Working on the door at queer female events across the capital, this week, the illustrious Mint
BY CLARE HAND
The first time Mint took over Soho’s Jack Solomons, back in October last year, the event swiftly sold out. 300 names were on the guestlist: if they all turned up, the venue – a plush speakeasy cocktail bar on Great Windmill Street – would be at max capacity, filled to the brim with queer women.
Venue manager Emily Storr had a full team behind the bar, however, having hosted scores of events, she’d learnt to assume that a good 50 to 100 people would be no-shows on the night.
By the time the clock struck 11pm, the bar was bursting at the seams, everyone had shown up (plus some) and JS contained more people than it had ever held in its year of life. People piled up, seven deep at the bar as cocktail shakers rattled like machine guns. By the time doors closed at 1am, the staff sat in a circle with a wind-down round of tequila, celebrating the end of the barrage of liquor-loving lezzas.
How do I know all this? Well, in a serendipitous turn of events, I already work as a host at Jack Solomons. When Nicola Chubb, the woman behind Mint, called in January to say she’d like to hire the venue again, whispers echoed through the club’s hallways: “Mint are coming back,” staff said, as managers fretted over extra bar-backs and the amount of spirits in stock. Meanwhile, I pranced around like a Disney princess waiting for their beloved’s return: “The lesbians are coming!”
At 13 years old, Mint is one of the longest-running lesbian nights in London. It started life in Frith’s Street’s Rush Bar (now KU/She Soho). When Nicola opened the three-floor venue she started programing a series of nights for women to “keep things interesting,” as she calls it, one of those nights was Mint and, well the rest is lesbian nightlife history.
Mint is now a multifaceted creation that sails around the capital – taking over swish venues like Soho House and Century Club – with Nicola at the helm. It shifts its shape depending on the occasion: Mint Network is an event for professionals, Mint Social is a more relaxed get-to-know, Mint Party is for getting loose’n’wavy, while Mint Tease is a night of “voyeuristic pleasure” – I’ll let your imagination do the leg-work on that one.
As with the first time Mint partied at Jack Solomons, February’s event sold out very quickly. They already have a host, and I was needed on the floor, so before you is the very first (and slightly less glam) Secret Diary Of A Glass Clearer.
I spent the majority of the evening walking around like a rugby player trying to worm my way through a scrum. Most people in the heaving venue were female-identified; though there was a sprinkling of gay men, and one hetero bloke from Norway, who sulked in the corner until his lesbro finally escorted him to Zoo Bar.
There were lots of extended glances as we scrummed through each other, and eye-banging seemed to be happening between everyone. Literally everyone. I’d be clearing a table and inadvertently wander through a smouldering exchange between some of the most unlikely combinations of women, rocking completely different lewks, some with 10, 20 – dare I say 30 – years between them. There was a palpable anything goes atmosphere in the air as people flirted and scouted around, but it all seemed playful. I didn’t actually see anyone leave with a stranger (save that for Mint Tease I suppose).
The diversity of the event really stood out. There were as many women of colour as not, with South African, Brazilian, Kenyan, Czech, Jamaican and French women, to name but a handful. There were also countless characters: a couple in matching tuxedos, a person with a Mohawk who had sown a cap onto their shoulder. One corner held the ex-manager of Titanium and Muse, in another, an ex-manager of Candy Bar, while scattered in the middle were a team of sculpted kickboxing instructors who had just rocked up in a limo.
Moreover, because Jack Solomons is an accessible venue, there was a woman in a wheelchair and two on crutches. The night held a cohesive and broad representation of our community. This was a real pleasure to witness.
My burning point of discussion however is dancing. It was non-existent. For about four hours no one danced, save a few brave souls on the outskirts, singlehandedly trying to bring the vibe. I was on the verge of writing an opinion piece on the lack-lustre moves in our community (title: where are all the dancing dykes?) and then DJ Liv Knight took to the decks.
Despite it being her first set for Mint, she managed to tap into the exact rhythmic frequency that transports static queer women into ecstatic dance. What is this siren song I hear you cry? Well as it turns out, it’s reggaeton and dancehall.
As soon as Liv started feeding the crowd the likes of Sean Paul, Beanie Man and Daddy Yankee, the moves were unstoppable. Whining, thrusting, shimmying, waltzing – you name the style, they were doing it. Some finger pumped like they were at a Chase & Status rave, others looked like they’d teleported straight from Justin Bieber’s Sorry vid.
Weaving her way around all this marvellous mayhem was Nicola. Socialising through her event, she smiled ear-to-ear as she stopped to have a laugh, a hug, a dance with well, nearly everyone in there. It was her birthday so people were popping bottles on her behalf, buying her shot after shot. She, in fact, text me the next morning saying she needed a pair of sunglasses to open the fridge.
As far as I’m concerned, this is why Mint has been running for 13 years, and why, at the drop of a hat, Nicola can fill a club with hundreds of queer women. She has given years of her life to the capital’s queer female scene, working (and playing) tirelessly to provide space for lesbian/bi women to socialise.
Evidently the scene is grateful to her, and apparently we show our gratitude with shots of tequila.
Only reading DIVA online? You’re missing out. For more news, reviews and commentary, check out the latest issue. It’s pretty badass, if we do say so ourselves.