Clubs / LGBTQ+

A Q&A with Grrrl Crush

By georgia marsh, Monday Nov 18, 2019

In Bristol, the LGBTQ+ clubbing scene is diversifying, burgeoning and proving a force to be reckoned with. Ahead of their next showcase at the Exchange, we catch up with Roberta of LGBTQ+ collective Grrrl Crush about inclusivity, confidence and why a Grrrl Crush party is sure to be a riot.

1. Why did you establish Grrrl Crush and what makes it unique?

Grrrl Crush came to life in Edinburgh back in August 2016 due to the frustration of there being no nights for LGBTQ+ womxn that provided music –  let alone live music – that we wanted to listen or dance to. It all felt very stuck in the 90s – in a bad way: the same music, atmosphere and stereotypes that none of us felt particularly connected to. The scene needed a breath of fresh air. We wanted to bring good music to the LGBTQ+ community whilst providing a platform for womxn in the music industry and space for people to meet other like-minded people.

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Grrrl Crush is 100% run by womxn and champions womxn and the LGBT+ community in music and beyond. We’re not exclusive. We aim to provide an inclusive safe space where everyone is welcome regardless of gender or sexual preference. If you’re sound, you’re welcome.

Grrrl Crush

My Bad Sister, who will be headlining Grrrl Crush’s show at the Exchange on Friday, November 22 at the Exchange.

Our mission is to give womxn and LGBTQ+ community the voice in music that they deserve and to show promoters and festival bookers that it is possible to achieve a 50/50 split in their line-ups. We provide role models for a younger generation of womxn, showing them that, if they want to, they can start a band or become a DJ or run parties or become a sound tech or manage a band or whatever. We basically want to empower womxn in a male-dominated industry – and throw rad parties at the same time.

2. Where has Grrrl Crush come from and where is it heading?

It’s gone from strength to strength: moving on from riot grrrl punk gigs in a pub in Leith to running big club nights in Bristol and Edinburgh and making regular appearances at UK festivals and club nights. We’re approaching our 23rd party and what started out as ‘parties run by grrrls for grrrls who like grrrls’ has now become something much bigger than that.

 

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3. What do you think of the current LGBTQ+ nightlife scene in Bristol?

LGBTQ+ nightlife in Bristol is ace. The Exchange, in particular, is doing excellent stuff – from Queers to the Front to Eat Up, I’ve found them to be massively supportive of the alt LGBTQ+ scene. I only moved to Bristol in 2017 so I’m a new kid on the block but the Exchange gave us a whirl without question – we threw a party with Punka for International Women’s Day and raised money for Bristol Mind.

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I’m no expert on Bristol’s LGBTQ+ nightlife but, in comparison to Edinburgh, it’s head and shoulders above. Don’t Tell Your Mother is one of my favourite nights here – they were kind enough to let me come and DJ for them at Bristol Pride and the scene that they’ve created at the Phoenix is unreal. It feels magic to be in the room – the atmosphere is beautifully hedonistic.

The Indigo Network events are also brilliant because they provide a space for womxn to talk to each other rather than shouting over the dance floor. Bristol leads the way on variation and community – whether you’re looking for a night that’s for womxn, for everyone, for talking, for dancing, for live music, for comedy – it’s doing all of it, well, and with each night doing its own unique thing whilst being supportive of each other.

4. In recent years there’s been a huge rise in female-identifying DJs – but what could be done to encourage more womxn to become promoters and party throwers?

We need to give womxn confidence. I was lucky to be given a night to run back in 2009 – a friend of mine was leaving for London so he gave me his night and said ‘do what you want with it’. I took it, changed the name, found some bands, tried out some ideas, binned them, reintroduced them in a more sustainable fashion and continued to do this once a month for about four years and learnt everything I know to this day. Every promoter I knew back then was a dude but I didn’t let it intimidate me or phase me, I just went ahead and gave it a go.

The wild, joyous energy of the Grrrl Crush parties is infectious at every twist and turn.

There has been a huge rise in female-identifying DJs and there’s definitely more club nights run by womxn popping up – I think the key is sustaining them. We were part of a wave of nights within the women’s movement and sadly some of those have since disappeared – my guess being because it is 100% a labour of love and it can be hard work that is riddled with anxiety and often with little reward. It’s not something I make money from – it’s something I have to do like I can’t help myself.

But alongside all the ups and downs, there’s always a sweet spot towards the end of the night – once you’ve finished doing the door, stage managing, DJing and panicking about whether you’ve covered costs – when you take a moment to look around the room and see a bunch of happy sweaty smiling faces having the time of their lives and you realise what you’re doing is something quite important. My advice would be if you’re thinking about doing it, just do it.

5. How do queer club nights face the challenges of remaining inclusive while providing a space specifically and explicitly for members of their community?

Excellent question and one that we’re trying to navigate ourselves. We just dropped the last part of our initial tagline from ‘Parties run by grrrls for grrrls who like grrrls’ to just ‘Parties run by grrrls’ because we want to be as inclusive as possible. All are welcome, as long as they are respectful.

 

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One way that we manage this is by doing the door ourselves and making sure that everyone who comes in understands what the vibe of the night is. We also have a strong safe space policy so if anybody feels uncomfortable for whatever reason, they can come and let us know and we’ll deal with it. We don’t want anyone to feel discriminated against – the space that we’re trying to create is one of acceptance.

The night you run should reflect who you are and who your people are. Our friends are all so different – from all walks of life, gender, sexuality and style – so I guess sometimes you just need to put your trust in humans, be a good judge of character and ask that everyone keeps an eye out for each other. Queer parties have been around for ages and all kinds of people – queer or otherwise – have been enjoying them. We just need to lead the way, create the sort of scene that we want and promote an ethos of tolerance and love within it.

Grrrl Crush #23 will star My Bad Sister & Mandidextrous and will take place at the Exchange on Friday, November 22. To book and for more information, visit www.headfirstbristol.co.uk.

All images courtesy of Grrrl Crush.

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