Clare Hand is a self-described flaming London lesbian. She’s spent the last year writing about queer women’s nightlife in her city. She documents the atmosphere, music, fashions, vibe (are you going to get laid or make new mates?), and those behind the nights.
Clare decided that it wouldn’t be right to only document dyke nightlife in one city, so she packed her bags and hit the road. She’s written about the thriving scenes in New York, San Francisco, Bogota, São Paulo, Berlin, and Dublin so far. This list will keep expanding. Keep an eye on her Dyke Nightlife Diaries here.
It’s 8 p.m., and we’re wandering around Peckham, South London. It’s quiet; there are warehouses everywhere and most seem to have been converted into places of worship — Christ High Commission, New Jerusalem Parish, River of Life Centre – with euphoric Friday night hymns spilling out onto the streets.
“Surely the Lord is in This Place,” reads one bold warehouse sign, and through an open door just to the left of this, we hear the thuds and strums of a live punk gig. Surely the dykes are in that place.
Following the bass, we enter DIY Space for London, a cooperatively-run venue and community centre. It’s usually filled with local artists and rehearsing musicians, but tonight it’s loaded with dykes — punky dykes in ripped fishnets and oversized tees with stick ’n’ poke tattoos and septum piercings. They’re congregating in groups, lounging on leather sofas, and resting scuffed Doc Marten boots on coffee tables. Everyone is serving IDGAF punk-chic; they’re chicer still because they actually aren’t trying and really don’t give a fuck.
The venue is huge. There’s a stage, a bar with a solid selection of reasonably priced drinks, accessibility ramps made of chipboard, and hand-painted walls. The atmosphere is welcoming and spacious, there are families – yes kids at a dyke night – living their best lives alongside queer punks, sex workers, and riot grrrls. The hodgepodge of people is an ode to how inclusive and safe this night is; all are welcome as long as you’re respectful and decent.
Dyke in the Pit is a party for outsiders, for anyone who doesn’t slot into the straight or homo norms.
“I don’t have hips,” founder Frankie Tuffragette told me, “I don’t even slightly fit into the acceptable ‘sexy feminine girl’ bracket. I don’t know how to dance to that poppy shit and it doesn’t say anything about my life. Punk was always my passion cause it was a good channel for the frustration of not feeling able to integrate, so I figured yeah, time to bring all the outsiders together.”
Frankie is a London-based musician and activist who first launched her night in Stockholm back in 2017. She brought it to the U.K. in February of this year. Unlike most dyke nightlife in this city (and for that matter, in New York, San Francisco, São Paulo — you name it), Dyke In The Pit is trans-led.
“Dykes have always been a huge variety of genders since day one,” Frankie said. “The only thing we’re not is cis-men, and our sexualities and genders aren’t for the benefit of cis-men, and that’s that.”
Frankie’s night prioritises the safety and happiness of women of trans experience and trans-feminine people. “This is something all LGBT+ nights should be making explicit,” she states resolutely, “because we get treated like shit everywhere on the regular, and that needs to change yesterday.”
Within minutes of speaking with Frankie, her passion, wisdom, and vision are crystal clear. She shines with the assertiveness of someone who’s constructively challenging the inequalities they’ve experienced in society. If she had a soundtrack, it would definitely be Bikini Kill’s Rebel Girl.
Dyke In The Pit is more than a party; it is a whole evening of stimulating, challenging and experimental dyke-driven entertainment. Events run every two months, and each night is curated by a different dyke-identified person. Their only brief is to honour the punk spirit and amplify lesser-heard voices.
Multi-disciplinary artist and Latin lesbian sex worker Andie Macario took the reigns on this night. Under her supervision, band after band took to the stage. Interior, a Brazilian trio, played hypnotic, psychedelic cold wave. Between tunes, they spoke of how they found a home in the U.K. in the queer, punk, and sex worker community. Immigranti played soon after, bringing gritty mosh-pit-inducing anarchist punk, and speaking of indigenous people’s rights around the world.
Live music was intersected with performance art, spoken word, poetry, and short films on topics like the infamous lesbian cruising spot in a cemetery in North London (it’s no longer a thing, I checked), and the joys of seductively riding a blown-up condom.
I’ve never been so thoroughly entertained and politically engaged at a dyke night. It felt like we were in the creative nerve centre of the dyke revolution.
Between acts, people headed to the little gift shop selling second-hand books, merch, and queer people’s zines. The room was abuzz with conversation, and the atmosphere was a far cry from the typical dyke night format: smaller venue, louder music, and more people doing lots of bar leaning and eye banging. There was art to discuss, cemeteries to (frantically) Google, time to chat, space to move. You could sit on the floor alone if you wanted, strip down to a g-string if you desired, start a one-person mosh pit, eat a chicken wing, do whatever you fancied — no one cared. This is a taste of the feckless freedom of the queer punk community, and my first taste of this attitude in dyke nightlife.
We spilled out into the street at midnight, infused with the spirit of the dyke revolution. Surely the dykes were indeed in that place. With nights like this, they will be there for many years to come.
Dyke in the Pit! (£4-£8/ $5-$10), pay what you can, no dyke turned away for lack of funds, at DIY Space for London, 96 Ormside Street SE15. For more info head here: https://www.facebook.com/dykeinthepit/