Evie Skinner | Queertech Bristol
Women Rock advocate and all around amazing human being Evie Skinner is back to talk to us about her most recent venture - Bristol Queertech - a space, where LGBTQIA+ people can get together and talk about their shared passion for tech and generally let their hair down to momentarily exist outside the CIS heteronormative structure they find themselves in.
Queertech just had their second meet up last week and SR2 had the great pleasure of sponsoring, so Women Rock ambassador Rachel Comber sat down with Evie to see how it is all going...
EVIE WE ARE SO HAPPY TO HAVE YOU BACK! HOW HAVE YOU BEEN? WE KNOW YOU FROM BACK IN 2020, WHEN YOU HAD YOUR FIRST INTERVIEW ON OUR WOMEN ROCK PLATFORM TO CHAT ABOUT YOUR STORY INTO TECH. SINCE THEN, I HAVE SEEN LOTS OF GREAT STUFF OVER LINKEDIN THAT YOU HAVE BEEN INVOLVED IN. HOW HAS THE PAST TWO YEARS BEEN, WHAT’S CHANGED?
Hiya, it's beautiful to see you again! I'm blessed to be able to say that I've had some great changes in my life, along with the weird ones we've all been through since 2020. I've settled down long term in my beloved hometown of Stroud, got my life back after lockdown, and this year went to Pride for the first time! Good vibes! I'm very lucky.
ALTHOUGH OF COURSE WE LOVE MEETING UP WITH YOU TO CHAT, THE MAIN REASON WE ARE HERE TODAY IS TO TALK ABOUT YOUR NEW TECH GROUP CALLED ‘QUEERTECH BRISTOL’ OF WHICH YOU ARE A COFOUNDER. WHERE DID THE IDEA COME FROM? WHAT IS THE AIM OF THE GROUP?
The idea came from my visionary co-founder and colleague Harriet. They planted the first seeds of the meetup by noticing that, while Bristol has both a vibrant tech scene and a great gay/queer scene, there was no community event focussing on LGBTQIA+ people in technology like they had seen when they lived in London. Through hanging out together at work, we realised we shared a huge passion for technology and in person queer spaces! We both saw the need to create more of them, given that in London alone, the number of in person queer spaces halved during the pandemic. The aim of the group is to provide such a space, a comforting bubble where LGBTQIA+ people can let our hair down and momentarily exist outside the CIS heteronormative structure we live in. Being queer isn't all Kylie Minogue and drag shows: it's tough, especially for our trans and non-binary siblings, so it's massively important to us that the meetup should act as a support network as well as a fun techie get-together.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU TO HAVE A SPACE OF LIKE-MINDED INDIVUALS WHO ALSO SHARE THE SAME PASSION?IE WE ARE SO HAPPY TO HAVE YOU BACK! HOW HAVE YOU BEEN?
It means everything for us to position the meetup as a community-led DIY initiative. Community led as in we take all the input we can from our participants, because they are the most important part! They've given us many ideas for upcoming events, and it feels lush to be together with others who share that passion for tech, so we're very thankful for their support.
RUNNING A MONTHLY GROUP ISN’T EASY, HOW DID YOU FIND GETTING IT OFF THE GROUND? VIE WE ARE SO HAPPY TO HAVE YOU BACK! HOW HAVE YOU BEEN?
You're right it takes work, especially as we want to keep it as DIY and independent as possible! We're lucky to have inspiration to draw upon from other great meetups like Codebar. There's so much to think about: from negotiating with potential sponsors, to learning to make social media that generates engagement, to developing our website in an environmentally sustainable way. It's been great learning so far! One thing that's helped get us off the ground has been the three of us networking and spreading the word. We're also very grateful to Made Tech for sponsoring our first two events, and to those who've voluntarily contributed to our open source website during Hacktoberfest.
IT IS STILL EARLY DAYS HAVING JUST HAD YOUR SECOND MEET-UP, BUT WHAT ARE YOUR AIMS FOR THE GROUP, WHAT CAN WE EXPECT TO SEE COMING UP FOR QUEERTECH BRISTOL?
November's event is a side project show and share, in collaboration with Control Shift, a Bristol based creative organisation. In our first event, we asked our participants to contribute ideas for future sessions, and we were humbled to see them give us loads of ideas to keep us completely stocked for at least the next eighteen months of the meetup! December will see us give a talk about public speaking skills, and then go on a night out. We're also thinking about co-running a hackathon, and running an expo to showcase local LGBTQIA+ speakers and business owners. Currently, there are three of us in the South West organising QTB: Harriet, Sam and I. We're also in discussions with friends in Manchester about starting a QueerTech there.
WHAT WOULD YOUR ADVICE BE FOR SOMEONE WHO WANTS TO GO BUT IS NERVOUS/NEW TO TECH/ NEW TO QUEER COMMUNITY ETC?
My advice would be to visualise all the fun you'll have at the event and imagine us welcoming you there! We're a really warm and friendly bunch and we would treasure the chance to welcome anyone who's nervous and help calm their nerves with great banter and food. Also, you can always get in touch with us directly before the event if you feel particularly nervous, maybe questioning your sexuality/gender, and we'll do what we can to help. Did I mention we have free food??
THE GROUP IS BASED DOWN AT THE WATER SHED EVERY MONTH, WHY DID YOU PICK THIS LOCATION IN PARTICULAR TO BE YOUR BASE?HAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU TO HAVE A SPACE OF LIKE-MINDED INDIVUALS WHO ALSO SHARE THE SAME PASSION?IE WE ARE SO HAPPY TO HAVE YOU BACK! HOW HAVE YOU BEEN?
The Watershed is such a gem in the city. It emerged as the perfect location because it's already a very LGBTQIA+ friendly venue, and Harriet had a great experience attending the trans and non-binary creatives meetup there before we started ours. Everyone we've interacted with there has been an absolute dream: they even let us use the venue for free. Not to mention they have a cracking bar too!
IF INDIVIDUALS WANTED TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THIS GROUP WHERE WOULD BE BEST FOR THEM TO HEAD FOR MORE INFORMATION?
YOU ARE INVOLVED IN A LOT OF COMMUNITY AND TECH EVENTS BUT MORE RECENTLY I HAVE SEEN YOU HAVE ALSO BEEN COMBINING IN THE USE OF MEDITATION SESSIONS TO THE GROUPS. THAT IS REALLY INTERESTING TO PUT EMPHASIS ON THE IMPORTANCE OF A HEALTHY BODY AND MIND WITHIN THOSE SPACES, HOW DID YOU GET INTO MEDITATION AND HOW HAS IT CHANGED YOUR MINDSET ABOUT LIFE INSIDE AND OUTSIDE OF WORK?
I got into meditation as a very stressed seventeen year old: I was struggling at the time, and my Mum's friend recommended me a local Buddhist group in Stroud. We all find it hard to stay present and avoid following our thoughts down a rabbit hole at times! The teachings I received at the group gave me the tools I needed to completely change my life. Since then, my mindfulness practice has enabled me to revolutionise my relationship with my thoughts, by becoming their critical observer rather than their frightened follower. I'm very proud to say that many people I've met are now meditating because I taught them at a club I started or an event I attended. When I'm having a bad day that's something lush to think about!
I KNOW YOU ARE A BIG ADVOCATE FOR REDUCING YOUR SCREEN TIME, HOW DO YOU LIKE TO RELAX IN THE EVENING?
My fave way to relax is any practice that involves bringing the mind home to the body: something that gives my thinking mind a break. I love playing the drums, training in karate, and I've recently started Japanese jiu jitsu as well. I always find drumming and training to be really beneficial, mainly because they help me activate a deeply relaxing state of flow and contentment. Apart from that, a good cackle with my Nan on the phone will do the trick!
Thanks Evie - you rock 🤘
Interview by Rachel Comber