New ways of celebrating Pride

This Pride month, Luchia Robinson talks to Niranjan Kamatkar, the Artistic Director of Wise Thoughts

On the other side of quarantine, is the rainbow – the Rainbow Hub, that is – a safe, chillout space for LGBTQI+ people in Haringey to meet.

Niranjan Kamatkar, Artistic Director of Wise Thoughts, (a leading LGBTQI+ and BAME arts charity based in the borough), is looking forward to the hub and what it represents –better well-being in a physical meeting space.

Speaking of the quarantine experience, Niranjan said: “It’s not clear, in terms of how long all of this will last, and how future activities will take shape, so in that sense the uncertainty is challenging.

“Overall, I think LGBTQI+ people in Haringey are trying to cope well, but at the same time it’s a stressful time dealing with individual, specific needs – generally everybody is facing uncertainty in the same fashion.”

Wise Thoughts operates out of a work space in Wood Green Library, (and also with a meeting hub at Sophia House in Antill Road N15), providing arts activities, advice, support, weekly drop-in services and opportunities for Haringey’s LGBTQI+ communities to express themselves.

These services moved online with the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, and the charity’s twice weekly virtual drop-ins have been vital in providing ways for local LGBTQI+ community members to keep in touch throughout the quarantine period.

There has been an increase of people seeking one-to-one advice services since social distancing measures were mandated, and the average working day at Wise Thoughts now stretches from 6.00am to past 9.00pm most evenings to meet the demand.

Niranjan believes there’s a number of reasons for this, but finds they often include a mix of anxiety about lockdown (for specific, individual reasons), and people’s desire to keep in touch with one another.

He said: “If you are isolated in your home as a single individual, you need to have that human connection and contact, and the best person who you can rely upon would be a member of your community.”

Studies show that people identifying as LGBTQI+ are at risk of experiencing poor mental health, with members of the community more likely to face problems such as self-harm, depression, suicidal thoughts, and alcohol and substance misuse. These health concerns can often be attributed to a variety of factors, including incidences of isolation, homophobia and discrimination.

Whilst the lifting of the coronavirus social distancing measures, which have kept people in their homes over the past few months has begun, a full return to pre-COVID-19 living is still uncertain and not quite guaranteed.

For Niranjan, lockdown has ushered in what he describes as ‘new modified ways of working,’ and with this in mind, plans to host an online Pride event are currently in the works for Wise Thoughts.

“People are celebrating elements of Pride – it’s not exactly Pride as it has traditionally taken place in the past, but people are still being a part of that Pride process online via social media, and by volunteering for a number of good, local initiatives. There are lots of Facebook and Whatsapp groups spreading knowledge and information as is needed,” says Niranjan.

“That’s where Pride can be best celebrated, with LGBTQI+ communities being at the forefront of developing local help and support programmes.”

“Pride is important in terms of visibility, and that visibility addresses specific needs individuals may have. If you have a proud visibility around Haringey or in Tottenham, you’ll [likely] have your voices heard and your needs met with your local councillors or local community members – and your participation in local society is much more rewarding in that sense.”

For more information about the virtual drop-ins:
Visit wisethoughts.org

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