Creating SanQtuary with Camille Barton

As Pride draws to a close, we thought we’d take stock and talk to the mind behind Shambala’s dedicated queer clubhouse The SanQtuary. Camille is the curator of The SanQtuary, and the director of Collective Liberation Project.

last year was The sanqtuary’s first year at shambala – can you explain a bit about what inspires the venue you create?

The SanQtuary is inspired by many things. First and foremost, it is a dedication to and celebration of, the Queer ancestors who fought so hard to allow us to exist as we do in this current time. This Pride season marks the 50th anniversary of the StoneWall riots so it’s an important time to acknowledge that the first pride was actually a riot, instigated by a Black Trans Woman called Marsha P Johnson. I have so much gratitude for the Black and POGM (people of the global majority – aka POC/BAME) LGBTQIA+ ancestors who struggled and loved fiercely to win us the rights that we enjoy now, and take for granted in some parts of the world.

Unfortunately, many in the LGBTQIA+ community do not know Marsha’s name or legacy and many other QTIPOC (Queer, Trans, Intersex, People of Colour) have been invisiblised and unacknowledged in mainstream Queer history. The SanQtuatry seeks to celebrate the stories of our QTIPOC ancestors and their allies, elevate their legacy and carry the baton from them, to continue loving the Queer community, healing and struggling to ensure that we can live full lives which allow us to thrive rather than simply survive.

We welcome all people in the space but by prioritising the needs of the most marginalised, we are all taken care of.

The SanQtuary also represents the inclusive, Queer space I would have loved to find as a younger person at festivals in the UK. My parents took my brothers and I to music festivals as children and those experiences really shaped a huge part of my being. However, in the festival context I never felt truly seen, in a way that celebrated all of my intersections: my Blackness, Queerness, Sci-Fi Alienness, Neurodivergence and love of healing through bass music, clowning and rave. I hope that other QTIPOC, LGBTQIA+ folks, people of the global majority, disabled folks, those with neurodivergence and other marginalised intersections, feel seen, celebrated and welcome in the SanQtuary. We welcome all people in the space but by prioritising the needs of the most marginalised, we are all taken care of.

describe your venue in five words

Juicy. Pleasure. Activism. Harm Reduction

the sanqtuary is invested in creating an intersectional and intergenerational space – could you speak to that a bit?

The SanQtuary is inspired by intersectional feminism and is designed with that framework in mind. Intersectionality is a term coined by Kimberle Crenshaw that describes the overlapping social identities we all have and how these cannot be separated from one another, especially in the experience of marginalised groups who often experience multiple sites of discrimination. Social identities we carry or identify with, can include race, gender, sexual orientation, age, ability, nationality and many others. Using myself as an example, my being Queer and non binary cannot be separated from my being Black or growing up middle class, in North London. All of these aspects of my identity are connected and afford me privilege in certain contexts and also result in me experiencing discrimination in other contexts.

We need intersectional Queer spaces because racism, transphobia, abelism and other forms of oppression are still an issue in the LGBTQIA+ community, which mirrors the dominant culture we live in, but is unaddressed in both.

I feel that we need intersectional Queer spaces because racism, transphobia, abelism and other forms of oppression are still an issue in the LGBTQIA+ community, which mirrors the dominant culture we live in, but is unaddressed in both. As a society we have a lot of work to do in order to heal these wounds and work towards collective liberation. At the SanQtuary we are committed to creating a loving, inclusive safe(r) space, free from all forms of racism, homophobia, transphobia, harassment, abelism, classism, ageism and other forms of oppression. Our safe(r) spaces policy is compassionately upheld by SanQtuary guardians to address any behaviour that causes harm to other bodies, even if it is unintentional.

We are all in our learning process, but in our current times, we are encouraging folks to take a stand, lean into discomfort and learn how to truly be in solidarity with each other on an embodied level. It is not enough to simply think we’re not racist/sexist/homophobic etc, we must learn to demonstrate this in action. The SanQtuary aims to provide a space to learn how to better demonstrate care and respect for all bodies and address the harms that have been done through the legacy of colonialism, that has affected us all in different ways. If you want to read more about any of these areas of interest, check out our intersectional library over a cup of herbal tea!

What is the thinking/philosophy/ethos behind the venue and its programming?

Science Fiction is a big inspiration. Like many Afrofuturists, I believe that we need to expand our imaginations and dream the future we would like to see into existence. Octavia Butler and Adrienne Maree Brown are two inspirations in my life that they have actively got me questioning, what is my Utopia / Queertopia? What is the most liberated and free future I can imagine for myself and my community? What are the next most elegant steps I need to take in order to get closer to those futures? The programming aims to give us some bread crumbs in that direction by providing strategies to generate healing, connection, mutual support and pleasure activism that allow us to build strong movements in the world.

Harm Reduction also informs my thinking. The Queer community in the UK still faces many challenges such as disproportionate rates of mental ill health, physical violence, unemployment, homelessness, substance use and other issues. I am interested in how we share tools on a community level to reduce harm, increase healing and mutual care. One of our harm reduction strategies involves not serving alcohol this year. We will serve yummy medicinal, herbal teas instead and some other non alcoholic delights!

tell us a bit about the amazing structure you are homed in

The space was lovingly created by our community, and made from an old Nissen Hut. Nissen Huts were temporary structures commonly used during WW2. I think it’s beautiful that the SanQtuary has transformed a space originally used to serve war, into a space for healing. It also has a gorgeous wood burner so it stays warm and toasty at night.

 

do you have a favourite moment from your inaugural year?

Yes- this moment made it all worthwhile. A Black teenage trans man and his parents came into the space by accident- they didn’t know about us in advance. I invited them to sit by the woodburner and made them a pot of tea. We had a great talk about community services and art projects for young QTIPOC folks in London. I left them to chill and continue talking. Before leaving, the parents said that they ended up having a really vulnerable conversation about gender which they hadn’t been able to do before. That one moment was magick and felt like the fulfilment of the space.

what lasting memory do you hope will stay with people who visit the sanqtuary?

A feeling of being held in a container of good smells, good vibes, full power dancing, connection and an opportunity to explore yourself, as well as others.

what highlights do you have in store for us this year?

We have a daily heart circle for the LGBTQIA+ community to share anything that is coming up for them. This is an attempt to have a more intimate and connected space for Queer folks to meet daily at Shambala. On Saturday Tami Pein of Equaliser in Leeds, will be leading a DJ workshop (for womxn, trans and non binary folks). When night falls we have an epic line up of Queer DJs for our dance party. We will close the space on Sunday with a fantastically, weird performance night, “Queerberet”, followed by a live music set by YaYa Bones. I’m also super excited for our harm reduction session on Sunday at 4.30pm called, Sex, drugs and raves: Strategies for harm reduction in the Queer community.” We have a great programme this year, so make sure to check out our full offerings. 

More details of The SanQtuary’s programming this year can be found in our App and programme.
Check out the venue’s dedicated Instagram and Facebook for all emerging details.
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