In Haunt

- By Emily Oldfield

Alt Femme put together fierce events with a difference- pushing away gender confines and encouraging self-expression. In their own words – “without developing a scene, we want to provide a banner for people to party under how they want.”

HAUNT Manchester recently visited The Old Abbey Taphouse – a community-centric pub and eclectic events space in Manchester Science Park (just behind the university) – to talk to some of the people behind Alt Femme:

Rachele Evaroa, Aimee Waite, Jordan Lamming and Clare Kelly.

“Alt Femme is an occasion for fun,” Says Rachele – who also runs the Old Abbey Taphouse with Craig Thomas, “We want to move away from identity based politics.”

“Alt Femme ultimately means a different thing to every person,” adds Aimee “But I guess a big aspect of the nights we put on could be intersectionality – people can be who they want to be.”

After all, at Alt Femme, which typically occurs in the form of a monthly night at the Taphouse, people can dress up at an ‘Emasculation Station’, dance to DJ tunes, enjoy live music and experiment with makeup – whatever their background, age or gender identity.

“That’s why we’ve never wanted Alt Femme to have a label or a manifesto as such,” Says Rachele, “One of the best things about it is the variety of people who come, all genders and sexualities– with character play and plenty of fun as part of that.”

Alt Femme credit to Sophie McBriarty

Alt Femme is a Queer positive creation, celebrating feminine strength regardless of sexuality or assigned gender. And that goes for men as well as women:

“We’ve had many straight men come to the nights and absolutely love it – trying on dresses and makeup. After all, makeup is just another part of the ‘drag’ or ‘paint’ so often marketized as part of hyperfeminized capitalist culture. Anyone should be able to enjoy dressing and looking how they like,” says Clare.

Aimee also went onto explain how she aimed to get more live music into the Queer scene – as Alt Femme regularly put on bands and artists – everything from acoustic acts and DJs all the way through to hardcore punk. They even have a unique outside performance area, as well as space inside.

“I wanted Alt Femme to offer a platform for performers in their own right” says Aimee “And we are open to first timers and literally anything. Live music, DJs, artists – I’d also like there to be more talks and workshops at our events.”

Alt Femme promo pic

In turn, Alt Femme has provided a valuable host for a number of cutting-edge live bands and artists bringing a little bit of something different to the city. They urge anyone interested to get in touch via the Facebook group.

“One of the most memorable performances was from Shh Diam!!! - Malaysian Queer Punks who still face persecution in their own country... yet through their music had a sense of humour as to how they dealt with it. That really connected with us.”

They are also keen to build up the network of people who come along, take part in and enjoy Alt Femme. Part of the night typically includes a cabaret where anyone can get up and perform, according to Aimee:

“We’re open to literally anything – it’s ultimately a chance to show off! Make it what you want. At the first Alt Femme, this included an art show downstairs- involving Graffiti and no air conditioning! The likes of ILL and LIINES played, it was a HOT night.”

“I’d really like to see more spoken word performers and visual artists,” adds Jordan “We’re seeing more and more new faces at every event, and would encourage anyone to come along. A great part is the ‘Emasculation Station’ – which is pretty much a load of dresses and dress-up for people to come and try out.”

After all, the Alt Femme night also offers people the opportunity to get ready at the Taphouse itself rather than at home– so guests can greet each other early and ‘get ready with the girls’.

Clare also added “With Alt Femme, we aren’t giving anyone any directions…and it isn’t just a night for us to celebrate the way of life we are creating, it’s joining people up too and creating a network. I find that ‘scenes’ can often be quite insular, but here you can come from whatever scene you are tied to.

“People are often shocked by their own reaction to Alt Femme and leave totally raving. This is something that can’t be really written down or expressed in words, it’s a vibe set by the people – you need to come along to feel it.”

That’s why rather than leafleting or posters, the people behind Alt Femme typically prefer news of the nights to be spread by word of mouth. And it seems to be working – the night is attracting more new people every time.

“At Alt Femme, we let the community set the idea and feel,” says Rachele, “By creating a friendly, inclusive environment, people can make their own of it. In terms of ‘Safe Spaces’… it’s not that I don’t agree, it’s just that I don’t think it would work for Alt Femme. We'd prefer to make an inclusive space that challenges people. Often, Queer people are on the fringes of society anyway and face discrimination. Rather than play the role of victim, using art, spaces and creativity to challenge stereotypes is more productive then creating rules that people have to adhere to.”

Alt Femme credit to James Krisp

Exploring otherness and difference is a key part of Alt Femme, which provides a place for people to challenge norms and experiment, all within a welcoming, friendly atmosphere.

“We’re not about dictating to people,” comments Aimee “It’s about educating people – knowing that people can come into a Queer Space and enjoy it, no matter who they are. Perhaps even to discover a side of themselves that they didn’t expect.”

Clare was also keen to talk about the ‘Femme’ aspect of Alt Femme:

“The whole point of Alt Femme for me was to challenge what society presents as the projected woman. I say – fishnets weren’t meant for wombs – ultimately we’re given an idea of femininity that doesn’t exist, a male, capitalist ideal. Clothes, makeup, they are nothing to do with being a woman – they can be for anyone,” Says Clare – who upholds Alt Femme as a place to come along, have fun and experiment.

“It’s fun for anyone to dress up. Plus where the Taphouse is means that people can get ready and have an extent of anonymity too – so can get on their heels, whatever. The cobbles are a bitch, but the privacy is great.’

After all, according to Aimee “Alt Feme is for anyone who wants to have fun and not judge. F**k standards, f**k rules – Alt Femme it”.

Their next event is Alt Femme Presents: House of 1000 Femmes on 27 October at The Old Abbey Taphouse. There will be live music from Caitlin Gilligan, Jess Megson, Molotov-poet and Le Grouch, plus ghosting tales with Helen Darby, Violet Blonde and Emily Oldfield.

The Old Abbey Taphouse, Guildhall Cl, Manchester M15 6SY

Photo credit with thanks to Sophie McBriarty and James Krisp




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