Tribe

I grew up in a small town outside of London, the town itself is quite well off, posh, very conservative. On the edge of that town are a couple of estates, set apart from the town, that’s where I come from. The estates have their own rules and ways of being, everyone knows everyone else. It’s very working class, theres a lot of organised crime. There weren’t any visible gay people.

Growing up with my mates, I never felt different. I was aware of my sexuality very early on, from the age of four. I didn’t have a word for it, but I knew I liked girls and I liked boys. I must have had pretty good self esteem, I didn’t feel anything was wrong with me, I thought everyone felt the same but that it was the rules, you just didn’t do it. I never spoke about fancying men. Among my mates there was a lot of homophobic talk. It was clear that being gay was one of the worst things that you could be. That it was unnatural and sick and not to be stood for, specifically gay males. You had to be disgusted and repulsed by that and seen to be doing so. I never understood why.

We were all part of this hyper masculine world. There was a lot of ingrained misogyny and I was a part of that, how I behaved, how I was in my relationships with women. Being a man was all about being physically strong, not showing emotions, being hard, and fighting. Fighting was a big part of it. It was an inflated school playground idea of masculinity. 

I always had female partners, one after the other without any gaps, my physical and emotional needs were met. It was also a cycle of repression and suppression, I pushed other thoughts and fantasies away thinking I was ‘just a little bit gay’.

From the time I was a teenager I always wanted to move to London. The atmosphere was different, I wouldn’t even have known what the word liberal meant then, but I felt diversity. I wanted to get away from that small town mentality, I moved to London when I was 19. We were punks and that, I was involved in a lot of underground subcultures, difference was really accepted but gay people were still kind of separate. 

When my relationship at the time ended I decided to take some time to think. One day I had a fantasy about a man that was so intense, that I knew this was something I had to act on. I realised I hadn’t done anything before out of fear. It took me a long time to find what I wanted. What I was interested in was a craggy, older, rough looking, cocky kind of man. At the time that wasn’t easy to find, or I might come across some one who looked like that and then when they spoke they would be ‘Oh hello, darling’, very camp. I suppose I was prejudiced. I’ve done a lot of work on my attitudes over the years. Anyway I found what I was looking for and it was amazing. I realised my gayness was way more than 10%. It was more like 50/50 and that was subject to change. There were times when I felt really gay, times when I was interested in women. Sometimes that whole cycle could take place over years.

Coming out to my family I did it a bit at a time, I told my sisters, they were alright with it. When I went back home to family gatherings, I could tell people knew. Looks I would get, or comments people would make, but we didn’t talk about it. When I had a boyfriend, I told my mum. She told me she still loved me but we didn’t need to talk about my private life. I was just telling her because I didn’t want to be lying. My mum would say ‘Why do you have to keep advertising it?’ She’s caught in that shame, the idea of the neighbours knowing. Which I understand as I’ve lived it. 

Sometimes I feel the need to stand up and say something because of what my family say around our children. Hearing things like ‘Don’t plait his hair, you’ll make him queer’. It’s better than it was when I was growing up, but for me it’s still a place to leave.

When I was in the straight life, I was very into pursuing sex, I loved the chase but I was pretty traditional. It wasn’t until I got into a supportive community that I was able to look at what I was interested in. I wasn’t into mainstream BDSM, it was more the swinger scene, private parties, the cross over between that and kink. What I appreciated was that there can be so much more to sex and sexuality when there is openness and acceptance.

I’ve developed my own thing over the years. I do a lot of role-play, I’ve got three longer term guys I see but for me it is strictly about the sex, there’s no emotional involvement, they’re fuck buddies. All three of them are completely into serving me, they’re all subs, totally into worshiping me. it’s clear they have some fondness for me, if I mention I’ve been unwell or something they will ask if I need anything, but I can’t deal with none of that lovey dovey stuff. I’m curious about how it might be to have a relationship with a woman, I haven’t done that for ages. When I do connect with women they automatically make the assumption ‘Oh he’s gay.’

The Hoist, I’m so sad that place is gone. The space was incredible, the whole way it was set up, all of it was around men having sex with other men. I remember driving past seeing builders carrying in plasterboard to redo the interior, it broke my heart. We had a few mixed nights, but mostly full on hard gay male sex. Naked night: 400 naked gay men going at it full on. Fisting nights. Mares and Stallions, men being lead around with bags over their heads, down a line of men inspecting them. It was a totally free space, taking away all the rules of polite society. I heard about different places out in the suburbs closing down, now in the centre of London we’ve lost our spaces too. 

My involvement with the traveller scene and the free party movement, was before I came out. The traveller scene was quite closed, it was people who had been born in that life, who grew up in it. Travelling from festival to festival, people who lived in horse drawn communities and all that. When Rave music started then it changed things, people in the traveller communities were holding these parties outside of the towns and other people were turning up. When ‘E’s’ started happening, that and the music, people could go to these places and party for days. Huge crowds were turning up and the traveller people were realising that they were changing something, that something was happening. It was completely revolutionary, it was rebel music. It also meant that a lot of people form outside were joining what were previously closed communities. I didn’t have an experience with Homophobia in that scene, the ethos was about how we were all coming together. 

Spiral Tribe was a strange mix of people what we had in common was the free party movement. It was all about space. Space was all owned, so the idea was that we would go and take it back. We would go into abandoned industrial buildings, we would go into the countryside, which might be common land or it might not be. When we get there it becomes free space and we wouldn’t turn the music off. Spirals were about everything I had ever thought politically, everything that was wrong with the world: gender roles, ideas of success, capitalism, religion. We had stepped outside of that, it was like a big family. 

Spiral tribe became quite a big thing, known by the media and the powers that be were frightened of us. The fact that people were stepping outside of their normal programming, that people were realising the world is fucked. That there’s a load of Toff’s trying to tell us what to do, the money is going up and we’re just the suckers on the plantation. Everything became very clear. The authorities decided to stop it.

Mid party you’d be surrounded by cops, unmarked paramilitary support units, they would beat us, batter us and they would take everything. Every flyer, every bit of art work, which had a lot of symbolism and meaning, all our musical instruments, all our history if you like. They would take all of it. So we would go back to a bit of squatted land and build it back up again, and then the police would come and take it away again. With the ravers, we would just say there’s a five pound donation, so we can pay for the replacing the rig. You’d have the money right away cos the ravers wanted us. But it became so barbaric on the part of the police, nothing was in the news about what was happening. 

Normally we would work with the police in terms of organising parking for the ravers, tidying up, saying ‘you know what we do, and we can’t just stop’. It wouldn’t be safe to stop a party with hundreds of people there. In the end it was incredible the extremes the police took it to. There was one huge party out in Acton, it was great party. We were all inside in this huge concrete industrial space with no windows, the police were outside but it had been ok. The next thing you know all the exits were blocked, no one could get out, then the police busted through one of the walls with a battering ram. They came in with round shields and long batons, in beating their way into the crowd. The police got everyone down on the floor, people were screaming, it was wet and cold. They had UV spray cans and marked everyone on the back of the head so they could see if we tried to get away. 

We were arrested and went to court, it cost millions but because of the fact that we got off, they changed the law. The repetitive beats law was a way of making rave music illegal. What had been a utopian vibe about a new tomorrow, where everyone can come together was corrupted. We became hardened, the whole scene became harder, the music changed to reflect that and a lot of people couldn’t come anymore. That arbitrary law used in a discriminatory fashion, it put a fizzle on the sizzle.

Stories of Resistance

Funding raised by the National Lottery and awarded by the Heritage Lottery Fund

Resilient & Resisting

This project is a collaboration between groups and individuals, with artist/activist Jet Moon.

Produced under the wing of Arcola Participation and with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund.