Meet the queers hosting ‘beautiful’ coronavirus lockdown parties on Zoom to help people feel a little less isolated
Last Friday night, when London’s clubs were closed and the streets motionless, a DJ called Harry Gay set up a turntable and opened up Zoom on his laptop.
In his apartment in Peckham, he jerry-rigged his own lighting equipment, shimmied around a cramped living room and hunched over his MacBook Air.
A tiled grid of people stared back at him as music blasted from his home speaker system. Addressing his webcam, Gay live-streamed a night of queer bops, house bangers and techno clangers to more than 1,000 people around the world.
Many of them wearing pyjamas and sipping on homemade cocktails or cups of tea.
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Like any good host, Gay wore a see-through t-shirt and a chain harness to get into the spirit as his five housebound flatmates donned lamé and leather and danced around him.
The coronavirus pandemic may have upended the London’s nightlife, but Gay is one of countless queer DJs, musicians and club owners showing resilience and ingenuity in a time of crisis.
Queer House Party: ‘We are able to bring a sense of community and normality to thousands of people.’
For those who pay the bills through partying, the lockdown has made finances dire and forced creatives to wrestle with the new reality of COVID-19.
After losing bookings one by one, Gay, who works at LGBT+ homelessness organisation The Outside Project, told PinkNews that he sat down with his flatmates one day to share ideas on how to make cash for rent. Fast.
That’s when the idea for Queer House Party was struck.
Broadcast over Zoom, a video-chat app designed for stale corporate meetings, virtual club-goers are sent a link to the weekly 9pm set that takes place in Gay’s houseshare.
Fellow resident DJs Passer and Wacha join in with the session hosted remotely by artist Liv Wynter. Being on Zoom allows followers to chat to one another, too.
It’s completely free and fans are implored to log-into PayPayl and tip to aid troubled artists.
“What started as a simple idea to create some extra cash during this crisis has turned into something so overwhelmingly beautiful,” Gay said.
“Half of the house also work in frontline or key worker roles so initially, we thought it would be a way for us all to come together and have fun during this stressful time.”
And it has reached beyond just the house, it is now doing that for thousands of people across the world, making people feel closer together.
Digital nightclubs have become the saviour for cooped-up queer folk, many feeling isolated from the community.
Weeks into lockdown measures and bored Londoners can scarcely remember the sweat, the sugar and the sweet tunes played in overpriced LGBT+ clubs.
“The reason we all head out to queer nights is because of the community and sense of belonging that comes with it,” Gay explained.
“It is so important to be able to socialise with people like yourself.”
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Queer House Party, steaming live from our living room to yours. Every Friday 🏳️🌈✊💦 . After the overwhelming success our first parties which have seen thousands of people tuning into our live stream to dance, sing, chat and REVEL with like-minded queers from across the world. WE ARE BACK and will be every Friday while we're in isolation. . We’re also going have EXTRA SPECIAL GUESTS @lydialscabies and @rhysspieces_ joining us via live stream for a couple of performances. . The online chat will be hosted by the legendary @livwynter . Give them a nudge to let them know that you want your video to be shared. Give them a message if you want to request a song or a shout out! . 🧐HOW DOES THE QUEER HOUSE PARTY WORK?! . ✅Just before we go live we’ll send out a link that will put you straight into the party. . 💃 You can choose to share your video and dance along or just watch everyone else partying. You can also chat with other party guests in the main thread or privately. . 💕This is free of charge but if you can, send us a lil' tip to keep the party going!. . 💿Our DJs are 🔥 🔥 🔥 and our equipment is linked up to the streaming platform meaning that the sound quality is on point! . 💎we’ll be with you every Friday for as long as we’re all isolating and our DJs remain healthy. . ✨v big shout of to Dr J for helping us make this happen 💕💕 . 🍷 in solidarity with our sober friends we are asking you to decant your drinks into cups and do not take any substances on camera. . Please respect one another; do not assume anyone’s gender, ask for pronouns if you are unsure. We do not accept prejudice based on religious beliefs, language ability, class or gender presentation. We do not tolerate ableism, ageism, body shaming, biphobia, fatphobia, homophobia, misogyny, racism, transphobia or xenophobia. If we see anyone who is doing any of the above you will be removed from the stream and banned from Queer House Party. . See you there xxx
LGBT+ DJ: ‘We will never take this for granted again.’
Gay stressed that he and his flatmates, some of whom run a queer anti-fascist DJ collective and radio show called GLAMTIFA with him, are all doing what they can to support one another and the wider community in this crisis.
“If you’re earning a salary still,” Gay said, “I think it’s important that you keep channelling your income into online queer entertainment as you would have been if the bars were still open!”
In transforming a flat stuffed with succulents and trainers into a digital DJ session, Gay explained that, above all, hosting Queer House Party has made him appreciate how accessible online parties can be for everyone.
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Gay said: “Disabled people and people with access needs can pop in and join the party without having to worry about accessibility, neuro-divergent people can avoid sensory overload, survivors can have a boogie and feel safe.
“Our sober siblings don’t have to worry about being around booze – these things really need to be addressed within the queer scene.
“It’s s**t that it’s taken a pandemic to make parties more accessible.
“We will never be taking this stuff for granted again.”