For a successful night out I require three things: great company, affordable prices and a venue that will compliment my carefully designed Instagram aesthetic. Exceptions can be made for the second two, but a requirement for any night out is to be alongside the people I hold dearest. An important part of keeping great company is finding spaces that make all of us feel comfortable so I’ve compiled a short list of safe and welcoming spaces and events in Canberra for you and all your female, fluid, queer and male friends.
Looking for dinner and drinks any night of the week …
Tilley’s Devine Café Gallery
First opened in 1984, Tilley’s was created as a safe space for women and in its first two years upheld a policy that banned groups of men who were not accompanied by at least one woman. Although they no longer hold this policy, Tilley’s still focuses on creating a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere for all patrons and is recognised as one of Canberra’s iconic queer venues. If you haven’t yet stepped inside I ensure you’ll be transported from the cold Canberra winter to the glamour of 1920s Hollywood. The décor features old-school wooden booths, red carpeting and gold bars. The centre stage, lined by a wall of mirrors, holds a live jazz band from 7pm every Saturday night. The safe and warm space, the glamour and the $5 glasses of bubbles makes Tilley’s one of my favourite venues – and I’m sure after your first night there it will become one of yours too.
My recommendation: Cowgirl chilli bowl for $18 with a large serving of the $12.50 sweet potato fries is the perfect meal to share between drinks with friends. Both have the option of being made vegan and gluten free and the menu highlights all dairy free, gluten free, vegetarian and vegan option too.
After a chance to get dressed up and see live entertainment …
In March this year I went to my first burlesque show. Intrigued by the promise of glitter and nudity I bought tickets to see a show, but what I didn’t realise was that upon attendance I was entering a world of more than entertainment – I was being welcomed into an exciting and inclusive community. Defined as the art of tease, burlesque is essentially a glamourous striptease with elaborate costumes, stories and characters. What I have been most delighted to see at the many shows I have now attended is a representation of all body types and all genders in not just the performers but the crowd as well. Not only will you see curvy, hairy bodies having fun onstage, but the crowd will be made up of a little bit of everyone – I’ve met wonderful and colourful individuals at every show I have attended. In the words of Sass and Tease: Burlesque creates a safe and comfortable experience for everyone, regardless of gender, age, sexual orientation, ability, physical appearance, body size, race, or religion (or lack thereof).
Dress code: The general attitude is that anything goes, from corsets and ball gowns to a 70s style all-purple jumpsuit. Burlesque gives you the opportunity to really glam and glitter up, or to just come along after a long day in the office. Many shows have a prize for best dressed so take the opportunity to get an incredible look together, take a risk and express yourself.
Upcoming show: The Bewitched Variety show will be a Treehouse on 27 – 28 July. To grab tickets and keep an eye on upcoming shows (and even classes), check out the following pages: @SassAndTeaseCollective, @bewitchedvarietyshow, @Miss.Kitkas.HOB, @jazidaburlesque and @VMintBurlesqueAU.
Craving a boogie and the opportunity to meet some like-minded friends …
Gay cliché is a dance event specifically aimed at the LGBTIQ community and its allies that runs at Transit Bar once every couple of months. Not only is this a safe space for queer people in Canberra to celebrate together, but after each evening 50 per cent of the night’s profits go to a different locally-based organisation. This is the perfect opportunity to have a drink, a dance and meet some exciting like-minded people. Transit Bar is located at the far end of the city, which also means you’re not squished between all the usual clubs and traffic of a Saturday night in the city. The guideline for these parties is that no homophobia, transphobia, sexism, racism or general dickhead-like behaviour will be tolerated. There is also a strongly enforced policy that encourages attendees to speak to staff if anyone is making them uncomfortable – if necessary the staff will happily remove individuals from the venue. Plus, if you’re heading out for a big night and you need a quick change of venue – or just have a craving for the spilt-drink soaked floors of downstairs Moose – the rest of Canberra’s clubs are just a short walk away.
Can’t find a space that is quite right for you …
Creating a special night in your own space is severely underrated! I’m a big fan of organising a Ladies Night In so my girlfriends can get together and drink wine with endless platters of chips and dips, fruit and home baked sweets. With a little bit of planning – or a lot if you’re like me and thrive off hosting – a quick fruit platter, playlist, punch, a couple paper plates and matching napkins can transform your lounge room into the perfect night in for those closest to you. We often forget that it’s the company that makes a great night – if you can’t find the right space for you, create your own safe space.