After 13 years of bombastic entertainment and glitter, Sink the Pink, like all good parties, is coming to an end. Having originated in the iconic Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club, Sink the Pink went on to become the UK’s biggest queer club night. It’s truly the end of an era, not just for its founders Glyn Fussell and Amy Redmond, but for the country’s LGBTQ+ community writ large; for them the night not only provided a sense of community but a safe space in which to celebrate in a truly unabashed manner. If you haven’t had the privilege of attending, imagine the nation’s finest drag queens and DJs all coming together in an absolute carnivalesque explosion of fun.
Of course, the end of an era calls for one final hurrah. Sink the Pink is hosting its Farewell Ball at Printworks on April 15. You can expect major acts, performances from its veterans, and as usual, everything that is chaotic, colourful, and most definitely queer! Ahead of the epic celebration, HUNGER sat down with Glyn and Amy, as well as members of Sink the Pink’s extended family to reflect on its legacy, and what it’s meant to them along the way.
Founders — Glyn Fussell and Amy Redmond
Sink the Pink was born out of being frustrated by a lack of inclusive, LGBTQ+ friendly spaces in London. Now, 13 years on — how much has this changed in your guys’ eyes? Is it a completely different environment?
Glyn: The scene has changed a LOT. That is a great thing and we have been a nurturing night and space that’s always been about pushing the queer agenda forward, as well as brilliant weirdos. It makes me so happy that they’re now in the mainstream. My only fear is that venues are vanishing and they form the backbone of our community. We need more venues.
Amy: It is and isn’t. I think that off the back of Sink the Pink, we saw spaces embracing inclusivity. There are always grassroots venues doing that like The Glory and Bethnal Green’s Working Men’s Club, but we also lost a lot of incredible queen venues. And now we’re seeing straight spaces cashing in on the trend of throwing a drag brunch and thinking that their inclusivity box is ticked. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for drag queens getting paid, but I want to see those venues thinking about wider inclusivity issues, their staffing, and what they’re doing to be true allies to the community.
Legend has it that back in 2008, you guys put together a list of what would make an ideal night out — can you remember some of the things that were on that list?
Both: Everybody is welcome, holiday camp-style entertainment, house party madness, dance-offs, camp surrealism, unashamedly pop music. NO rules, and childlike joy.
If you had to write that list now – 13 years on – would it look any different and how so?
Amy: I think it is true to the exact same list now!
Glyn: Yeah I agree, the wild thing is that even though we got bigger and bigger, I would say the original intention is still where we are at!
How did your mission with Sink the Pink change throughout the years?
Glyn: The irony is that when you start out being the opposite of a mega-club and then become one, you have to ask yourself how it feels. Is it authentically why we started this and is it what the world needs? You have to remember who the night is for and follow their needs rather than your own, so you’re steering the shit while making sure the identity remains consistent.
Amy: We are so proud of what we’ve achieved with Sink the Pink, and the platform it’s given to performers and creatives from our scene — it is above and beyond anything we could have ever imagined. I think Sink the Pink will live on through the projects that have come after it like Mighty Hoopla. I now run Margate Pride, Jono runs Pluma in Barcelona and Jay Matthews is running drag energy workshops in Berlin. The Sink the Pink energy lives on in the world and in everyone that’s been a part of it.
How important has the sense of family been to Sink the Pink — are you guys still in touch with people from the very beginning?
Amy: The family has grown together. We’ve watched members of our community completely excel in their industries. Hair and makeup artists, stylists, fashion designers, performers and creatives of all kinds have come through our doors and we’ve been there for each other through all of it. We’re family forever. Finishing the regular parties doesn’t change that, we’ve all lived together, dated, had children together and got dogs together! The reality of a community like this is that it will live on forever.
Glyn: I have formed the best, most complex and beautiful relationships of my life at Sink the Pink. It’s the thing that makes me feel way more at ease with the night ended… We will always still be in one another’s lives and so that is our legacy.
Since the Pink, there’s been a bunch of other queer/inclusive nights that have cropped up across London. What do you think made Sink the Pink so special?
Glyn: I have long pondered this. I think it was a combination of so many things and the best thing was that we were blissfully unaware of them all. I do think the fact that we were VERY serious about fun helped, we never took ourselves seriously, but we took the event SO seriously. We are absolute nutbags as well, so the fact that we WERE the party for many years really helped. I think the most special thing has always been the amount of love behind the night.
Amy: It is so fantastic to see other queer and inclusive nights coming through in London, it makes us so proud and hopeful. I suppose in 2008 there was nothing like this so that was what made it special! It’s so fantastic to see similar nights happening. Long live the weirdos!
What has been your favourite thing about co-creating sink the pink?
Amy: Doing it all with my best friend.
Glyn: Woah, SO many things. I agree with Amy though. There is something so powerful about having a crazy idea with your best friend and then raising it into this beast of joy. It makes me so stupidly proud.
What’s been the most memorable party – please disclose any shenanigans!
Glyn: God for so many years I never went to bed, I was the pied piper of the scene and I was fucking wild. I spent so many hours causing a riot scene all over East London, I was the eternal troublemaker and me and the Sink the Pink gals would always be trying to out shock one another… Nude streaking in heels down Kingsland Road, putting fireworks up our asses and lighting them, ending up at WILD house parties of the rich and famous… It’s been a ride, babes.
Amy: Honestly, there have been so many that I could write a book on each year we’ve done Sink the Pink! There have been iconic festival moments like watching our collective crowd surf across starry nights, while the rest of us climbed poles and lighting rigs. The security guards had their heads in their hands. Gigs, where there wasn’t necessarily a queer audience, felt like outreach work to me! They started to get it, like we were literally opening people’s minds, expanding their horizons and genuinely making them more tolerant, inclusive people.
What do you think will be Sink the Pink’s enduring legacy?
Glyn: That we changed the LGBTQ+ scene in the UK. We are a lot queerer now and the scene has got so much more colourful and collectively together.
Amy: Living your truth. Being unashamedly you. Finding your community. Celebrating being a misfit.
Are you looking forward to the final party? I’m sure it’ll be an emotional one!
Glyn: I have booked a tattoo artist to come and ink the original Sink the Pink logo on us, I can’t even really put into words how it will feel. It’s been an out of body experience really since the first event, so I suppose it will continue to shock and amaze me as it always has. This community is everything to me, we aren’t going anywhere. Please continue to support incredible DIY Underground queer events.
Amy: I am going to be a wreck, this has been my life, day to day, every second for 14 years. I am excited but I am crying already when I think about it..
Drag Queens — Jonbers and Joan Oh
As performers and humans, what does Sink the Pink mean to you?
Jonbers: It’s home for me, it’s family, it’s where I truly started living my life authentically. Amy and Glyn took in a little loner from Northern Ireland and wrapped me up in their love. They showed me how to be a better person, not to take life seriously, and to go out and get what you want. Sink the Pink is a huge network of just the best humans I have ever met and now it’s a time when people in the community are having kids and teaching the new generation about love, acceptance, and how to throw a flipping good party, luv!
Joan Oh: As a performer, Sink the Pink gave me a platform to try out my first performances in drag, as a soloist and as part of the family. It helped build my confidence and make me want to explore my drag persona even further. That, in turn, impacted my everyday life and I grew more confident in myself as a person. I realised that there is very little difference between Jono and Joan Oh – both sides of myself are accessible to me at all times!
What impact has Sink the Pink had on the drag / LGBTQ+ scene in London, 13 years after its conception?
Jonbers: It’s had a HUGE effect. It started a tidal wave of drag, when I first started out there were about six drag queens in East London. The community grew and grew and it was really Sink the Pink spreading the message of love and camp.
Joan Oh: Sink the Pink has always celebrated ‘dressing up’, be it some glitter and a Smiffys wig, or a full-out conceptual art piece. Everyone is made to feel special for having put in the effort. I think it opened up a lot of minds within our own community. Years back, when using dating apps you would literally ‘come out’ to some people as a drag queen, and that could easily cause people to lose interest. Now, I see those same boys who ghosted me on Grinder back in 2012 wearing heels and leotards and loving it! I’m happy they got there in the end!
Can you remember your first Sink the Pink night? How was it? Were you instantly addicted?
Jonbers: The first one I ever went to was at a warehouse under the Tea Building in Shoreditch, and it was like finding a home. People were having the best time wearing blow-up chickens on their heads, it certainly ruffled my feathers. Then the first BGWM Sink the Pink I went to was when I had only been doing drag for like three months. I walked in wearing 80s lady of the night wear, Glyn saw and pounced on me wearing a leopard mankini catsuit, and proclaimed, ‘You’re the new Sink the Pink gal!’ From there blossomed one of the most special and important relationships I will probably ever have, it started the wildest ride of my life!
Joan Oh: My FIRST sink the pink was at Concrete in Shoreditch, I remember EVERYTHING!!!! Bright Light, Bright Light was on the decks, Ma Butcher was on stage with her pig snout doing interpretive dance to Kylie, Glyn was in his pants and Amy was handing out sweets with her tits out! I knew I had found my people! Since that night 11 years ago, there hasn’t been a week in my life when I haven’t spoken to Glyn or Amy!
What’s been your most memorable Sink the Pink night?
Jonbers: There’s too many derlin! Here are your best bits… The first time I ever saw someone piss in a cat litter tray and out a window on the same night (not naming names). Lucy Fizz getting passed around wrapped as pass the parcel, Jacqui Potato in every routine, and the night we first got to meet Melanie C (you never forget meeting your first Spice Girl). The night I won Miss Sink the Pink in 1978 was fun too.
Joan Oh: There are SOOOOOO many, this is extremely tough! Performing at Bestival will always be a stand out for me, touring with Melanie C, every night at Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club, working closely with 2Bears, all the random unpaid gigs we did just for fun and a packet of crisps, Glyn doing willy windmills at South Bank and prompting an elderly woman to get up out of her wheelchair for a dance. I know I was supposed to choose one, but they were all amazing!
What will you miss most about Sink the Pink?
Jonbers: I will miss the chaos of the night, the fact you work on it for 4 months and then in 4 hours its all done. I’ll miss the magic feeling of walking in on show day with all the performers around everyone getting the mu up and nattering away. it’s like a family reunion every time, but hopefully we can just keep those up by ourselves.
Joan Oh: The crew from the earlier days really became a tight family, most of us are still connected today, so even though the party may be over, and we will miss that, the friendships still live on, so we don’t have to miss each other – How lucky are we?!!
Do you reckon there will be any tears on April 15th? Looking forward to it?
Jonbers: OMG YES sad, sad tears of a clown from me. Sink the Pink has probably been the most consistent thing in my life and it’s where I met my chosen family. I’m looking forward to it not stopping but also starting something new. A new chapter of Sink the Pink… who knows what will be next? It’s only the club night finishing, who’s not to say we won’t join an iconic pop star on tour again or finally pull out a Las Vegas Residency. The sky has always been the limit for Sink the Pink. People said it wouldn’t last… Well, it did and it blew people’s minds and opened people’s hearts amongst other openings haha. This isn’t a sloppy goodbye wave, it’s more of a Queen’s wave.
Joan Oh: OMG so many tears… I am so excited for this final party, it’s going to be the perfect send-off for Sink the Pink and we are gonna make everyone proud!