Esraa, a person with short dark hair, glasses and light brown skin, holding an orange microphone.

SQIFF 2023: “Above everything it’s a space to be yourself,” says Esraa Husain

6 mins read

Last week the Scottish Queer International Film Festival (SQIFF) visited Stirling as part of their Trans-Generational Tour.

As well as a shorts programme focusing on transgender parents, documentary Framing Agnes was followed by a panel discussing safe spaces for queer people of colour. Claricia Parinussa was joined by Esraa Husain.

Esraa, who uses they/she/he pronouns, is a creative writer and community curator living in Glasgow. They talked to Brig about their work and the importance of spaces like SQIFF.


“I’d been living in, studying in, working in Aberdeen for a few years … and that’s when I heard about SQIFF,” Esraa said of their first discovery of the festival.

“I knew that in the east north coast of Scotland we didn’t have that much involvement in film and TV and creative spaces for queer people … I always thought that I want to go to Glasgow to attend.”

The perfect opportunity arose when Esraa moved to Glasgow to begin her PhD in 2019.

“I was attending their events and also networking, getting to know more people,” they said. “Then in 2021 they asked me to get involved with them.

“It was for a panel discussion with LEAP Sports which is an organization for LGBT+ community and sport … I’m happy that I’m back this year.”

The spaces that organisations like SQIFF provide are important to so many queer people. Esraa said:

“Above everything it’s a space to be yourself.

“It’s just safe for you to be there, your authentic self and the expression that you want to be in, without anybody trying to police you or criticize you or oppress you.”

U Belong

Alongside their involvement with SQIFF, Esraa is the founder of their own inclusive space.

“I’m the founder and the director of U Belong Glasgow,” Esraa explained. “It’s a community platform for the marginalised identities.

“It’s for Black and people of colour, the LGBT+ community and people with disabilities.”

He started the platform in September 2020, with all meetings held over Zoom due to COVID lockdown restrictions.

Esraa continued: “Then I started the collaboration with Glasgow Zine Library in 2020, in November, so they were helping with marketing, ticketing, and social media content.

“It was such a fulfilling and wholesome feeling that I had this vision for us to come together, and then people actually saw that and they supported it.

“We have between 10 to 15, to 20 sometimes, creatives each month.”

The platform is primarily for members to share their creative works, but also to network with likeminded people, find opportunities and share news.

U Belong is currently on a break, but you can find them on Instagram and Facebook.

Creating your own space

Esraa told Brig: “I’m very much against cancel culture.

“I want us to learn from our mistakes and not be afraid of making mistakes. I think that’s how we get to develop and we get to get better.”

When asked for tips on creating safe spaces, Esraa had four main pieces of advice.

“I would definitely advise everybody that wants to start something similar [to U Belong] to talk to people who already have established platforms.

“It’s not a competition for us, who is going to be better or more niche. It’s a collaboration.”

With that focus on collaboration, she emphasised that one person can’t do everything:

“It can be really overwhelming when you are in charge of everything, so absolutely build a team.

“Also understand that people have a lot of responsibilities and a lot of workload, so be tolerant, be mindful that people have certain capacities.”

A photo of a Zoom online meeting on a computer screen.
One of U Belong’s events funded by College of Arts, University of Glasgow and supported by Glasgow Zine Library. Image Credit: U Belong

Esraa also believes that accessibility is crucial for these sorts of spaces.

“Try to make it as accessible as possible. In terms of venue, in terms of like physical accessibility, so like wheelchair venues, venues that offer captioning and BSL interpreters.

“Also, for example, make the tickets free or pay what you can. I think accessibility is such an important thing, and maybe think about having hybrid events so it can be in person, it can be online on Zoom, it can be both at the same time.”

Finally, he spoke about the importance of funding these sorts of spaces:

“Slowly try to support each other financially as well, and I know this is the hardest part. I think is so complicated, it’s very tricky. I’m going through that myself, it’s so tricky to apply for funding.

“Keep this as a point for the future, that later you can build it up. You can make it more sustainable and you can have funding for it, so people can come and their labour will be paid for.

“This is something I feel that is the most important. I wish I could do more of it!”

Featured Image Credit: SQIFF

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Film, media and journalism student. I like writing about my inability to eat gluten.

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