Chew DiscoAs the debate continues to rage over the proposed council investment in Liverpool’s so-called ‘gay quarter’ around Stanley Street, on the other side of town at FACT, an event exploring tradition and subversion in Merseyside’s LGBT scene gave corporate queerness a run for its money.

The ‘Alt:Queer’ weekend at FACT, organised by Joan Burnett of Liverpool Pride, featured short films from local creatives, US artist and writer Zach Blas subverting technology, a music share session with Chew Disco, as well as a discussion on the future of Liverpool’s LGBT culture and plans to promote the gay quarter and cash in on the pink pound. This debate raised an interesting point – how much does the gay quarter strip of dark and dingy, largely inaccessible underground pubs and clubs that relentlessly belt out Kylie Minogue cater for and represent Liverpool’s hugely diverse LGBT community?

“The queer scene in Liverpool is very restricted in terms of the music you’ll hear in the gay quarter and there is nothing diverse to offer in terms of age, race and disability,” says Khalil West, promoter and DJ for Chew Disco, Liverpool’s DIY, alternative queer club night.

“When I go out in that area of town I’ll very often become aware I’m the only black man in the room. The queer scene there has made me feel ostracised and fetishised – I’ve had people come up to me in bars and ask if I’ve got a ‘big black dick’. I suddenly became very aware of my ‘otherness’ where every club sounded the same and everybody looked the same and the emphasis seemed to be on youth, spray tan and cheap vodka and Red Bull.

“For some people, Liverpool’s gay scene is great, but in my opinion, it’s a city and a scene that needs to develop a lot more. I’ve had some good nights in places like the Poste House and the Lisbon but there really aren’t many live music venues in gay town. The sort of music that we put on and being black just isn’t marketable on Victoria Street.”

Born from a mutual love of music and queer/feminist politics, and a frustration at the club scene in Liverpool, Chew Disco was started in 2009 by Khalil, originally from New Jersey, and Liverpool-born Emma Obong. The monthly showcase of emerging electro, dance-punk, new wave, queercore, riot grrrl, trash and alternative bands has earned itself comparisons with Andy Warhol’s Factory – a hot mess of DIY beats, free love and human rights for queers, straights, homo-radicals, misfits, feminists, and alternative thinkers.

Chew Disco

Offering a stage for live performers and raising money for worldwide charities at the same time, the event has moved around various venues outside the gay quarter, including Magnet, Korova and the Shipping Forecast. The tenth instalment of Chew Disco hits the Kazimier in Wolstenholme Square, Liverpool, on Saturday, 7 May with a line-up that includes fuzzed-up garage-punk duo Dirtblonde, disco-noise diva beast supergroup Cover Girl, and the Queercore version of Destiny’s Child, Georgia Asphalt. The night also features resident and guest DJs, plus video art, a media swap and a free Chew Disco compilation to the first 100 guests.

It’s about creativity and being politically motivated in an environment that’s open to all identities

“It’s not just about playing the Pixies for queer kids but it’s about creativity and being politically motivated in an environment that’s open to all identities, being exposed to new music and raising awareness of causes that don’t get publicity. It’s about being a ‘queer’ thinker regardless of sexuality,” says Khalil.

Emma adds: “People can come down to Chew Disco and have a good time, see great bands and feel part of a collective. When we started the night, Ste McCabe (Manchester’s political pop-punkster) helped us with suggestions for bands and now we are fortunate to have acts offering to play for free. We get a lot of new faces and regulars at the night, friends and friends of friends. I was quite cynical until a couple of years ago and didn’t think a collective could come together but there is a good DIY community developing and it feels like we’re a family.”

All proceeds from this weekend’s bash will go to Icebreakers Uganda, an LGBT rights organisation supporting queers in Uganda, where homosexuality is currently punishable by incarceration for up to 14 years. Khalil and Emma are also collaborating with FACT to show a series of films called ‘Bent Frames’, as well as working on a programme of events for the Homotopia Festival.

“Life’s too short to wish you’d gone out and done stuff,” says Khalil.

— by Vicky Andrews

Chew Disco Volume 10, 7th May
The Kazimier, Wolstenholme Sq, Liverpool
£5 (£4 adv/NUS)

  • Mike

    Great piece Vicky,one that’s been waiting to be written for a while really.

    Chew is a top night out, regardless of sexuality (I’m straight), and it shows there’s an appetite for this kind of thing in Liverpool – thank god!