Ballot boxes and drag queens- not exactly two things that spring to mind as perfect partners, but as the largest organisation which supports the LGBT community in Northern Ireland, we at The Rainbow Project decided to attempt to juxtapose the two as we sought to take politics to the dancefloor as part of our #OUT2Vote campaign.
We are currently leading a campaign across Northern Ireland to encourage the LGBT community to get registered to vote for the upcoming N Ireland Assembly election on 5 May 2016. A key element of this campaign is targeting young voters, and those who may never have voted before, to ensure they make their voice heard on 5 May and are #OUT2Vote.
When thinking about how to target this group, it seemed natural to partner up with commercial LGBT venues across Belfast, and led by our wonderful #OUT2Vote volunteers, we did just that and on our launch night on 23 March we, with some trepidation, took politics to the dancefloor for the first time.
We were very lucky that one of our commercial partners, Maverick Bar was fully behind the campaign and agreed to rebrand their weekly Wednesday night drag queen show as “Vote Please,” and led by the fabulous queens Roxy Tumbledryer and Rusty Hinges we urged the revellers to ensure they were registered to vote. Of course there were risks involved with our approach- would people want to talk politics on a social occasion? Would they be dismissive or abusive? However the opportunity to actually inform and educate people about the need to vote in an environment where they felt relaxed outweighed these concerns.
The morning after the night before it appeared our approach drew dividends- our three volunteers managed to register 30 people in just two hours. Feedback from the bar staff also indicated that after we left at midnight a number of people lifted voter registration forms from our table to take home also, so the reach was even wider than we anticipated.
Many of the people we spoke to weren’t even aware that they needed to register, and many more had changed address, unaware that they were potentially going to lose their vote if they didn’t update the Electoral Office.
Moving forward in the run up to the registration deadline of 18 April, we will be visiting even more venues to spread our message to those in the LGBT community who may feel disengaged from local politics. Click here to view our upcoming events, and make your voice heard!
Registering to vote is easy, you simply need to download a voter registration form from aboutmyvote.co.uk and send it to your local area electoral office to arrive before the 18 April registration deadline.