Closure of bars and venues during pandemic leaving LGBTQ+ community 'without support', says performer

One of the best-known figures in Cardiff's LGBTQ+ scene says he fears the closures of bars and venues could push the LGBTQ+ community back underground if there is not a space to 'be themselves'.

Like many others, Rob Keetch, who performs in drag as Dr Bev, has struggled since the start of the pandemic.

''This year I decided to take Dr Bev and make her a permanent fixture with regular gigs around the UK, as well as my residencies here in Cardiff. However corona hit and venues closed and consequently I haven't been able to earn any money on stage performing.''

Bars across the capital have closed, both temporarily and permanently - leaving those within the community without a space to support one another.

Rob Keetch regularly performed as Dr Bev in venues across the UK.

In June, Cardiff's Wow bar announced it was closing for good due to the pandemic.

''There's been quite a dramatic change, so the community hub we had here dissipated. The scene and the bars create a space where we can socialise and support each other, without that, people are beginning to struggle.''

''It's easy to lose sight of who they are. This can lead to a number of issues - mental health, alcohol and drug dependancy, and a downwards spiral that can lead to homelessness.''

Pride Cymru hosted its first ever online week of events in August due to the virus. Credit: PA

Rob is a patron of Pride Cymru and the first ever LGBTQ ambassador for the homelessness charity Llamau UK.

This year, Pride Cymru was cancelled and became a virtual event instead due to the virus. The fear is the consequences of not having a space for those who identify as gay, lesbian, queer and transgender.

''The biggest hit for us the year has been the lack of pride events. We have gone online, we have done as much as we can with outreach, but it is not quite the same. I'm scared that we will lose more bars, we'll lose more clubs, and I'm scared it will drive the LGBTQ+ scene underground again and i don't think anybody wants that.''

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