By Greg Evans, Digital Arts Editor
It’s a familiar feeling for many queer students in Bristol, heading out for the night, not knowing how freely you’ll be able to express yourself. It’s a likely narrative across the UK, but seems surprising in a city so often cited for its liberal atmosphere.
Enter George Buckthought, a 19-year-old creative carving out exciting new queer spaces in Bristol. Heading up their own management company, George centres the intersections of music, art and queer identity. Chatting on Zoom ahead of their most recent event, CLIMAXED at Strange Brew, we pored over our experiences of the Bristol queer scene.
The Bristol Quality of Life Survey 2020/2021 reported that 9.1 per cent of Bristol’s population identify with a sexuality other than heterosexual. Despite comprising such a significant minority, opportunities for queer students to build community in the city often don’t extend further than the Students Union.
With an ‘everyone’s welcome’ approach, CLIMAXED seeks to extend the arm of alternative nightlife into the existing queer scene in the city. Creating space for all forms of queer expression, where students and locals alike can enjoy queer art and music in a safe space, free from convention.
I ask what goes into planning such an ambitious night from scratch, ‘how much time do you have’, George quips. Running from 8pm to 2am, this multi-form and multi-genre event toes the line between art show and club in a way that pushes the boundaries of what night life can be.
The night itself opens with Benson Streaker, a Bristol based DJ spinning groove and minimal house music. Skaters and ravers alike take to the floor as a video of a baby’s baptism from the 90s is projected onto the wall, filtered heavily with neon colours and glitches. It feels subversive, and the crowd love it.
Next up are INTERVENTION, a DJ collective running free workshops and live music events that strive for accessibility and representation in the electronic scene. On the night they create an immaculate vibe on the dance floor, where strangers dance with each other like old friends. From the get-go the atmosphere is one of complete non-judgement, where everyone can unite behind their love of music and art.
In the smokers a person sits cross-legged on the pavement having their portrait drawn by the hand of a friend – I feel like I’ve stumbled upon something incredibly intimate. The neon glare of William Hill and the echoing of sirens bring me back down to earth; it’s paint me like on of your French girls, Bristol style.
The room feels disruptive, subversive, and this is echoed behind the decks. A side room is transformed into an art gallery, with an eclectic mix of Bristol-based queer artists showing their work. As people meander through the space, drink in hand, you’re struck by how sincerely people are enjoying themselves. This is a feeling that gets to the core of George's vision for CLIMAXED as a ‘fun double meaning of fun and pleasure.’
The night climaxes (appropriately) with TAAHLIAH, a Glasgow based DJ and producer who established her reputation in the underground queer clubs of Berlin. Flipping between the glaring sheen of hyperpop and the glitchy intensity of hard-dance, TAAHLIAH creates a stunning current of energy in the room that summates the night itself.
People are wearing what the hell they want, dancing how they want, talking to each other, supporting each other's work, all with a genuine sense of joy. It’s a safe place, with genre-bending music and great art, offering an alternative space for queer people across the city. A night to be celebrated: more of this please!
Featured Image: Epigram
What's your experience of nightlife in Bristol?