“My identity slaps me in the face every day,” says Tia Simon-Campbell, a sentiment echoed by her partner, Nadine Davis. The duo explains that life as queer, black, British women requires navigating the world more carefully than most—even in a progressive city like their home base of London. “Coming into spaces where I don’t feel particularly comfortable makes me assess which part of my identity I need to maybe monitor or be more aware of,” says Davis.
They often find themselves feeling othered in moments that most would consider completely commonplace: getting a drink at bar, going out dancing at a club. Entering spaces as a queer person or a person of color—or both, in their case—instantly makes them acutely aware of their otherness.
BBZ is the duo’s response. The all-inclusive, roaming nightlife event series geared towards the city’s queer, trans, intersexed, people of color (QTIPOC). “We felt it was near impossible to just be yourself in the queer spaces that already existed in London,” says Simon-Campbell. Those designated destinations, she says, felt very exclusive to gay men—specifically, gay white men. “The spectrum was not a spectrum.”
Sexual orientation and gender identity aren’t the only elements at play here, Davis continues. There’s also Form 696. Created by the London Metropolitan Police, the risk assessment form requires that all information—from the addresses of the promoters down to the style of music that’ll be played—be provided 14 days in advance of the event. The form was a covert means of policing. “Basically, if you play any kind of urban music in the U.K., whether it be grime, bashment, dancehall, it’ll be flagged, and the police will be alerted,” Davis elaborates, “and your event might not happen, just because they assume that it’s a congregation of mostly black British people. And they assume there’ll be trouble.”
Trouble is not what you’ll find on the dancefloor at a BBZ night. Simon-Campbell and Davis describe the vibe to up-tempo euphoria for people who simply needed a safe space to sweat out pent-up tensions. “The comments we get afterwards,” says Davis, “are just bliss for about a week straight.”