For all of the promise of gender equality on lineups, UK music festivals are nonetheless dominated by male artists – a BBC research final week discovered that solely 13% of headliners at high festivals this yr are ladies – and plenty of of them are white, straight and cisgender. However down a gravel path in St Albans lies an alternate.
Internet hosting home and techno artists, Flesh pageant – held final weekend – payments itself because the UK’s first queer tenting music pageant, with a lineup the place ladies, trans and non-binary artists make up greater than 90% of the expertise. The home and techno names stretch from large stars similar to Ellen Allien and Rebekah to artists who’ve by no means performed a pageant earlier than, whereas an all-female safety workforce watches over festivalgoers, rainbow flags embellish the levels, and the mullet-to-ticket ratio have to be the best of any occasion within the UK.
Organiser Sam Togni, founding father of London label Boudica, explains that one of many primary intentions of the pageant is “to have fun our neighborhood, particularly after being separated from it for therefore lengthy and seeing so many events, golf equipment and occasions world wide compelled to close down”. In addition to the inclusive lineup, they wished to provide “newcomers to the business a strategy to flourish”: Flesh ran a contest for queer, trans and intersex individuals of color the place two winners obtained scholarships to the London Sound Academy (LSA) to hone their abilities, and a slot to play at Flesh. “It takes effort, but it surely’s potential to create significant alternatives,” Togni says. “You’ll be able to change individuals’s future.”
Flesh’s debut outing is just not with out difficulties: sound programs have technical issues early on, the bar runs out of chilly drinks by 8pm, and at 11pm on the dot, the music stops – which was flagged by organisers the day earlier than the pageant, however nonetheless surprises many individuals.
On Sunday morning, punters queue for the occasion’s sole espresso vendor. Meals vehicles haven’t opened nor has the music restarted. “It has been actually enjoyable although,” says Jenny, who was at Flesh to have fun their pal’s birthday. “Once you’re with a variety of queer individuals it’s often solely at a queer evening. The tenting, hanging out and seeing queer individuals dancing in nature has been actually particular.”
“In any respect the festivals I’ve been to, like Stray and Homobloc, I’ve worn numerous ranges of garments,” they proceed. “I wore a very skimpy outfit for Homobloc and I saved getting touched by cis homosexual males and it felt actually uncomfortable, whereas right here I really feel like I may have each nips, entrance bum and again bum [all out], and it will be completely advantageous, which is nice. It’s the way it ought to be.”
Like inclusive queer membership nights Pxssy Palace, Crossbreed and Physique Actions, Flesh centres queer and trans individuals; members of these collectives play at Flesh, joined by resident DJs from London events Inferno and Massive Dyke Vitality. One newcomer is Misfya, enjoying their first pageant after profitable certainly one of Flesh’s LSA scholarships. “If I’d informed myself a yr in the past that I might be enjoying a pageant this yr I don’t assume I might have believed that,” Misfya says after her bouncy, energising DJ set. “It’s unreal. I solely began correctly enjoying in September final yr, so I really feel very joyful and proud that I’ve obtained to this place.”
Queer and trans pleasure like this may be felt throughout the positioning. Marie-Maxime, at her first English pageant, attributes this to the “very welcoming and safe” environment wherein “all people’s pleasant. I used to be not anticipating so many good vibes, a secure setting. It’s tremendous vibrant too – all of us put on black in Paris.” That is relative: the gang continues to be heavy on leather-based harnesses, face piercings, leather-based jackets and platform boots. However not like different queer areas and occasions, cis homosexual males aren’t the most important constituency – and there aren’t any straight ladies or hen events tagging alongside to see the present. Flesh exhibits that when queer ladies and trans individuals run occasions, they’ll cater to this underserved section of the UK’s queer inhabitants: the ladies, gays and theys.
Standing in keeping with Marie-Maxime to get espresso is Sharan Dhaliwal, creator of Burning My Roti: Breaking Barriers as a Queer Indian Woman. “It’s been an incredible queer household vibe,” Dhaliwal agrees. “Actually healthful and likewise actually not healthful in equal measure. It’s lovely.” Each ladies famous that Flesh felt secure, with Dhaliwal explaining: “We’re surrounded by queerness, and that’s the place the protection comes from.”