Working on the door at queer female events across the capital, this week we return to Dalston Superstore for Fèmmme Fraîche
WORDS BY CLARE HAND, IMAGES BY EGLE TREZZI
Creating a platform for female, female-identified and non-binary artists is why Fèmmme Fraîche (yes there are three m’s in Fèmmme, a queer cookbook nabbed the social on femme) launched in the first place and why, three years later, it is still one of the most rated lez/bi parties in London.
“I want people to come to our night and be like holy shit, look at all these talented females,” co-founder Michelle Manetti told me just after her set at their last event. Though our conversation was confined to bellowing at each other in the far corner of Dalston Superstore – desperately trying to project our voices over MIA’s Bad Girls – Manetti’s commitment to bolstering queer female artistry was palpable.
Speaking with Manetti – who has 17 years of DJing experience under her belt – is like conversing with a very proud, very queer lesbian mother hen. When she speaks of her night, the performers she collaborates with and the community she’s helped to form in the process, she lights up, her head held high, a little glint in her right eye. Her constructive attitude translates seamlessly into her (and Sandra Le’s) night, which sees a shiny new selection of up-and-coming female talent perform at each event.
These rotating fraiche energies work alongside a team of resident kweens – DJs, a photographer, an art curator and Emman Debattista, who works on the door.
Emman happened to be wearing four different types of vintage animal skin that night, including red snakeskin boots and a mink coat. I’d been thoroughly out-dressed and rightfully out-posted. Relieved from my duties I spent my night following Manetti’s orders to “just enjoy yourself.” I chatted with artists, danced with strangers, loitered on the door, and well, generally holy-shitted my way around Superstore.
Spread over two floors, it is a tale of two parties. The ground level pulsed with disco, R’n’B and trash-pop. Strangers jubilantly huddled together near the decks, looking dangerously close to bursting into a soul train inspired dance-off. Twerkers answered to Destiny’s Child’s calls for soldiers, voguers sliced their way through Cheryl Lynn’s demands for realness, while clenched-fisted thrusters wailed through (anything by) Robyn with the same conviction they’d sing into a bottle of conditioner in their shower. It was reckless, eclectic, hedonistic fun and a fitting ode to Fèmmme Fraîche’s open door policy, which focuses on inclusivity, respect and the immortal mantra: “no bullshit, just dancing”.
After shimmying past the hodgepodge dance troupe, I weaved through the three-deep bar queue and ended up in the slender corridor near the back staircase. Within minutes it dawned on me that I’d entered the official territory of Down To Fuck (DTF). With a population of around 20 women, each stood nonchalantly leaning against a surface of their choice: walls, tables, friends. From their perch they eye-banged, relentlessly and continuously. They eye-banged each other, eye-banged passers-by, eye-banged themselves when they caught a glimpse in the mirror. Most seemed to have come in pairs, though they evidently had no intention of leaving with the friend they’d come with. That said, there was nothing intrusive or intimidating about their prowling; they were a friendly and enduring reminder that people were going to get laid that night. Praise be.
And while all this disco-vibsing and eye-banging unfolded upstairs, Superstore’s basement thudded and thumped, beckoning people down to its dark underbelly. This is the event’s second dimension, the place where renowned DJ’s pelt techno and acid-house into a room heaving with sodden, wide-eyed dancers. “There aren’t enough lesbian techno events,” said Manetti, whose night conveniently operates as a gateway into the genre. Get lost in the hypnotic trance of the pulsing underground, then hotfoot it back to the sanctuary of upstairs to inject some groove back into that dirty little soul of yours.
Prising myself away from all of this was no easy task, though I occasionally popped outside to see how my life on the door would have been. I’d been standing with the door kweens (Emman and Jo, Superstore’s doorperson) for a little while, chatting about the importance of “having good door bitches,” in LGBTQ spaces in particular. “No toxic masculinity is basically our door policy,” said Emman, when, almost on cue, toxic masculinity heard its name and came hurtling towards us, like a dog answering to “walkies”.
As two guys approached they were told that it was a lesbian night and asked if they identify as LGBTQ. One scoffed out a firm no, so they were told they couldn’t come in. Slightly annoyed, they took a couple of steps away to mull over their night’s new trajectory. As they stood there three queer guys came in, upon noticing this the men charged over and started playing I-spy, “He’s a guy, he’s a guy,” they said repeatedly, pointing ostentatiously at people in the smoking area. “Yes but they are queer,” said Emman calmly. They turned away again, now seething, they stayed silent for a minute or two and then started shouting, “You’re racist, you’re fucking racist,” as they stormed off. Emman remained suave and expressionless, chuckling they said, “Literally only cis white hets come out with that one.”
Back inside, sweaty people were being kind to each other and queer bodies were being respected by one another. Female sexuality expressed itself unapologetically, in complete safety, not a shred of toxicity lingered in the air. Techno thumped, eye-bangers worked diligently through the night and Manetti strutted around her hedonistic little roost, head held high as ever – and rightly so.
Fèmmme Fraîche runs monthly at Dalston Superstore, 117 Kingsland High Street, London. For more info head to femmmefraiche.com
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