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Heather Glazzard, The World Before Sanitiser (2021)
Taken from The World Before Sanitiser (2021), by Heather GlazzardPhotography Heather Glazzard

Heather Glazzard’s zine is a tribute to pre-pandemic queer club culture

The World Before Sanitiser chronicles the queer spaces and nightlife in a world before coronavirus

Coronavirus has given everyone cause or opportunity to reevaluate what’s important. So much of what made our lives legible to us has come to an abrupt and unexpected halt and, as in a game of musical statues, many of us are caught in a moment of prolonged stasis. In the solitude of the pandemic, photographer Heather Glazzard found a renewed appreciation for the queer club and performance venues that were such a fundamental part of their life beforehand. Having perhaps taken these nights for granted, COVID-19 has, for Glazzard, underscored how special and important they were. Revisiting their 2017-2020 archive of pictures taken from underground raves and queer parties during, the Dazed 100 alumni tells us, “I think the queer night spaces feel almost sacred now.” 

The World Before Sanitiser is a zine created by Glazzard as a testament to those queer spaces and the people who shared them. The images are juxtaposed with text taken from timely newspaper headlines, and the photographs chronicle the moments of frenetic activity, tenderness, and uninhibited self-expression that defined Glazzard’s experience. “I miss being with a load of people I know in the same room and dancing with them,” they explain. “I see loads of my mates getting dressed up to just join the Zoom things, which I’ve done too, but it felt weird after a while – not going anywhere, just pulling a look for the digital world.”

But the loss of queer club spaces isn’t only a loss in terms of socialising, it’s impacted their community in other ways. “I also know a lot of my performer and DJ friends rely on these spaces to eat. They’ve been really hard hit by this, it’s their place of expression and their income,” Glazzard tells Dazed. “For me personally, I know I could’ve hosted an event to help raise funds for my top surgery in these spaces.” Accordingly, the proceeds from the sales of the zine will help towards the cost of Glazzard’s top surgery. 

Above, take a look through a selection of the candid photographs from The World Before Sanitiser. Below, we talk to Heather Glazzard about grieving the loss of queer club life, happy memories of wild times, and the massive party that’s got to happen on the other side of the pandemic.

Can you tell us a bit more about the zine and how it came to be?

Heather Glazzard: For me, the zine is about capturing something that no longer exists. Partying formed such a big part of me and I feel like I didn’t realise that until it was gone; I’d overlooked these images and how I felt about nightlife. So, while I was in this state of mourning nightlife, I found images from years ago and just started piecing them together. 

Where are the pictures taken? What do the spaces mean to you?

Heather Glazzard: The pictures are taken at queer nights, gigs, house parties, and warehouses in London; pub and club spaces in Manchester; and a queer festival and club in New York. These spaces meant community. I miss being with a load of people I know in the same room and dancing with them; I miss being close to people in that way. I find it really difficult to party in the same way via Zoom, I just get distracted. 

In what ways, if any, did the images have renewed importance and meaning when viewed from the perspective of the pandemic? 

Heather Glazzard: At the time of taking these photos, it just felt like a mundane thing. But, once it was no longer there, it didn’t feel mundane anymore – it felt special; it felt important. For me personally, I know I could’ve hosted an event to help raise funds for my top surgery in these spaces. I also know a lot of my performer and DJ friends rely on these spaces to eat. People such as Laurie, Ella Otomewo, Josie Tothill, Clare Mcnulty aka IDA hun, Pariss Roman, Feeo, Xoey Four, Forrest flowers, and Emily Roberts – they’ve been really hard hit by this, it’s their place of expression and their income. I think the queer night spaces feel almost sacred now. 

Are there any particular images in the zine that really encompass the spirit of time and place for you? If so, please could you talk us through the picture(s) and what aspects of them really articulate this? 

Heather Glazzard: A lot. I think that photo on page 13 and 14 really captures the crazy manic energy of the Queer Spirit Festival. The singer is mostly naked and the people are moshing so it’s all super blurry. Queer Spirit Festival was a space where people could be so free – a lot of naked people, loud punk music, tents with amazing conversations about trans rights, meditation, and bizarre performances. I took mushrooms there and I remember walking into the music tent with my partner to a group of naked people chanting with drums, it reminded me of the film Midsommer or Wicker Man. I completely freaked from the mushrooms and I think that photo captures that energy.

Also, I really think the second image in the zine (above) – of Billy & Alice on the beach, where Ella’s walking with a crate of tinnies – it puts me right back on the beach listening to tunes and dancing topless with Alice. They look so happy to just be with together in an outside space. We were happy too. We had a fab day and Alice went skinny-dipping. Looking at these pictures, it takes me straight back to that space and energy.

Could you share with us some of your favourite memories from those times?

Heather Glazzard: The rawness of the spaces we’d go to, and connecting to people like myself. I think probably my favourite ever memories is going to my first ever gay bar with a fake ID and drinking WKD and not getting chatted up by cis guys. 

“I keep having dreams of partying or hugging people. I feel, weirdly, like when you grieve someone and you dream about them for ages after” – Heather Glazzard

I love the juxtaposition of text and image. Please could you tell us about the words and what they mean to you?

Heather Glazzard: The text is about how I feel or what I’ve experienced. I keep having dreams of partying or hugging people. I feel, weirdly, like when you grieve someone and you dream about them for ages after. That happened with my parents and now it’s happening with partying. I don’t join Zoom parties so lots of times I just dance to loud music alone. I see loads of my mates getting dressed up to just join the Zoom things, which I’ve done too but it felt weird after a while – not going anywhere, just pulling a look for the digital world.

Do you think your zine documents a vanished world? Or can we get back there? 

Heather Glazzard: I think we’ll get back there eventually. Loads of independent spaces have had to close down though, so I do think it’ll take a long time. But these sort of parties will also always exist because I think it’s an integral part of the community. I feel like, when the pandemic is fully over, there’s going to be a huge party and it’ll be even better than the ones we remembered.

The World Before Sanitiser is available now