yearwood-Dan about the inaugural exhibit, the importance of queer ‘space’ and how the charity will engage with LGBTQ+ culture

Setting the tone for Queercircle’s new Greenwich home as a safe space for the queer community, Michaela Yearwood-Dan’s site-specific show ‘Let Me Hold You’ invites visitors to pause, think and connect. A wraparound painted mural with cornice seating transformed the center gallery into an immersive sanctuary.

“Curating and creating space with my work, both physically and metaphorically, is something I’ve always been very aware of,” says Yearwood-Dan. “It’s a show that mimics my paintings on canvas, but allows the viewer to sit inside, giving them the opportunity to slow down.”

Her painterly botanical motifs in the large-scale mural reject the concept that LGBTQ+ people are unnatural. Instead, she highlights the interconnectedness of human and non-human experience, exploring what it means to be queer and to love. Quotes from the cult film Paris is burning and repurposed furniture named after LGBTQ+ icons add a wry nod to queer history.

Installation view of ‘Michaela Yearwood-Dan: Let Me Hold You’, at Queercircle, through September 8, 2022 © Deniz Guzel

Sculptural ceramics filled with plants descending from the pillars and functional stools and benches also give the space a welcoming and domestic quality.

“As a queer black person – there are often conversations around safe space, and with queer spaces mostly centered around nightlife, I was very interested in the concept of how a space can really be sure,” says Yearwood-Dan. “Having the opportunity at Queercircle to change the formality of the ‘white-walled gallery’ space, both keeping its integrity and introducing elements of the domestic, is like realizing an ambition of accessibility and of inclusion that I have had for some time.”

Installation view of ‘Michaela Yearwood-Dan: Let Me Hold You’, at Queercircle, through September 8, 2022 © Deniz Guzel

Alongside ‘Let Me Hold You’, Queercircle also unveiled its first archival exhibition ‘The Queen’s Jubilee’. Organized by Ashley Joiner with the creative arm of the Gay Liberation Front led by Stuart Feather, it celebrates the radical drag queens who marched through London in 1972, for the UK’s first-ever Pride.

“Queercircle is very much rooted in what came before it, and we’re building on the momentum created by the people who paved the way before us,” says Joiner. “With our archival broadcasts, we are keen to encourage intergenerational dialogue, empowering community members to tell their own stories.”

Above: Design District Building B4, designed by David Kohn Architects. Photography © Taran Wilkhu. Above: Members of the Gay Liberation Front demonstrating outside Bow Street Magistrates’ Court in 1971, supporting the release of women on trial for protesting the Miss World competition © PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo

Opened to coincide with Pride Month 2022, the two shows kick off Queercircle’s seasonal slate of contemporary exhibitions, archives and artist residencies. The centre’s first year of programming is precisely centered on “ecology”; comes from the Greek word oikos meaning “home” or “dwelling place”, and explores current environmental concerns.

“There are a lot of things we need to move Queercircle forward and a lot of reasons why the center needs to exist,” Joiner says. “With cuts to the arts sector and mental health services, and [with] trans people are attacked by the media and the government, it is important for us to approach issues from a love perspective. We wanted to create a safe celebratory space that retained the community, and the two exhibits are great early examples of this, with many more to come.

Art and social action are intertwined with Queercircle, providing promising insight into its multifaceted engagement with queer culture. This new place provides a much-needed “space” for the LGBTQ+ community and I look forward to seeing it blossom into a place of step change for all of us. §

Installation view of ‘The Queens’ Jubilee’, at Queercircle, through September 8, 2022 © Deniz Guzel


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