Hannah Quinlan and Rosie Hastings: UK Gay Bar Directory

Hannah Quinlan and Rosie Hastings: UK Gay Bar Directory

As part of their solo exhibition In My Room, Hannah Quinlan and Rosie Hastings have compiled a playlist of songs from their work the UK Gay Bar Directory, 2016, to be listened on Spotify. 

Music compilation: Jan Piasecki

Here, the artists explain the socio-political context of this work and relevance today.

"We made the UK Gay Bar Directory, a moving image archive of gay bars in the UK, in 2016. In the last year or so we have revisited this work as primary research material, revisiting one of the venues that features in the directory – Bar Jester in Birmingham – used as a filming location for In My Room three weeks after its untimely closure. We made the UKGBD in response to rapid gay bar closures. It was a cultural landscape dominated by conservative austerity, a decline in the quality of life, the dismantling of state infrastructure and the gentrification of urban space against a backdrop of an increasingly far-right political rhetoric heralded by the Brexit referendum.

The pandemic has created similar conditions to those of 2016: a new wave of recession, mass unemployment and increased poverty. The recession heralds a renewed threat to gay villages that struggled long before the pandemic began to lay waste to small businesses. A “culture war” has been reignited in an attempt to divert from the many failings in dealing with the pandemic leading to a sharp increase in racist and anti-trans rhetoric both in government and the media, with devastating consequences.

The UKGBD takes on new meaning under these altered circumstances. The film shows us venues set up for a party but empty of people. It is not hard to imagine gay bars all over the country waiting for the party to start again. This time however, we have lost people in our communities, and vital rights are under scrutiny in a dangerous “culture war”. The lights are off and there is no music. Despite this, when gathering the music from the UKGBD to share with people stuck at home and isolated from their communities, we were struck by the optimism and joy of gay bar music. The playlist is a time- machine. When we listen we can touch the sticky surfaces of the gay bar, smell the sickly scent of spilt drinks and feel the press of bodies.”