Culture, Music

Homobloc Festival @ Mayfield Depot review – a night of queer utopia

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Featured image: Frankie Austick

It’s a chilly, drizzly day in Manchester on the first weekend in November. This doesn’t dampen the excitement of 10,000 people gearing up for the biggest night on the queer community’s calendars. Now in its 25th year, Homobloc has grown from strength to strength since its initial conception at the old-school lesbian club Follies, and has called Manchester its home since then.

The night’s rich history started back in the late 90s with the birth of Homoelectric, which Homobloc falls under. A retaliation to a sense of homogenisation running through the Gay Village’s nightlife, the club night aimed to create a no frills, inclusive space for “misfits, queer or not”. And in spite of its exponential growth, nothing’s changed.

Against the backdrop of Mayfield Depot, people begin to file in from 2pm, with the most strong-willed of guests prepared to party until 4am. This year, the self-proclaimed “queer party for all” hosts musical acts Peaches, Confidence Man, The Blessed Madonna and Jessie Ware, alongside many more.

Upon entering the Depot, partygoers are greeted by a rainbow of neon lights. The atmosphere is nothing short of breath-taking and every single inch of the venue’s vast space is in use, leaving no shortage of areas to explore.

The stage closest to the entrance, Concourse, pulses and glimmers under the lights of a huge glitter ball and a raised stage next to it boasts epic speakers which send thumping bass through your entire body. Moving further in, you find the heart of the Depot – it’s main stage.

This is the platform that plays host to Jessie Ware and Confidence Man during the evening. Later into the night, the stage dishes out dance and techno to an extravaganza of performers moving and grooving down the runway. Joined with Concourse, these are the two places you’ll find people with enough energy to dance until the lights come on. The rest of the areas wind down as the night draws to an end.

We’re not at the end yet though, as the night is young and there’s still things to explore. At the very back of the warehouse is the Archive stage, where you can witness one of the most highly anticipated performers of the night – Peaches.

The queer and feminist icon, Peaches, has been making music for over two decades and is perhaps best-known for her album The Teaches of Peaches. For any fans of Sex Education, you might be familiar with a rendition of one of her explicitly-named tracks, performed by the Moordale School Band, in Season 3 of the show. The crowd, squeezed in like sardines to witness her perform, are treated to a spectacle of singing, dancing and unabashed raw energy from start to finish.

Meanwhile, tucked away next to Concourse is the Plant Room, hosting an all-night takeover from Ibiza party collective ‘Flash’. The more relaxed among the crowd head up to the newly unveiled Roof. This area provides an evening of discussions and cinema, as well as a marketplace, whilst its loft space presents a takeover from the iconic Horse Meat Disco. The final area on offer is two floors of the Star and Garter pub, which hosts Homosquat until the early hours.

Whichever stage you happen to be at, there’s no shortage of attendees adorned in leather, lace, sequins, feathers and fishnet. Fans are waved in the air, glitter plasters the faces of many and the only practicality to consider is wearing shoes you dance the night away in. Anything goes here.

This ethos transcends what you wear and is demonstrated in the event’s approach to accessibility. From a sensory calm zone for those who are neurodivergent, to its accessibility policy that covers access officers to viewing platforms. Many considerations are put into place, which makes everyone feel welcome. 

Closing out this year’s rager is Homobloc regular The Blessed Madonna B2B with DJ Paulette at Concourse, while Sherelle and I. Jordan provide the climax for the Depot’s main stage, bringing their self-described “masc-on-masc queer energy” and “finest fast music” to the former railway station depot.

Having a queer woman of colour and non-binary trans duo dominate the headline slot of the most prestigious night of alternative queer revelry speaks to the legacy that Homobloc, and Homoelectric as a whole, continue to cement within this city’s subculture.

To many, Homobloc is more than just a big night out. It’s an annual celebration that encourages queer expression through music, movement and connection. It uplifts, empowers and brings people together. Its existence is so important and in the words of its manifesto: ‘This is our place’

Homoelectric’s next event is their New Year’s Eve party at New Century Hall – find more information @homoelectric. For a deeper dive into the legacy of Homoelectric, check out this short documentary featuring co-founders Luke Unabomber and Kath McDermott.

About the author / 

Jennifer Grace

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