As the cooperatively owned nightclub Bonjour faces the threat of closure, its workers explore why the venue is such a vital space on Glasgow’s queer scene
For vast swathes of people, the humble night out is an escape – the chance, for a few hallowed hours, to leave the real world and lose oneself in the dark recesses of a nightclub. But for many queer people, the club takes on a higher meaning, a space of unbridled freedom, sexual epiphany or tender community. In the face of persecution or ostracisation, it’s often one of the first places young, queer people gravitate towards, and for this reason, it holds a special place in the community’s heart.
One such space is Bonjour, located in Glasgow’s city centre on the Saltmarket thoroughfare. Since its doors opened in 2021, the cooperatively owned, collaboratively managed community space has become a beacon of the city’s queer scene, prioritising underrepresented groups in the LGBTQ+ community such as POC, queer women, trans and non-binary people, sex workers and queer people with disabilities. Despite their community-focused efforts, Bonjour has recently come under threat of closure, hit by skyrocketing energy prices and a worsening cost-of-living crisis.
In the face of these troubles, Bonjour has established a fundraising campaign in order to carry on their vital work. When I spoke to the Bonjour collective, they told me that the venue is a space “where [queer people] can feel that their right to organise, socialise and celebrate is valued and prioritised over profit”, and so the fundraiser allows them to continue on with this mission statement. Rather than a one-off sum, donors are invited to become a part of the Bonjour world, with packages including club membership, zines and even a cocktail recipe book. Even when raising funds for their continued operation, the collective are committed to fostering a sense of community.
This sense of community is, without a doubt, the founding principle of the Bonjour experience. The collective recognised that “there was a need for a genuinely intersectional queer space in Glasgow”, and responded accordingly. In 2022 they received funding from the public body Creative Scotland which they used to support club nights “run by and for individuals who lack representation and opportunities within nightlife and the arts.” Inspired by the community efforts of BUZZCUT Festival and Transmission Gallery, Bonjour’s roster includes club nights like Orisha, that spotlights music from the Black diaspora; the queer cabaret and club night Q’iwa, presented by POC Scots; Mojxmma, who focus on BIPOC representation in the queer music scene; and the kink-friendly Club KIN. X, where attendees are encouraged to ‘dress for your pleasure’. And with the expansion of their daytime activities and a commitment to low prices – on the door and at the bar – the collective are duty bound in keeping the space accessible for all.
The importance of maintaining this access to queer and trans-inclusive spaces is vital, now more than ever. With the Conservative government recently blocking Scotland’s plan to simplify the process of self-ID, these community enclaves need our support. “At a time when our community is coming under daily attack, and faces increased levels of threat and violence,” says the Bonjour co-op, adding that it has become increasingly important to “remind each other of the importance of community, solidarity and trans joy.”
Below, workers from the Bonjour co-op – a place they lovingly refer to as BJs – discuss their most cherished moments in the venue, reminding us of the protection and joy that the space provides.
KATHRYN, 25 (THEY/THEM)
“My most cherished moment at Bonjour is definitely our first Pride. It was very special to play SOPHIE as the march went by.”
SUKI, 30 (SHE/HER)
“The first month I worked in BJs, it was table service. I wore a mask and people weren’t allowed to mix groups – five feet apart and all that. A customer told me she’d just come out as trans over lockdown. This was her first time being so freely herself in public. It felt really special.”
PETER, 29 (HE/HIM)
“It’s hard to pin down a single moment, but I guess I’ve cherished any moment where I’ve witnessed Bonjour exist as a space in which queer people have felt safe or valued or celebrated: our first, all-day Pride party, banner-making for the Trans Equality Rally, our opening weeks when people chose Bonjour as somewhere to explore their newfound freedoms – be that from the restrictions of the pandemic, or in the ways in which they had grown into their queer identities during lockdown.”
FRANKIE, 28 (SHE/THEY)
“It has to be our first, full-day Pride event. It was beautiful to see so many members of the community in the building throughout the day, as well as all the DJs, performers, dancers who came together to support. Glasgow honestly has so much special queer talent!”
CARINE, 30 (SHE/HER)
“My favourite Bonjour moment is actually a recurring one, but when people rush to dance on stage during karaoke when their friend is singing a banger. They’re my favourite times because everyone is so gleeful and lost in the moment.”
LUCID, 29 (THEY/SHE)
“Pride 2022, watching the march go by during my first shift working with BJ’s. I cherish this moment because of the feeling I had towards our beautiful community in Glasgow. It's not easy to be visibly queer here, but those who can also show up for those who may not be able to. We were blasting music out of our sound system and watching the march from the street. Working alongside BJ’s for Pride 2023 coming up is a beautiful feeling. I am so proud of everything we have made happen this year despite all that has been thrown our way personally, politically and financially.”
SALMA, 52 (SHE/HER)
“My most cherished moment is just laughing with the Bonjour family.”
‘Yes, I can see the stars.’ hair PONYBOY, make-up MV BROWN, make-up assistant MARTYNA PLUTA, models KATHRYN, SUKI, PETER, FRANKIE, CARINE, LUCID, SALMA, concept and art direction TOM JOYES.
Head to Bonjour’s Ko-fi fundraising page for more information on how to donate.