[I]f you pay attention to the headlines, a pretty bleak picture of London’s nightlife has been painted over the last few years. People are staying home glued to Netflix. Food is the new hedonism. Clubs are closing left, right and centre. From The Black Cap to the Joiners Arms – for the LGBTQ+ community the loss of historic venues has been particularly deeply felt.
But that isn’t quite the full picture. Armed with a fabulous squad of performers (and a whole lot of glitter), Jamie Tagg and Glyn Fussell have been shaking up the scene with their team East Creative. The team behind iconic queer events Sink The Pink, Savage and more recently, the Mighty Hoopla festival – over the past few years they have been injecting some much needed fun back into club life.
Bold, glamorous, unapologetic and sometimes batsh*t crazy, their events are a larger than life experience that have created a platform like no other for London’s drag artists, dancers and DJs. And from this week onwards, they are taking over the programming of Metropolis, the former Gentleman’s Club on Bethnal Green Road which has been transformed into a five-floor extravaganza of neon, disco balls and a hot tub. We recently caught up with Jamie and Glyn to find out a little bit more about what’s in store.
Hi Jamie and Glyn, how did you guys start working together?
Jamie: I met Glyn in 2013, I was managing DJs at the time. Glyn came to my office to talk about Sink the Pink, I loved the concept. We were from very different worlds. I came to their fifth birthday with Sam Fox performing. I turned up to meet this gaggle of drag queens and just had the most fun night I’ve ever had. Four months later I quit my job and said ‘I want to do this full time’. We realised we had a lot of mutual friends who weren’t being represented properly on the music and creative scene in East London particularly. I was looking after DJs who could command five figures for a set, yet these incredible drag queens who are so talented and passionate about what they’re doing were getting £50.
Glyn: Jamie was looking after a lot of commercial people at the time. At Sink the Pink we were almost accidentally becoming a platform for so many people – from costume designers, to make-up artists, to performers. We were getting questions from people like, how do I do an invoice? I had started making my living from where I lived in East London, which was the most amazing thing, but I realised that so many people were being ripped off financially despite how on a world platform so many interesting creative teams come out of here. I wanted to do something about it.
Did that coincide with so many historical LGBT venues closing in London?
Glyn: Working with Metropolis and creating Savage as a night came out of that situation. There just weren’t enough spaces, and people started to look to us more as a voice for the community. In the space of a few months so many venues closed.
With Sink the Pink we had become a kind of megaclub, we didn’t have enough room for people at Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club – people were literally trying to break in. We had all these people showing up who had spent so much time putting together these amazing looks, we needed to find somewhere else.
We came here and spoke to the owners, they got the vision immediately. When you’re a voice of the community, you have to listen to them. Over time that’s what has happened for us, we have become a vehicle for the creative force that is East London – and that’s when we do our best work.
You’ve proved that in this era of Netflix and nightlife supposedly dying, that people do still want to go out…
Glyn: You can sit on your computer and blame things or you can do something about it! In London and especially East London we live in a very transient city. Once something has been going on for a while, people quickly move on to something else. They want new ideas all the time. You can’t just have a plain old black room and a DJ anymore. It has to be more than that, it has to be fun. You need to have a hot tub and a ball pit. The stakes are higher! It’s about the drama and the experience. You have to offer something creative and everything we do has to reflect what’s happening in East London.
Do you think East London still has the same creative force?
Glyn: Yes, people come from all over the world to live here and be inspired, to work in fashion, music and arts. It’s still happening and there’s still a buzz here. You have to make things happen though and not take that for granted.
The atmosphere of Sink the Pink is what’s made it so popular – no one feels intimidated. Is that what you set out to create with it?
Jamie: Very rarely do we have one DJ and one dancer, we have a full team. When you come to our events it’s a labour of love that comes from the work of fifteen, sometimes twenty people.
Glyn: You can’t created hedonism, there’s no formula, it’s a natural thing – but you can enhance it. It’s about the crowd and about the community. When we started Sink the Pink we were just dancing around in a cupboard thinking we were in Vegas and loving that we had drinks tokens. It’s still that mentality, the minute it becomes about the promoter it goes wrong. It’s about the people behind it.
You guys have made something very creative into something financially viable – how do you make sure you don’t stray too far from the community?
Glyn: We talk to people all the time, and you have to constantly check yourself. It’s a very unique situation – the people we work with, we go on holiday with. Our lives are intertwined whether we like it or not! We are running the business so it’s important to check in with people all the time. One of our performers Jon Benet, now works with us in the office, we’re creating an economy here. I’m not all about the wigs and glamour honey!
Jamie: We’ve worked with the same people the whole way through. We always say ‘pay your friends’. We ask for so many favours from people. Superstar names come to us and ask for shit rates, but we say no, our people need to be paid fairly. The respect has changed so much that we can now provide salaries to some of our performers.
How did Mighty Hoopla come about?
Jamie: Like most of our ideas, it was a reaction to things. We wanted to create something we ourselves wanted to go to. We were looking at festivals that would book Sink the Pink and seeing that there wasn’t really anything like Mighty Hoopla out there. We didn’t want to just do a Sink the Pink festival, we invited all the club nights we knew – we wanted to do fifteen club nights in park. We put it together in four months and just booked people we liked. It had to be about the essence of what we do. This year we are doubling in size and the line-up. And we’ve got TLC!!!
Glyn: The first one, was actually the day after the terrorist attacks. That could’ve broken the community, but it showed how strong we are. We’re going to have MORE GLITTER, we’re going to be defiant.
What’s the wildest night you guys have ever had?
Glyn: Sink the Pink has become quite the Bestival staple. We were in an amphitheatre, you couldn’t get in. It was wild. I got ridiculously drunk and it was a long gig. I forgot that we were doing a club and that I was on stage. They couldn’t find me and I was meant to be hosting the whole thing.
Jamie: I was dancing on the stage and every so often we’d hear these really weird sounds through the system. I was looking at the DJ, like, are these actual tracks you’re playing? Then I heard it again, and it was a horrible wretching sound. I walked around the corner, there was Glyn laying on a bench puking everywhere. All you could hear was that, and our friend going ‘You’re ok babes!’
Your ultimate song for a night out?
Glyn: I like songs you don’t expect to hear in the club. Like Nirvana ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ or Arctic Monkeys ‘I bet you look good on the dancefloor’. They’re great pop records and we perform them.
Jamie: Mine is ‘Proud Mary’!
Glyn: Gosh, I’ve still got a busted knee from that. The routine includes three slut drops.
Where are you going to take this next?
Glyn: For us the focus is on putting Metropolis on the map and for it to be a destination for people – whether they want to do a magazine launch or a record launch. It’s something that is really needed in this part of London, and something we’re really excited about.
Metropolis relaunches from 19th April at 234 Cambridge Heath Rd, London. Find out more about East Creative and their events