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Image of a participant walking at the Bristol Ball, organised by Bristol Ballroom Community (credit: Darren Shepherd)

Bristol goes to the ball


Ballroom culture, which Bristol photographer Darren Shepherd describes as 'the personification of queer resilience and queer joy', has been enjoying a resurgence in our city.

Photos by: Darren Shepherd

The ballroom scene is a subculture that originated in the US, where queer Black and Latinx people walk a runway with prizes handed out for their performances by a panel of judges.

The movement began in the 1980s, largely in response to racism at established drag pageants.

In August, Bristol hosted its first ball at the Trinity Centre, organised to “celebrate queer and Black and Brown excellence” by Aysha Chamberlain from the Bristol Ballroom Community, which has since been running a series of practice sessions through the autumn.

Photographer Darren Shepherd discovered ballroom through the iconic film Paris is Burning.

“For me, ballroom is the personification of queer resilience and queer joy,” he says. “It’s also very photogenic. It’s been a longstanding interest of mine, ever since I became interested in photography.

“It was on the hottest night of the year,” he says of this summer’s Bristol Ball. “So I fell for everyone who was walking. The audience aren’t sat down, they’re stood up, they’re shouting. I was streaming with sweat taking the photos, but the atmosphere was electric.”

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