our rules, our roof: this short film celebrates the impact of pxssy palace for queer people of colour
“It’s more than just clubbing. There’s no reason why the dancefloor can’t be educational.”
London club night and collective Pxssy Palace has come a long way in just four short years. In 2015, bored with the capital’s nightlife offerings, Glaswegians Nadine Artois and Skye Barr started hosting their own house parties, aiming to provide a space for queer womxn, trans, non-binary and intersex people of colour to party while feeling comfortable and supported. Since then Pxssy Palace parties have become the stuff of legend, and the crew has expanded to include producers, DJs, photographers and anyone who believes in their ethos: that under the Pxssy Palace roof there is always a safe place to party, especially for queer people of colour.
Pxssy Palace is also the club night where, around two and a half years ago, filmmaker Laura Kirwan-Ashman found her tribe. It was at the collective’s monthly parties that Laura, who self-identifies as a black, masc-presenting queer woman discovered a space to truly let loose. Surrounded by the collective’s ethos of love, understanding and acceptance, Laura was inspired to make a short film celebrating the night’s electric, joyful atmosphere.
“Pxssy Palace was one of the first club nights that truly felt like it was made for me,” Laura tells i-D. “I know that every month I can turn up by myself at whatever time and there will be people I know there. I'm a bit of a hermit most of the time but Pxssy Palace is my one big night out a month where I can let loose, dance, work up a sweat, and see so many of my favourite people in one place, surrounded by the beauty and energy of London's QTIPOC (queer, trans, intersex people of colour) community. I wanted to make a film that offers a snapshot of what Pxssy Palace is, and to show all the hard work and careful thought that goes into everything they do - the club night is only one aspect of that. I have always wanted QTIPOC joy to be at the centre of my work, because it often feels like all we see of ourselves in mainstream media revolves around trauma and hardship; we deserve our joy and beauty and existence and love to be highlighted.”
The resulting six-minute film, which recently screened at Sheffield Doc Fest this year -- complemented by a DJ set from Nadine Artois and BBZ’s Sippin’ T -- is a utopian vision of what clubbing in London could be. Free from the posturing and pretension that comes with the ritual and mainstream experience of ‘going out out’, the Pxssy Palace patrons Laura has captured are free to be themselves completely, and connect with other people in the queer community. At one point the organisers gather together before doors open at the collective’s recent Queer Prom themed night to make sure they’re prepared to look after any revellers who fall ill, or anyone who finds themselves in an uncomfortable situation. It’s a level of dedication you probably wouldn’t see in your average rave.
“Pxssy Palace parties, when I first discovered them, were like nothing I had ever been to before,” Laura says. “So filming them was honestly just such a dream. My crew were all womxn except for our steadicam-op and we didn’t film anyone at the Queer Prom-themed party without consent. I was basically just a hype gal for everyone, gassing people up as they danced and posed for the camera! I did my neck in waving the monitor like an idiot but it was worth it.”
Laura is now submitting her short film to festivals around the UK, and generally spread the good word for Pxssy Palace. The filmmaker is also working on her first feature film as a writer-director in conjunction with the BFI. “It’s a black British female coming of age film with a queer love story and an all black womxn ensemble,” Laura tells i-D. “That’s something we’re sorely missing in the UK. The wider industry exists in and is hiring from a pool that is overwhelmingly male, pale, and stale. My own bubble is very different and is overflowing with talent.”
Watch Laura’s full film, made in conjunction with Converse's Spark Project, Peach Pictures and Stink Films, here, and check our Pxssy Palace’s upcoming Sanctuary stage at Lovebox Festival here.