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I came across the Gay Project three years after I moved to Cork. Moving to Cork was my first plunge into independent adult life in a new city after the completion of my studies. What the gay project offered me was what I’d been looking for in those prior three years. I looked for it on meetup groups, social media platforms, online dating apps, in the clubs and even on dates. Needless to say, I didn’t find it in any of those places but I’m not the quitting type! I found Gay Project on a little-known app called Facebook. I did some background research into the group and was pleased with the findings.

Once the high of finally finding he kind of platform I’d been searching for settled a little,then the apprehension kicked in. Despite what the picture portrayed online, there’s no telling what it’s like to coming into an established fold, not knowing exactly what the atmosphere or personalities will be like. I made that first step because … nothing ventured, nothing gained.

The Gay Project provides a myriad of essential services to the community. There is something for everyone; sporty types, artsy types, book lovers, coffee lovers and so much more. The most impressive part of it all is that Gay Project provides its services (and an infinite supply of free condoms) for free. All credit to the volunteers who keep the system well-oiled and running smoothly. Gravitating towards the drama group, Outstaged was a natural choice for me. I’ve loved the arts as far back into my childhood that I can recall. I didn’t get my first proper taste of stage performance until I was in college. A production of “The Importance of Being Earnest” is the most notable in my repertoire. I was delighted to finally find a leisurely drama group for adults in Cork; still the only one as far as I’m aware.

When I joined, about a half a dozen of us would meet monthly at the gay project venue with a volunteer and an acting facilitator for 90 minutes or thereabouts. Those sessions were fun. We improvised, we played games, we read lines, we broke the ice on several occasions and most of all I think we all reveled in the escapism that drama affords anyone. On the flipside, I definitely felt that meeting only monthly stunted the group from really reaching its potential. Attendance wasn’t consistent, the activities though fun were quite random, there was no goal in sight to work towards. Personally, I hadn’t really formed any lasting bonds with any of the other members (for want of a better word).

There was a huge overhaul last autumn. We were fortunate enough to meet founding members of a thriving drama groups, a gay one in Dublin and a lesbian one here in Cork. They were generous enough to share their journey with us, from the humble beginnings to award winning sell-out productions. That was invaluable insight to kick off our group’s soft relaunch. I think the feeling in the room after both presentations was unanimous; we were all hopeful that Outstaged could reach those heights someday. The changes that were made subsequent to the relaunch were definitely steps in the right direction. The periodicity went from monthly to weekly, there’s a whole new crop of members and we have the talented Aidan spearheading our very first production which I’m so proud to be a participant in.

I genuinely feel like this is the beginning of the drama sector of the Gay Project hitting its stride. I can see the membership multiplying in huge folds in the years to come. Cork natives and settlers alike finding the solace in our premiere drama group. I can picture us travelling in a troupe putting on shows nationwide and beyond.

Regardless of the kind of week or day I’m having, the drama group is usually the highlight of my Thursday evenings. There is a genuine bond amongst the current members. The camaraderie when we are together is undeniable, we have a good laugh and banter amongst ourselves whilst remaining committed to our group. I finally got a sense of belonging that I was looking for when I moved to a new city three years ago.

Wr​itten by Pearse Gatling