Techno thunders from Venue MOT Unit 18, a warehouse in South East London. There are 100 queer women and trans and non-binary people inside with 200 more on their way. Big Dyke Energy’s organisers are standing outside — Melody’s wearing a B.D.E. leather harness, Elliott’s wearing a B.D.E binder.
They welcome people to their new rave night, a ruleless space for dykes to get together, get loose, and get very, very wavey until the heavenly hour of 5 a.m. It is the first dyke-centered techno night of its scale in London with dykes behind the decks and an all-womxn security and bar team. It feels like a brand new chapter in queer nightlife.
“Stay safe, stay hydrated, love the beats,” says Elliott as groups of people I’ve never seen before come to the door. “I am the big dyke who started this energy,” Melody jokes with the celesbians of east London’s queer scene.
The pair is financially sustained by their day jobs, so this party is not-for-profit. They break even, pay their artists super fairly, and pay all their staff very well too. That is, apart from Melody’s school friends, who do the door for free, though they seem to be having more fun than anyone else in the city.
As Melody and Elliott greet people, they crack jokes, riff-off each other, and quite literally bounce up and down with excitement. And rightly so, as this is their second party and the second time they’ve sold out.
Big Dyke Energy seemed to fall from the sky last May. Thanks to their ultimate power name, a beautiful flyer by Sofie Birkin @sofiebirkinillustration (The party actually looks exactly like the poster), a thoughtful adding-spree on Insta, and a superb venue, the rest was a fairly seamless slide into the dyke nightlife record books.
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The genius name came to Melody (in a moment of divination from Mother Dyke) while lying in bed in February. “I’m going to host a party and call it Big Dyke Energy,” she thought to herself. The revelation was sparked by a handful of experiences in queer clubs. Melody, a DJ, would be playing a set while watching men continuously hitting on her girlfriend. “It’s like what is the point of me being here, this is meant to be a safe space,” she says.
Having DJ’ed at countless venues between them, Melody and Elliott both realised that “a lot of club nights are tailored towards cis men and their needs. There are loads of urinals, quick entry, male bouncers, it’s all for them,” Melody tells GO.
Though there are some superb queer techno nights out there, “Adonis and Chapter 10 are amazing,” says Melody — as is Michelle Manetti’s Fèmmme Fraîche (a monthly queer womxn’s techno party at Dalston Superstore) — but most of the high-ceilinged, all-night warehouse raves are for dudes.
“It’s not like they’re actively exclusionary,” says Elliott. “It just happens that often queer men show up, queer womxn don’t.”
“Adonis’ poster is literally a dick. Chapter 10’s is a butt plug. They’re not messing around. They’re being super pointed and good for them,” says Melody, “but that’s what we’re doing too. Big Dyke Energy comes from Big Dick Energy. Fuck it, we’re reclaiming it, this is the queer womxn’s alternative,” Melody says in a fervent tone that makes me give her a high-five.
The word “dyke” played an important role in this. It’s a power-word that filters the crowd, attracting certain people in a major way, and repelling others (“dyke” is also spared the sexualisation of “lesbian”). “Without saying anything else, the name attracted the crowd we wanted,” says Elliott.
“Dyke has become a word that is a bit taboo, but I’m so proud to be a dyke womxn. Let’s be proud to be dykez, proud to be queer womxn, proud to use those words. And we say ‘dykez’ as well, because we are inclusive; anybody can call themselves a dyke,” says Melody, inducing another high-five.
While planning their party, there was a lot of discussion about whether they should be separatist. “Should we explicitly be a queer/trans womxn and non-binary space, and use that as a political statement?” asks Melody. Obviously it’s difficult with queer identities, “you can’t look at someone and say, ‘you’re a cis man,’” says Elliott, “and balance in queer spaces is important.”
Thankfully, ‘Big Dyke Energy’ does the talking and the venue is absolutely teaming with it. Every inch of this party has been thought about; every beat has a solid foundation of kind, thoughtful and considerate engagement with queer identities; all the time, with dykez at the core.
Melody speaks of safer space policies and how some club nights are forgetting what this means. She notes that their policy is written in brail by the bar, that they have a pre-party briefing with all of their staff on queer inclusivity and pronouns, and that they work with the venue to make sure it’s accessible for all.
“Could you imagine if one day you fell off your bike and partying was taken away from you because of lack of accessibility?” says Melody. And thirty minutes later, as a person with a green mohawk rocks up in a mobility scooter, Melody says, “It’s so, so great to have you here. If there’s anything you need, come and get me. Have a sick night.”
Encompassing all of this, however, is the fact that I’ve never stood outside a venue with two dyke promoters who speak so passionately, zealously, and intricately about music.
Both are DJs. Elliott cuts records for a living, Melody helps with a collective called SISU with a couple of other people, who’ve taught over 600 womxn to DJ. “We are both obsessed with music,” says Melody who stays outside for the majority of the night. Elliott disappears inside for stints, reappearing like a joyous messenger, bringing live updates on the sets. “Club Fitness is fucking banging,” “Michelle Manetti’s killing it,” “Angel D’lite,” they hype while pointing inside. “I saw her play at Dalston Superstore and I was obsessed. She has this collection of ’80s and ’90s rave music — Prodigy unreleased stuff. It’s just unreal. She’ll play anything, cheesy or whatever, and make it work; it’s f*cking great.” With promoters who radiate energy like this, it’s easy to see why their night was an instant success.
Inside, Elliott wasn’t exaggerating: the DJs were absolutely slaying. Dykez from all walks of life, fashions, and scenes were all in one place, dancing together, techno uniting London’s diverse and disparate dyke community.
The lighting game at MOT is ridiculously strong. It’s mostly low-lit, so all you can make out are flailing hands and pulsing silhouettes. Then, sporadic bursts of white strobe lights reveal oh so many ecstatic dykes. The smoke machine and air-con are equally impressive; at times, close to the decks, it felt as though we were in a Wizard of Oz style twister-of-lesbians.
There are few spaces in London (be they queer or not) where I feel comfortable wearing next to nothing, doing and acting as I please, but this is it. Loaded with some of the biggest, loudest, most liberated dyke energy in this city, this party is what dyke dreams are made of.
As 300 women piled in, there was always space to dance and considerate people, saying “sorry” if they trod on your toe, or “thank you” if you made way for them. The vibe was as excellent at 11 p.m. as it was at 4 a.m. Out front, there was a mellow seating area to rest those weary techno toes. Outback was a wooded garden, strewn in fairy lights — a blissful Sapphic retreat.
Back inside, things got progressively wobbly – dark techno and acid met R’n’B and Hip-Hop (My Neck, My Back was sliced up, drawn-out, and thrown in the mix to euphoric approval). The music went to places I wasn’t expecting, and it really worked. I have a feeling that the dyke energy at this party is only going to get bigger and better. Here’s to Melody and Elliott: the dykez building a queer utopia one beat at a time.