Photo: Loannis Tziatzios
Every once in a while, an invitation lands in my inbox that basically has me yelling ‘take my goddamn money’ before I’ve even finished reading it. This opportunity, to check out The Weird and The Wonderful’s He.She.They, was exactly one of those.
Taking place this Saturday at Ministry of Sound, the polysexual, poly-gender, poly-everything awesome event is the next in a new party series from the UK based company headed by seasoned party animals and music industry veterans Steven Braines and Sophia Kearney.
After grabbing attention with their February launch event, featuring a massive lineup including Maya Jane Coles and Ellen Allien, they recently hosted the official opening party for IMS Ibiza, featuring Heidi and Honey Dijon amongst others. Even more than the killer lineups though, it’ll be the atmosphere and ethos of this night that has the potential to turn it into one of the biggest in the capital.
Get to know this party now, and you can say you were there at the beginning. Eyebrows will be raised in all the best possible ways, and you can grab your tickets for Saturday here.
The perfect way to get into the mindset of this party was always going to be first and foremost from the mouths of its creators – so I sent a few questions over to Steven and Sophia. Dive in below…
For the uninitiated – who are The Weird & The Wonderful, and what is He.She.They?
The Weird and The Wonderful is a multi-faceted talent consultancy, record label, events curation and management collective, dealing with all things weird and wonderful! We manage an eclectic array of artists, such as Maya Jane Coles, KDA, Catz n’Dogz, and Wax Wings, through to Barely Legal, Scratcha DVA and Ejeca. In the past we’ve worked with Tricky, Tale of Us, Magda and Justin Martin to name but a few.
We’ve been fortunate to have many opportunities to work with insanely talented people over the five years since our inception, and we learnt not to pigeon hole ourselves into any particular method of working; basically if a project or artist inspires us creatively, we will get involved. We went from a small space in Hackney, and now have bases in London, Berlin, Ibiza, and Milan as the collective has grown.
He.She.They is an events series we devised based around creating an accepting, family vibed party which we ourselves would want to attend. We’re endeavouring to breed an atmosphere of fantastic music curation, kind people, and a polysexual space for people to experiment and explore everything from their wardrobe to their sexuality or gender identity; to meet and mix with different types of people, and have a general release from the shackles of social normality.
Was this party inspired by a particular need? Or has it simply been a long time coming?
It was formed for a few different reasons – mainly because we just wanted to throw fucking good parties around the world that we ourselves would want to go to! Where people could be hedonistic, the music was on point, and people were allowed to be themselves, experiment and explore in a brave space. You can have nights where everyone is respectful of one another without the night being dull. We have a really wide and diverse friendship group, and we wanted to have a space that reflected that: from crowd, to artists, to performers, in an organic way rather than a box ticking exercise.
For instance, I [Steven] have male and female partners, and I can feel awkward holding my boyfriend’s hand in some more straight clubs; or, occasionally being told that “this is a gay space” when kissing a female partner in LGBTQUIA+ clubs. Which was frustrating because I wasn’t able to express my bisexuality in spaces that were supposed to be for me; I reminded my chastisers that there definitely is a B in LGBTQUIA+.
Also, in the UK, many traditionally gay clubs are often white male dominated spaces, and not always that welcoming to queer women or people of colour. Our space is neither a gay or a straight space; it’s just a space; hence our motto “a place without prejudice for people to be people”, our aspiration to be welcoming to all.
Your ethos is all about breaking down barriers and allowing people to be their best selves. How do you go about making that happen?
We felt that club nights had become segregated – whereas dance music events began with an ethos of everyone being welcome. It was bred through the desire of wonderful people creating safe spaces for all different sub genres of music and attitudes; whilst this is fantastic and those club nights should definitely still exist for all those willing to attend, we felt there was a gap in the clubbing market space for a night which brought all those people back together under one roof, who could bring all those valued expressions of creativity together again in a place without prejudice, for people to be people.
We strive for our attendees to enjoy meeting and integrating with other clubbers from all walks of life, where the common denominators could be a love of music, inspiration from and appreciation of other peoples creativity. Through our mission statement and promotional content encouraging people to experiment with their dress, we welcome people in anything: from trainers to drag, latex and knee high boots; anything goes, as long as you bring an open mind to the table and treat others with kindness, compliments and the respect to allow everyone to feel comfortable to be themselves.
Photo: Gemma Bell
Who are your inspirations? Who else out there is throwing boundary smashing nights that you love?
I think things like Folsom Fayre, Manumission, and of course still Panorama Bar/Berghain are inspirations. Rhonda in LA. There has to be love for Bassiani. The spirit of all those brave people who stood up and were counted in the Stonewall riots. I loved nights like Trailer Trash, Boombox and Nag Nag Nag when I first entered London as a kid. I always wished I could have been around at the Blitz Club, Club For Heroes, or Taboo, and of course Studio 54, Paradise Garage.
There’s loads of people doing a lot of good things besides the London-centric list I’m going to give: but some of the nights new and old that are pushing boundaries are Inferno, Shutdown, Little Gay Brother, Spin Cycle, BBZ, Gold Snap, Pxssy Palace, Kaos, Slimelight, BOMBSHELL!, Femme Fraiche, Torture Garden, Krankbrother, Club Anti Christ. I haven’t been personally, but what COVEN is doing looks interesting.
What can we expect from this edition of He.She.They, musically and otherwise?
Our second Ministry event will have a wide range of musical offerings. The next level sound system in The Box will showcase Magda, the Polish-US techno heroine who has headlined every acclaimed club in the world. Magda’s dark disco and minimal techno broke through the traditionally male-dominated decks and opened a host of doors for other women in dance. Very special guest Miss Kittin is an equally pioneering force in the world of electronica. Her raw and visceral sounds in the DJ booth are a thing of legend so get ready for an education in techno. Breakthrough american talent Louisahhh and our incredibly talented resident Wax Wings round off the main room.
In the 103 house music legend Marshall Jefferson will be bringing some serious Chicago rhythm to the table. He will be joined by Maze & Masters, who have played every He.She.They. event so far along with Wax Wings, so it’s wonderful to have those artists who are excited to come along on this journey with us. Jonathan Bestley will also be a masterful selector as usual, and we are lucky enough to welcome Michelle Manetti to He.She.They for the first time. As well as being just a lovely human, she runs Femme Fraiche whose ethos we also think is fabulous.
As well as amazing music we will also have a troupe of 10 performers from Little Gay Brother joining us for the evening. I’ve (Sophia) been a huge fan of their performances for ages, and barely used to leave their tent at Secret Garden Party (may she rest in peace) all weekend. They bring boundless energy, sassy give-a-fuck attitudes, and most importantly talented moves to our stage and dance floor, and really engage with the audience. We have the luxury of three hosts in this instalment – including iconic art-house royalty Bishi, London’s female queen of drag Georgie Bee, and performance artist Lewis G. Burton to make sure there won’t be a dull moment.
You’ve only recently got back from the legendary Pacha, Ibiza. How was that experience?
It was AMAZING. Jessica at Pacha really understood our vision, and we’d also worked with Jodie on the first event at Ministry so they really helped make it work. Doing the first event there, with it being the opening for the International Music Summit too, added to the pressure! But we brought dancers over from Little Gay Brother, alongside Pacha’s own dancers, and on the decks we had Honey Dijon, George Fitzgerald, Heidi, Kim Ann Foxman, Wax Wings and Maze & Masters – so we had the perfect musical blend.
It was nice to bring a bit of a more weird and wonderful night to Ibiza. Manumission was a game changer in experience, diversity and inclusion; the whole island was changing and it felt like whilst the music was still on point that it wasn’t cool to be a freak on the island anymore. I’m a chubby lad who wears doc martens on the beach; so it was nice to counter-balance the body fascist side of the island too, with different types of bodies on show with the dancers. Most clubs only have female dancers nowadays, and we didn’t just want to play up to a straight male fantasy, so our dancers were talented performers from across gender spectrum. I think myself on a podium hopefully helped other people who don’t have a six pack to feel less self conscious.
After Fabric, Pulse, and Bassiani, it sometimes feels like our culture has never been more under threat. How do you see the health of our nightlife?
I think it’s hard to answer that question as the scope of it is so huge. What happened at Pulse was horrific, though sadly even schools in America have had mass shootings. Bassiani had a government sanctioned investigation, but politics and religious shifts have created problems for centuries – even look at the Puritans in the UK who banned dancing, or how Tehran changed after the student revolutions. Unless you have secular liberal societies permanently, club culture will always have its threats. Berlin is a beacon of how things can be, with governments that take a common sense approach to things – but that is only ever a general election away from changing.
You’ve been in the party scene for quite a while now – have you learnt any hard lessons along the way?
Gosh. It’s a lot of years now! Most things I’ve learnt have been positive – it’s where I met most of my friends and made my living. I saw a lot of fucked up shit in my earlier years of clubbing, where people would try and get paid twice, people were asking for protection money, clubs were trying to not pay; I’m glad it’s a little less ‘wild west’ out there now in those kind of terms, as it’s better regulated and people are more tolerant in general. So I guess I learnt: always get everything in writing, contracted with an email chain. Never play a club without getting the money beforehand. Never throw a party you wouldn’t pay to go to yourself. And most importantly, it’s nice to be nice!
Massive thanks to Steven and Sophia for taking the time to speak with us. If you haven’t got the hint by now, He.She.They is this Saturday 30th at Ministry of Sound! And you can grab tickets here, or here, and you can check the FB event here.
See you down there!