ClimbOut interview with organiser AJ

Posted by Niall Grimes on 03/03/2023

ClimbOut, the UK’s first queer climbing festival, comes to the Peak District this May. From the 19th to the 21st, come and see what happens when outdoor climbing meets queer joy, at Thornbridge Outdoor Centre.

This festival is organised by a volunteer team in partnership with the BMC and Patagonia. It will celebrate LGBTQ+ climbers and build a community centred around queer joy and climbing, while celebrating trad climbing, sport climbing, and outdoor bouldering. The festival will be an inclusive and safe space for everyone, catering to all levels of climbing experience.

To find out more, we caught up with one of the festival’s organisers, AJ.



Hi AJ, the event sounds exciting, can you tell us what made you want to create the festival?

The initial team was made up of four queer climbers who were either BMC volunteers or had links to the BMC. We recognised the increase in LGBTQ+ presence and representation in indoor climbing in recent years, however outdoor climbing was still lagging. So we set out to create an event around which we could build an inclusive community that combined outdoor climbing and queer joy.

This is the first event of its kind in the UK, but did you take inspiration from anywhere else?

We were definitely inspired by Women’s Trad Fest which over the last seven years has successfully created a fantastic community celebrating and empowering women in climbing. Outside the UK, Flash Foxy, HomoClimbtastic, and Women’s Bouldering Festival also inspired us and helped us shape what we wanted the festival to look like.

Was there a moment when you thought, ‘this is actually going to happen?'

The Queer Connections event during Kendal Mountain Festival was definitely a key moment for me. Standing up in front of a large group of representatives from various LGBTQ+ organisations and introducing the concept of ClimbOut and receiving a lot of interest afterwards definitely made it suddenly very real.

Pitching the concept to brands that same weekend sealed the deal.

What have been the biggest hurdles in making it happen?

We have actually been really lucky and received an overwhelmingly positive response as well as a lot of support from our partners the BMC and Patagonia. I’d say the biggest hurdle has been the lack of experience in big event planning and figuring it out as we go. Additionally, as we are all volunteers, it can sometimes be hard to find the time this project demands.

Tell us about the team who has organized it.

We are a group of 13 volunteers who are either BMC volunteers, members of NotSoTrad or Let’s Go Boulder and Belay Together, or personal connections of each other. And we are all very passionate about creating a safe and uplifting space to share the amazing experience of outdoor climbing with the queer community.

MEET: The ClimbOut Team

Tell us about the LGBTQ+ climbing community. How has it grown over recent years?

Over the last few years there has been a noticeable increase in queer visibility within the climbing community, especially bouldering centres are a lot more diverse over five years ago. There are now two BMC affiliated LGBTQ+ climbing clubs in the UK (NotSoTrad and Let’s Go Boulder and Belay Together), and several queer climbing groups across the country e.g. Peak Queer Adventures, Queer Climbing Scotland, The Queer Climbing Club. And a similar online presence can be found across the global climbing community.

What will the highlights of the weekend be?

There will be many highlights, including talks by high-profile queer climbers like Abbie Robinson and Leanora Volpe. Q&A by author Zofia Reych. And masterclasses by Hannah Baldwin-Fuller, Be Baldwin-Fuller, Ian Cooper, Álex González and Jaume Peiró.

What would you like a festival goer to take away from ClimbOut?

Hopefully a sense of community and climbing friends. As well as renewed psych for outdoor climbing and a bunch of new skills!

CHECK OUT: The ClimbOut Festival Website

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