Words: Alastair James; pictures: provided Instagramemail@example.com
A new LGBTQ club night has been launched that is raising money for queer charities and good causes.
Loose Change was officially started in May 2022 by four friends – Matt Horwood, Alex Atherton, Danny Nasr, and Josh Willacy – who wanted to counter the closure of many iconic LGBTQ spaces in London such as Madame Jojo’s, Above the Stag, and the Joiners Arms.
After two successful club nights at Tipsy in Dalston the group is planning a third – ‘Drop Dead Gorgeous’ – set to be held on 1 October.
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Sitting down to speak to Attitude, Matt Horwood explains where the idea for Loose Change first came from.
“All four of us are Aquarius, and we decided to have a joint birthday in late January themed ‘Y2Gay’. We hired Tipsy and invited around 200 people and it was really fun. The venue enjoyed having us and said off the cuff, ‘come back if you guys ever want to’.
“So, we thought why not?”
The group decided to do another night but this time for charity. The name Loose Change came about, “because it represented the fact that it’s a non-profit night,” says Matt.
Since January the group has run two sell-out events at Tipsy – one in May (‘Wonderland’) and another in July appropriately themed ‘Heatwave’. The first raised £1,000 for Gendered Intelligence and the second raised £1,200 for London Friend. The feedback has been very positive, says Matt.
Loose Change’s founders (from left to right) Alex, Danny, Josh, and Matt (Photo: Provided)
“One of our DJs, Wayne David, said it was in his top three gigs that he’s DJ-ed in the last 20 years, which is a huge compliment. What has been so nice about the last two events is that they’re really representative of everyone in the community, there’s a really nice mixture of ages, genders, ethnicities, etc. all shapes and sizes.
“That’s what we wanted to do. We call it ’cause-centred’ queer nights. And as much as the charities are those causes, another cause for us is to carve out a space where people can just get dressed up and come and be a bit silly, and it’s not dominated by cis-white male bodies.”
The group also wants the talent performing to be representative of the whole LGBTQ community as well as those attending. It taps into issues around diversity in the LGBTQ nightlife scene in London.
A 2017 report from University College London found that not only had 58 percent of London’s queer venues shut down since 2006 but that there was a serious lack of provision in venues serving LGBTQ women, trans, queer and intersex people, as well as the POC community.
“This is partially due to closures of spaces as well as a longer-standing dearth of permanent spaces owned by and/or run for women’s, trans, non-binary, and/or QTIPOC communities,” the report says.
A survey of LGBTQ people also found that “the heritage of LGBTQ+ people is embedded in the fabric and specific cultures of designated LGBTQ+ venues and events. They also stress that venues are important spaces for education and intergenerational exchange.”
It’s clear that what people value is a non-judgmental space where people can feel safe and respected.
This is something Loose Change is acutely aware of. Matt assures that they are looking at every element of the night out given their own experiences.
“Two of the four founders are queer men of colour and I know they have experienced a lack of inclusion in nightlife spaces. In our friendship group and among our DJs and people who have done everything from our cloakroom to our photography, they represent minority genders and minority ethnic backgrounds and I know they’ve experienced it too.
“I think it’s really important to have safe spaces for marginalised parts of our community, whether those are femme and non-binary nights or nights by and for queer people of colour. But in the same breath, those groups shouldn’t feel limited to their spaces, they should feel welcomed in any queer space.”
As Matt points out, in an ideal world all queer people would feel safe in any non-queer space. However, that is far from the case. Having spaces anyone in the community feels they can access is important, especially at the moment.
To that point, Josh Willacy, one of the night’s other co-founders, says, “As people, we come together at the club to connect with each other and feel free, which for many is getting harder and harder. In times like these, when LGBTQ rights are under real threat, queer nightlife should be actively supporting the queer community.”
Matt echoes these thoughts pointing to a rise in LGBTQ hate crimes and vitriol in the media and online.
“I think that’s making a lot of queer people maybe feel more anxious than they might have done three to five years ago. And we know that for a lot of queer people nightlife spaces are hugely important, especially if you can’t fully be yourself at work or at home.
“A lot of people treat those as a real safe haven. And so the more that disappear, I think it is quite a scary thing for a lot of people that do rely on those.”
The next Halloween-themed Drop Dead Gorgeous event will be held at Latino Hits and will raise funds for Stonewall Housing following an increase in LGBTQ and queer homelessness during the pandemic
Harwood says the event is taking place at the beginning of October so people can enjoy the Halloween season as much as possible. He also teases the night will have a “spooky-horror-glam feel” with Foxgluvv, DJ Xzan, and blacc mamba to be performing.
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Security will be provided by Safe Only, a queer security firm following many occasions when queer people, especially those from marginalised backgrounds have felt targeted by bouncers.
Tickets for Drop Dead Gorgeous can be bought here.
The Attitude September/October issue is out now.