Proud West End

Proud West End
Wednesday 28 June 2023 to Sunday 16 July 2023
Venue: Old Quebec Street, London, W1

Ground-breaking audio-visual art exhibition Proud West End is now running on Old Quebec Street in London.

The exhibition champions the West End’s LGBTQIA+ voices and is timed for London’s Pride celebrations.

Curated in partnership with Heard Storytelling and Oxford Street, Proud West End forms part of the city’s celebrations in the lead up to London Pride.

This exhibition of ‘Living Portraits’ allows visitors to immerse themselves in the lived experiences of fifteen individuals who have shared their true spoken, candid and personal stories of being part of the West End’s LGTBQIA+ community, exploring what proud means to them.

The free, on-street exhibition comprises installations of beautiful, large-scale portraits of Proud West End’s storytellers and their spoken stories can be accessed via scanning a QR code on listeners’ mobile phones located next to the portrait.

Visitors can hear an eclectic array of inspiring, moving and vulnerable stories from the likes of iconic drag queen Divina de Campo (They/She/He), a RuPaul’s Drag Race UK finalist and part of the Society of London Theatre, who has shared their story of never giving up the dream of one day being on the West End.

Willem (He/Him), the Global Flagship Talent Lead at Superdry on Oxford Street, opens up about his difficult childhood in America, where he grew up in a Christian family and endured bullying at school, reflecting on the perceptions of being queer in the 1970’s saying “It was against the law and it was definitely against the church, so this was not something I could speak to my mother about… this was completely just on me.” When his family moved and he changed schools he joined a drama class which changed his life, leading him to finally find his people and feel truly seen for the first time. Now living in London, he is an advocate for equality in his own workplace.

Lily (She/Her), founder Queer Brewing Project, delves into her inspiring journey to becoming a business owner of the London queer and trans-owned brewery. She speaks about releasing one of her first beers with Marble and the pivotal moment she received a message from someone who had kept the empty can on his nightstand because seeing the words ‘queer’ and ‘trans’ on a beer label meant so much to him. It was one of the first time those words had appeared on beer branding in the UK and inspired Lily to pursue the change she wanted to see within the industry.

Anthony (He/Him) from Primark on Oxford Street, reflects on the challenges he faced growing up in Tottenham and his feelings of loneliness and neglect. He shares his vulnerable story of coming out to his best friend in high school and the fear he felt yet how in that moment he felt seen and understood for the first time, saying “It felt so real, it felt good to have somebody understand how I’m feeling in that moment… that felt amazing.”

Other storytellers include Toby (He/Him) from Selfridges on Oxford Street who shares how he grew up in Hong Kong and feared coming out to his family because of their deep culture in not disappointing or bringing shame on the family, and how he now lives and thrives in London working for Selfridges. Jason (He/Him) from Swingers on Oxford Street, delves into living as a twin brother and a pivotal moment that set him on a mission to live his truth and to live ‘proud’. And Botsang (He/Him) talks about his favourite bar just off Oxford Street and memories and friendships that formed there as his friendship group navigated life in their 20’s in London.

The exhibition, running until 16 July, has been brought to life just off Oxford Street on Old Quebec Street, also home to the City of Quebec, one of the oldest gay pubs in London.


📷 Main photo: Proud West End 2023. Photo by Jonathan Hordle PA Media

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