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Body Movements: a celebration of dance music’s queer communities

Body Movements, the UK’s first queer electronic music festival, took place in London’s Hackney Wick last weekend. Helmed by DJ Saoirse and Clayton Wright, and with the help of 20 collectives, an impressive line-up of DJs, dancers and performers, the sold out event was a celebration of dance music’s queer past, present and future

In the beginning there was the Beat, and the Beat was with Hackney Wick, London on Saturday, 9th October — as was the weather. A misty Friday night has given way to a crisp Saturday morning and by mid-afternoon the sun is firmly on our side as we cycle past the Overground station, cross the footbridge linking the Wick to Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and approach the ticketing queue for Body Movements, the UK’s first queer electronic music festival. The 18-hour event promises more than 40 performances and 100 DJ sets across 16 locations in the east London neighbourhood, including four after parties — two of which will sell out. 

The brainchild of Saoirse Ryan and Clayton Wright, Body Movements relies on the hosting efforts of 20 queer collectives from across the UK and Europe. Club Rush is here from Sheffield, Homodrop and High Hoops from Manchester, Love Muscle from Leeds and Lezzer Quest from Glasgow. Collectives from further afield include Dublin’s Grace, Barcelona’s MARICAS and Berlin’s Herrensauna and Homo Drop. But the biggest cohort comes from London: Pussy Palace, Big Dyke Energy, Harpies, Adonis are all here. As we collect our wristbands and return to the footbridge, we spot the glittered people, and head toward the Beat.

Our first stop is Grow, where Nite Dykez residents MICA and Gin are pacing through their five-hour set. The duo have built a loyal following over the years, establishing a number of nights and collectives, including ResisDance, Faggamuffin and Turner Prize nominated Black Obsidian Sound System — this shows in the busy tables lining the canalside terrace. MICA effortlessly blends bubbling house tracks, Gin having already played the first two hours, while the party faithful cut shapes by the DJ booth. 

Over at Studio 92, Aurora Halal builds a series of hypnotic chuggers for a full room of ravers, while psychedelic visuals morph and dangle across the back wall. Here, the atmosphere is equally warm, a little trippy, and it’s striking to think this festival is a UK first — is it actually, someone asks, “because it’s 2021, you know?” 

It is, Saoirse confirms to DJ Mag sometime later at La Terraza. The Dublin-born, London-based DJ has been grafting in the scene for a good decade and a half, hosting radio shows on RTÉ, Rinse FM and BBC Radio 1, and more recently playing alongside the likes of Ricardo Villalobos, Shanti Celeste and DJ Stingray. Sitting on a narrow bench in Studio 92’s waterfront garden, she runs us through a list of set recommendations — and there’s a lot to see. The festival line-up feels pretty comprehensive, includes a real range of sounds and, notably, has sold out. 

 

Saoirse is not quite ready to celebrate. She casts a worried eye across the water at the queue leading into the festival. An hour ago it barely extended beyond the Box Office, but now it stretches the length of the canal, as far back as the eye can see. “They’ve all come at the same time,” she says.

Luckily the queue continues to move at a steady pace and we get talking about the festival layout — there’s so much to take in and so many venues — how best to navigate it? “There’s a lot of people here that I haven’t even seen play before,” she explains, “so I would really just float around and see what you’re feeling. There are so many different sounds to take in.” We leave the terrace, where Lakuti is mixing up a potent mix of 90s-inspired beats, into the club and back out onto Wallis Road, noting the queues outside all the venues. 

The walk to Queen’s Yard, which would normally take all of five minutes, is punctuated by impromptu reunions, trips to the Sainsbury’s Local and sun-kissed banter. It’s where revellers bump into old friends and exes, strut, flirt, confess. It’s a lovely respite from the contained club atmosphere, but nobody wants to stay too long — there’s so much to take in. After a series of welcome delays we finally arrive in the Yard where things feel more festive. 

Gracie T and DJ Priya have packed out the Old Street Brewery and AG is spinning a set packed with 90s R&B mixes at The Yard. At Crate, Josh Quinto is quietly warming up with Italo Disco cuts, but it's the Big Dyke Energy stage that pulls the biggest crowd over at The Yard Courtyard. As day turns to early evening, Reece Spooner and Amaliah load up the outdoor area with trance, UKG and percussive club edits. Dancers scale the canopy poles and the crowd turns raucous.  

Over at Colour Factory, Jasmine Infiniti cranks out an intoxifying techno set for a crowd more than ready for a propulsive two hours. The night has fully arrived and dancers line the wall behind the Queen Of Hell, which members of the public take turns joining. The day festival is nearly over and all we can think about is how many amazing sets we’ve missed: DJ Paulette, Anu, Cakes Da Killa, Tama Sumo, D. Tiffany B2B Roza Terrenzi, to name a few. With a line-up this full, 12 hours doesn’t feel like enough. 

After-party options are numerous, but we opt for LITTLE GAY BROTHER and Harpies at Studio 94, where Octo Octa and Eris Drew are playing b2b. Two things stand out: the first is the lone dancer at the edge of the crowd who, hours earlier, had carefully checked our vaccination passports and is now giving the most unruly performance of the day. She lunges, kicks and dips on the outskirts of the dancefloor, inviting any and everyone to join in — and we do.

The second is the way in which Octo Octa gently embraces Drew as they near the end of their two-hour set. It’s a tender moment, domestic almost, and the dancefloor takes note, offering a round of applause as the light turns electric blue and bright. Drew continues to work the mixer, readying for the next drop, and the Harpies strippers, buoyed by the crowd and affection behind the decks, re-set their position. 

The streets are heaving at 5am and moods are still high, even if the party has been cut short by an hour. The inaugural Body Movements festival is officially over but all the beauty and the charm of the day remains. A person in thick burgundy heels and tight denim jeans strolls by, face beaming and eyes wide. “You’re all beautiful,” they tell us. “Have a good day now.” If there is a god, on Sunday morning I’m sure She looked down on the Wick and saw that everything was indeed, very good. 

Want more? Read about the club nights fighting for diversity in drum & bass here

Ria Hylton is DJ Mag's staff writer. You can follow them on Twitter @ria_hylton

Photo credit: Gemma Bell