When lockdown hit, Londoner Harry Gay and his fellow DJs (who also happen to be his housemates) created a weekly LGBTQ+ Zoom party from their New Cross pad. Now that the city is slowly reopening, we ask Harry and DJ Passer (Nik Erz): what does the future hold for online nightlife?
How did Queer House Party begin?
Harry Gay: In March my friends and I saw our DJ bookings disappear, so we thought of ways to make some extra cash and get our friends together who were in lockdown all over the country. We put up a Facebook event and didn’t think too much of it. The first party was us DJing for four hours from our kitchen and over a thousand people came. The next day we sat down and said, ‘Let’s do this!’
‘We’ve had messages from people in countries where it’s illegal to be queer thanking us’
How has it evolved?
HG: We’ve done 15 events and now we’re experts in online parties. We spotlight people dancing, and collaborate with amazing performers and hosts. We’ve had big-name DJs approach us, but we want to keep it DIY. Our Black Lives Matter fundraiser stands out. It was really beautiful, with an hour of Black performance from poetry to drag. Jay Jay Revlon even did a guest DJ set from Barcelona.
Photograph: Holly Whitaker Photography
What has the response been?
HG: People have tuned in from around the world. We’ve had messages from people in countries where it’s illegal to be queer thanking us. It’s given a lot of hope to people. People have even gone on dates after meeting at the parties.
Why is it important to keep queer spaces alive online?
Nik Erz: Historically, people in the LGBTQ+ community haven’t been able to access or been welcome in many places, so we’ve always had to be creative and resilient and make our own spaces. I don’t think it‘s surprising that the queer community has risen up in lockdown – it’s in our nature.
What have you learned from Queer House Party?
HG: Accessibility has become a really big thing for us. There’s so many people who can come to Queer House Party that wouldn’t normally be able to go out to a queer bar in London. Now the parties have a BSL interpreter, audio descriptions and captioning. I hope there’s a real push to make venues more accessible after this.
Photograph: Queer House Party
How has Queer House Party helped you through lockdown?
HG: It’s brought our house so much joy and given us new friendships. We’ve formed a really important relationship with Cybertease, who are an online strip club. I never expected to be in a group chat with 20 sex workers about how to put on really cool parties.
‘Accessibility has become a really big thing for us’
Queer House Party is going monthly, what can we expect from future parties?
NE: They’ll be much bigger, with a jam-packed programme that really engages with what’s going on each month. We want to support causes and ideas that are relevant to that moment.
Are online parties here to stay?
HG: Even when we go back to real-life events, we’ll always have an online element so they’re always accessible. Whether it’s streaming a performer on stage who can’t leave their home or having a Zoom background to show people dancing at home. It’s something that hasn’t really been done before. I’m excited about what it can become.
Catch the next Queer House Party via www.facebook.com/queerhouseparty. It’s free to join, but donations are welcome.