History is being made this weekend at HiFi. We are hosting our first ever LGBT+ night, thanks to the amazing, newly founded queer crew HousePLAY. The bravery required to put a night like this along Leeds’ most well trodden path for club-goers is remarkable. There is an almost necessarily separatist approach to LGBT+ party-throwing across the board – but Eduardo and his team at HousePLAY are trying to change that, literally playing with the expectations of what a night near Call Lane should be. In this interview, he goes deep on the issue of creating safer spaces, his personal history in clubbing and the methodology behind the party.
Firstly, could you tell us who is involved in HousePLAY, and how you all got together?
E: So there’s Tami and Katrina and myself who are basically the core 3. My housemate Jack Harrop (Brudenell Groove fan favourite) has also been incredibly supportive and deserves a mention here. I’ve been friends with Tami for a while now and was the first person I wanted to get involved as she’s someone who’s driven to do so much for the various LGBT+ and sustainability causes she believes in by day, whilst being one of Leeds best and most loved DJs by night. Katrina I’ve only known a short while, but when I heard the production ‘Step Up’ and the Equaliser KMAH show I just had to get them involved! I think we’re a fantastic team as we all have similar ideas for where we want the night to go, yet we all bring something different and combine together to become greater than the sum of our individual parts.
Could you give us a quick rundown of what was available for LGBT+ people in Leeds before HousePLAY? In turn, what are you going to bring to the scene that is different?
There is a bit of a dichotomy for LGBT+ clubbing in Leeds at the moment. Without going into any specifics I think the mainstream queer nightlife in Leeds isn’t great. I simply don’t believe these venues offer anything to the LGBT+ community, and exist simply to extract money from those that attend. On the other hand you have Love Muscle, which in my opinion has wonderful music, a diverse crowd, and an incredible venue which is perfect for the night. As with any party (even one as perfect as LM) there are always some minor drawbacks. The small-room intimacy of Wharf does lead to very tight spaces, which can make it very intense inside the club room. Also LM has become a bit of a victim of its own success – the latest party sold out in 3 days and for several months there has always been plenty of people who are still looking for tickets who sadly cannot attend.
I think HousePLAY has come at the right time. We’re going to be offering our own alternative community based LGBT+ experience within the city of Leeds, basically celebrating and championing every and all kinds of LGBT+ creativity in the most supportive space possible. I think being in the wide open space of Hi-Fi for our first night works to our advantage. It should be a lighter and less full on atmosphere, and I’m also very excited to use the stage. We’re definitely looking to do more than just be a standard club night with music, and to do this we’ll be collaborating with LGBT+ creatives, artists and performers to intertwine their works into the club night. If there are any of you reading this then please get in contact – we’d love to collaborate!
As far as we know, this is the first official LGBT+ event to take place at HiFi. Are you shocked by this? How do you feel about putting on this kind of event in our very public venue, one that doesn’t have quite the same supportive structure as a venue such as Wharf Chambers? Do you think it is to your advantage or disadvantage?
I guess I am a little surprised that there hasn’t been a single LGBT+ event in Hifi before given how popular it is as a venue, however we’re very honoured to be the first and I’m hoping that it’ll spearhead many more both here and in other venues.
I am a huge fan of everything Wharf Chambers from the co-operative setup, to the aesthetic of the place. They really do care about their members and guests and it shows from the events they put on there and from safer spaces policy to protect their members and guests. Hifi and Wire don’t have this approach and so it will be a new challenge for us, but I really believe that we can do it – otherwise I wouldn’t have wanted to put on the night. I think one of the big challenges with creating a safer space is making sure people who enter are aware of the expectations and responsibilities as they enter. But I like to believe people are inherently good and won’t cause any issues. Even so, there will be a team of us on hand for the night to deal with any challenges – but I’m hoping there won’t be any!
You have a lengthy, comprehensive safer spaces policy. Do you think all club nights should be required to draw one up? Whose responsibility is it to impose these kinds of guidelines?
Absolutely – I think the end goal should be for anyone to feel safe in being who they are, wherever they are. I don’t think it’s realistically going to happen anytime soon, certainly not in the more commercial clubs which are most definitely not safer spaces, (nor do I believe they intend to be).
However, I think within the electronic music scene there is a movement of awareness that’s gaining traction with regards to acceptable behaviour on the dance floor. For example, Wire and Hifi now have posters from ‘Consent in Clubs’, which put across messages like ‘a kiss is just a kiss’ and ‘clothing is not consent’. It’s a shame these messages are necessary, but the fact that people are educating each other to reduce instances of sexual assault and inappropriate behaviour, is a step in the right direction. A safer space policy by the promoter or club is the next step for patron safety. Some venues do have safer spaces policies, however they’re still few and far between. We at Brudenell Groove have realised this is key to the enjoyment of those at our parties, and the Pretty Pretty Good community guidelines are a step in the right direction too.
A good policy acknowledges the behaviours that may cause harm or distress to those who enter and it details the expectations of those who do in order to minimise harmful incidents. It’s important to remember that an action doesn’t have to be intentional or even physical for it to cause harm, especially to those who are often constantly under attack from mainstream society for just being who they are. Hopefully venues will see the successes of these policies, train all the staff, and start to implement them for every event.
I love your tag-line: ‘A queer dance alliance’. What is the thinking behind this specific choice of words? It has the ring of a call to arms.
E: I can’t take credit for this one unfortunately, this one was Tami so you’ll have to ask her for the inspiration. I really love the word alliance too – it implies mutual support for one another and that’s really what we’re all about. The ‘Come Play’ imperative on the end showcases our mischievous, cheeky side that we all have within us too and hopefully it will indeed encourage people to come and play!
You say your aim is for punters to explore themselves more than anything. How important has music and clubbing been for you in your personal development, not just in terms of sexuality but in other areas?
E: So so important. For me personally, I started to really enjoy clubbing when I was living in Taiwan. I was part of this big international community of people from all over the world. This group was mostly made up of exchange students from Latin America, Brazil, and Europe with a few from Asia and a good measure of Taiwanese too. What united us and broke down all the cultural and language barriers was this sense of unity that came from just belonging to this community of young, liberal people from all over the world who enjoyed going out and having a good time. We used to go to these Latin salsa clubs to dance and this was the first time that I got something more from clubbing and music than just going out and getting too drunk – it was here that I really found that experience of belonging to a community, and that is so crucial to happiness.
It was also in Taiwan that I was first exposed to an LGBT scene that I felt I fit into. Taiwan is quite unique in Asia for it’s LGBT acceptance and even thriving gay scene. Whilst there are still prejudices, people are generally very open and vocal in support of LGBT culture. There are a number of really good under the radar clubs and bars which help the scene thrive. Korner which is the big name house & techno club does this party called Adult Game Club in which the raunchiest clothing and behaviour inside is encouraged. They often had entry policies like “The shorter the cheaper” when referring to dress, and “free entry before 12 with condom”. I also once accidentally ended up in this really vibes-y S&M bar when a friend who was studying in Japan came to visit for a week, but I won’t go into more details there haha.My first real exposure to drag was a party based around drag queen and go-go boy performers, and it was completely outrageous. The music was absurd and I loved it.
Looking back it wasn’t quite what I needed at the time, but that soon changed when I came back to Leeds, reunited with some old friends and decided to come to the Love Muscle pride party. My first experience back clubbing in the UK was one I’ll never forget as it showed to me it was possible to get everything I want and need in a clubbing experience that goes way beyond the actual night itself. Many of the people who attended have become the community surrounding Love Muscle and Brudenell Groove today, along with my closest friends. I’ve been very inspired since, not just musically but in how to live my life.
How would you describe the HousePLAY sound? And will it differ to the Love Muscle sound, which has become such a recognisable signifier now?
Well due to us not having actually put on the night yet, that’s quite difficult to answer! We’ve done a single radio show but we just took turns playing tracks and we touched on quite a few genres in a short space of time. I’m hoping that we’ll differ from Love Muscle to be honest! Although I’m currently obsessed with all things house music and am one of Love Muscle’s biggest fans, I don’t think there would be much point me doing something like this unless HousePLAY was different in many aspects, musically being one of them. One of the reasons I wanted both Tami and Katrina from the start is both their unique ways of looking at club music, along with their wide and varied tastes which give that variation we’re looking for. I’m also really looking forward to playing the full range of my record collection, from the dark, horrible, sweaty techno, leftfield electro, to the euphoric and uplifting nice music I do collect must to people’s surprise! I also cannot wait to throw on some of the more ludicrous glam rock and naughty pop songs I’ve always wanted to work into a set.
How important is the performance aspect going to be at your events? What will it entail? Do you think that LGBT+ artists aren’t given the same opportunities as others?
Again it’s something that for me that was very natural to include from the start, being as influenced by drag as I was from my introduction to queer clubbing. I’m also a big personal believer in experience – I like for there to be multiple points of stimulation wherever possible as I think the thought and effort going into these things can make a standard club DJ set into something truly worth remembering. Visuals, lighting, artwork, performance, atmosphere, scent and even props are all tools that promoters can bring in to make an experience and we’re going to be looking into all the ways we can do this! As for the drag performance itself I’m leaving it completely up to the performers themselves as I don’t want to inhibit any creativity. They’ve already thrown some ideas my way and they all sound wonderful, so you’ll be in for a treat on the night itself!
So much art and culture has come from LGBT+ creatives for years, and yet opportunities for those are few and far between. Within dance music, despite being created and being spread by the oppressed queer ethnic minority groups in the USA, lineups across the world are now dominated by cis, white, straight men. Art and music is meant to reflect society as a whole and at the moment this isn’t the case. Queer people exist, and other disadvantaged groups exist and there is of course nothing wrong with the cis, white, straight men themselves, but when they completely dominate the playing field the entire dance music industry is at an imbalance which leads to a creative drought – it’s bad for the industry itself! It’s not even a numbers game either as shown by the huge gender imbalance which is only just beginning to be addressed. Whilst I personally believe that this is simply because of nepotism, rather than intent, it’s important for clubs and promoters to put on diverse lineups not only for the quality of content, but also to inspire the next generation. People of course look up to those who they identify with and we all identify with different people. Everyone benefits from this and by giving a stage to those LGBT+ who aren’t given the platform they quite deserve, people will understand this.
What is the long-term plan for the HousePLAY alliance?
To make a difference. Although we have the first event to get out of the way which we’re very focused in for now – we’re in this for the long term and we’re looking to build something truly special for the community. How exactly we do this is going to be a big learning process, but we’re all prepared to put the work in to get there and find the best ways to give back. We’ve already been booked to play some other queer events which is very exciting, and there’s already been some interest from people coming as far as the USA to perform here, but I’m not allowed to say much more just yet…