Down for Wotever – We get the lowdown on queer cabaret night, Bar Wotever!

Bar Wotever is London’s pioneering queer cabaret and community night, resident at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, that showcases a refreshingly rich variety of cabaret and performance art.

As they prepare to head into their 13th year, Jason Reid caught up with Bar Wotever manager, Lysander Dove, and host for January, Lasana Shabazz… 

Hey Lysander, how has it been going since you became manager of Bar Wotever last year? 

Things have been going well! I’m lucky to manage a night that has been running successfully for nearly 13 years, but has always been open to evolving. We have a number of regular audience members and new people joining us every week. Having the RVT as our venue is a real positive. It has a great tech and stage set-up, a beautiful layout, as well as its historical importance, of course.

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I also happen to love my work. Each week is always surprising, entertaining and a delight, both in terms of acts and audience.

What’s been the most challenging aspect of the job so far? 

Scheduling all the performers I’d like to have on within our timescale and budget. There’s so much creativity and talent on the LGBTIQ performance scene. We’re a popular night with performers, as our audiences are lovely, and we run the night professionally, so I get a lot of requests from acts to perform. And, being a weekly event, making sure we have a good number of people coming through the door each week!

And the most satisfying?

It’s hard to pinpoint one thing. Being able to give different acts the chance to perform in front of an appreciative audience each week, and to offer new and regular audience members a night that is known for its friendliness and welcoming atmosphere. On top of that, they get entertained by some of the best acts on the queer performance scene. Yeah, that’s satisfying.

Something that always stands out at Bar Wotever is the variety. How do you determine the line-up? 

I think it’s important to have as wide a range of performance styles and performers as we can. It’s important for the audience to see folks like themselves on stage. For them to see different genres of performance, which, hopefully, will then expand what types of acts they go to see in the future. I think Bar Wotever’s stage is where eclectic genres can find an outlet. We actively seek out and promote acts that are underrepresented on the scene. Plus, I think it’s important that different acts, in different fields, get to perform together and see each other’s work, which they always seem to appreciate.

Bar Wotever also prides itself on its inclusivity, and recently there’s been some lively discussion around gender and preferred pronouns. How would you sum up defining as non-binary to the average Karen? 

We are a beautifully diverse community and we should celebrate that. We are also an ever-evolving community, as our understanding of ourselves and others change. This is especially so, as regards to gender.

Do you have any helpful advice regarding etiquette? 

Always ask what someone’s pronouns are instead of presuming. It’s easier and more polite and means you are less likely to get it wrong and cause offence. If someone’s non-binary and uses they/them pronouns, respect that. It’s really easy to use those pronouns, as everyone has been using them since forever anyway, even if it’s been unconsciously. If you get someone’s pronouns wrong, apologise and correct yourself and make sure you don’t keep doing so! We all make mistakes, so an apology and learning from your mistake is good. And, please, have some empathy as well. 

Lasana Shabazz

My first time at Bar Wotever was as a performer and I’d never performed in such a warm and loving environment within our community. Bar Wotever is about community and every element of it, which is why I love it.

There’s no judgement, no bravado or cliques – which you normally find in gay spaces masquerading as queer spaces. Queer has become the new fashionable term but Bar Wotever embodies what queer really is: love and family.

I’m guest hosting throughout January and you can expect an immersive and entertaining journey which will have you leaving RVT refreshed, reflective and ready to get through the week.

Bar Wotever is every Tuesday from 7pm at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern.

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