Photography by Kai-Isaiah Jamal
Nightlife is at its best when it goes beyond the blueprint. There are enough cookie cutter nights with indistinguishable DJs where party-goers have no real inclination to feel like they’re a part of anything other than building profits for promoters. However, both BBZ and Pxssy Palace are leading the way in redefining what clubbing could be and this February solidified their place as a QTPOC lifeline.
We’ve waxed lyrical about BBZ, originally a party-cum-exhibition with the sole mission to create a space for queer women of colour. A few years after its inception it has moved beyond the original duo Naeem and Tia, and has become a collective of musical talent and also oversees an online directory and graduate show to platform budding queer artists of colour. Similarly, Pxssy Palace (headed up by Nadine Artois) aims to provide an inclusive space, it began offering free taxis home for trans femmes of colour and regularly hosts skills sharing workshops to build the community. If you’ve ever been to an event you’ll also know that it’s refreshingly extra. Most nights are usually themed and the incredible outfits embellish the high-octane walk-offs where partygoers compete for the affection of the adoring crowd. it beats any other runway, so it was fitting that during London Fashion Week both collectives on a group project entitled “Show Luv” as the ultimate love letter to the community.
The double bill at The Garage in Highbury & Islington included a speed dating event, and a fundraising party to help two close friends get top surgery, a chest reconstruction procedure often used in female-to-male transitions. “As platforms, we are always thinking of ways to support our community and foster community spirit because it’s so integral to the reasons BBZ and Pxssy Palace started in the first place,” says Tia a co-founder of the BBZ collective. “We are definitely keen to push for more events which create environments that are genuinely life-changing and transformational in and outside of nightlife.”
True to form, almost every element of the double bill of events showed that they wanted to continue building and supporting the community. “It’s emotional for some who have not been out in a long time due to sexual trauma or if they are just starting to explore their sexuality or gender. Our community isn’t supported enough elsewhere so a lot of these feels can come out on the dance floor,” says Artois. As such at the Show Luv event, the hundreds of attendees could visit a room dubbed The Sanctuary, a “smaller, sober” room, take some respite in a cafe catered by Dee’s Table, and Badge Bxtches who are pre-designated staff there to support anyone in need.
23-year-old Kai-Isaiah Jamal was one of the people helped by the fundraiser which collected almost £6,000 for the cause. “There are more spaces for us to turn up and kiki but fundraisers go past that. They don’t elevate people just for one night, they work on a longer scale and provide people with their lifetime dream,” he says. “Not only did the fundraiser give a chance at freedom it encouraged safe love exchanges with a speed social, in association with Feeld a poly dating app, to get our community talking. Often it can be hard to stop people from non-consensual touching in the proximity of a club, so giving the space of a table between brings down that intensity.”
Kai continues: “The anxiety attached to dating esp as queer and marginalised folk can be huge, so we wanted to minimise that feeling. We also often forget about the different types of love we need and creating healthy platonic relationships is key to survival!”
As for Naeem, 28, who co-founded BBZ and is similarly elated that the funds raised will contribute to their surgery fund, they feel like the events show the transformative power of the clubbing collectives. “I’ve been saying for a long time that Baguan and Sheela didn’t do it right but …Wild Wild Country is possible,” they say, referring to the Netflix documentary about the Rajneesh commune created for its radical socialist potential, but ultimately destroyed by a series of scandals. “The kind of momentum that BBZ and Pxssy Palace are building and the community that we’re creating, we could do something as powerful as that at some point. But, on a more realistic note, it just feels so affirming and like it’s the beginning of a new generation. I hate when people use the word movement but there’s an awareness and visibility that queer POC have never really had in this country.”
For a community that can at times feel voiceless, BBZ and Pxssy Palace are ready to speak up. As an outsider, it’s been incredible to watch both nights grow, as the community relish a chance to go give London nightlife the short in the arm it needs. Now they’ve become platforms to forge deep bonds, raise the profile and careers of artists and musicians, and offer support to a marginalised community. “Some of us have managed to make it our day job and now we get to make space for people with our night,” says Naeem. “We’re not only doing it for the gram, we’re all really doing it for the love. That’s incredible. Gassed.”
You can find the Show Luv fundraiser to submit your own donations here, the next Pxssy Palace event will be March 22 at Mick’s Garage.