Sinking the Pink’s Closure Is A Reminder of the Ever-Pertinent Threat to Queer Nightlife

by Christina Donoghue, Joshua Graham on 20 October 2022

Responding to Nick Knight's editorial Sinking the Pink, editorial assistants Christina Donoghue and Joshua Graham reflect on the grisly details of queer rights, past, present and future in relation to the cultural phenomena that was Sink the Pink.

Responding to Nick Knight's editorial Sinking the Pink, editorial assistants Christina Donoghue and Joshua Graham reflect on the grisly details of queer rights, past, present and future in relation to the cultural phenomena that was Sink the Pink.

This week, SHOWstudio revived our Sinking the Pink fashion editorial project from 2013 with a new archival edit of footage from Nick Knight's shoot for AnOther. Based on the disruptive creative force of queer club night and collective Sink The Pink, the project pays tribute to a night loved by many and couldn't be more pertinent today.

Established in 2008 by Glyn Fussell and Amy Zing, the duo had little to no idea East London's soon-to-be favourite club would develop into a cultural phenomenon. From its humble beginnings in Bethnal Green Working Men's Club to selling out behemoth venues like Printworks, Sink The Pink championed unapologetic flamboyance for over a decade on a previously unheard-of level. It helped launch the careers of drag performers and club kids like national treasure Bimini Bon Boulash who won Miss Sink The Pink in 2019 and as the event grew, garnered the attention of established queer icons like Mel C, Jodie Harsh and Amanda Lepore. In its heyday, the event toured cities worldwide as it continued to provide a space of fun Friday night frivolity and creative community building.

Jacob Bird for AnOther by Nick Knight.

To chart the history of oppression queer people have faced would be too arduous a task to list here. However, at the turn of the 21st century, a mere 22 years ago, queer themes - as outlined in Section 28 - were forbidden in schools. More than a considered 'taboo', it was illegal to 'promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.' One could say the past decade has been smoother compared to the grisly details embedded in history's narrative of queer rights, especially when you look at the monumental change that came with the government repealing Section 28 in 2003 to making it compulsory to teach queer education in schools in 2020. However, work still needs to be done as long as Europe keeps dishing out power to fascists. Last month, Giorgia Meloni became poised to be Italy's next prime minister. Her troubling opinions on race, sexuality and intersectional politics further fuel the threat to queer rights in Italy and worldwide.

Interestingly, fashion stayed out of matters during the Milan S/S 23 shows, with a deafening collective silence. The news couldn't come at a worse time for gay rights, yet shortly after, Liz Truss was promoted into parliament in the UK. Another alarming move for the queer community, proved by her more than dodgy voting record and backwards beliefs.

Unfortunately, for the UK's queens and queers, Sink The Pink would shut its doors in April 2022 with one final celebratory blowout at Printworks. In the collective's official statement on Twitter, they explained it was time to 'make way for a new generation of queer London to shine through'. Still, it follows a distributing trend in the closure of queer clubs around the city, no doubt helped by 12 years of a not so 'strong and stable' Conservative government. There is a hostility in London's current climate that isn't fostering queer spaces. A primary example of this is the once booming gay neighbourhood that was South East London's Vauxhall. Formerly home to a plethora of gay pubs and clubs, the growing issue of gentrification has meant rising rent costs forcing many iconic venues like Area and The Hoist to shut down. When we spoke to queer filmmaker behind the fashion film's latest edit, Louisiane Trotobas, she cited gentrification as the biggest challenge for queer grassroots nights struggling to establish themselves. 'A lot of the nights I liked changed or stopped altogether for this reason. People try to do it in forests, but it just gets shut down, time and time again'.

Benedict Stewardson and Reba Maybury for AnOther by Nick Knight.

Trotobas, who used to document her friend's queer club night in London, didn't choose the Sinking the Pink editorial on a whim. 'Last summer, we were given a few archival projects to make films from. I chose this one because it simply speaks about queerness and nightlife, topics I immediately connect with as a queer person who used to enjoy going out pre-pandemic', Trotobas verified. Romantic and sensual in its edit, the fashion film is the antithesis of what you'd expect Sink the Pink nights to be like, corresponding with Knight's stripped-back, heavily monochrome editorial. 'In particular, I thought the grade was really beautiful, and the purity offered by its monochrome colour palette; it makes everyone look super elevated and elegant - the contrast between this aesthetic choice and an actual club night was quite interesting. It's striking because a club night is deeply colourful, everything is everywhere, and it's wrong but so right. People are sweating, makeup is dripping. In his editorial, they all look fabulous, almost as if from another time. I knew I wanted to carry this split narrative'.

Carry on, Trotobas did, incorporating a hybrid mix of classic musical and soft techno to dub over the fashion film. 'The sound played an important part', Trotobas admitted. 'It has a very classical base that gets disrupted by an electronic glitch sound representing the fracture between Knight's editorial and stereotypical club environments; it exists somewhere in between.'

The first documentation of queer safe spaces in the UK were the Molly Houses of the 18th century. In a time of legal and social persecution, these designated spaces allowed gay men to socialise and seek sexual partners. The secretive Molly Houses might seem like a long-forgotten history, but it was only half a century ago when the Sexual Offenses Act 1967 would legalise consensual homosexual acts in England and Wales. Even then, the archaic gross indecency law of 1885 that convicted both Alan Turing and Oscar Wilde wouldn't be repealed until the enactment of the Sexual Offences Act 2003. Until then, queer men could be prosecuted for soliciting, which included harmless acts like chatting or loitering with men in public.

Tuttii Fruttii for AnOther by Nick Knight.

There is no denying that the allure of queer club nights like Sink The Pink is predominantly about getting dressed up to spend a night dancing away to pop music. Still, at the heart of these spaces is inclusivity and fostering unapologetic expressions of queerness. For many queer people mustering up the courage to speak to someone they fancy outside of queer spaces isn't just because one fears rejection but also the possibility of discrimination. Though the world is constantly changing, and acceptance is far greater than it was decades ago, it's still essential to understand the psyche of queer people navigating a world that hasn't been built for them.



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