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Rachel Steele, WIMP host
Rachel Steele, WIMP hostPhotography Damien Frost

The performance art club night that embraces ‘queerdos’

We chat to artist Xoey 5.0 about why she’s turning her London club night into a modelling agency, and prioritising getting trans people paid

“Oh, the fisting rosebud one?” asks musician and London queer icon Xoey 5.0 when I bring up the poster for the launch night of WIMP, her new queer performance art club night. I’m probing her to find out just how DIY the night is – which is, as it turns out, very. Even in the artwork for the nights, she describes the process in terms of “making do with what you’ve got” — the first night’s poster was blue face paint, Xoey’s hand and a rose; night two (a McQueen-themed party) was her flatmate and occasional WIMP host Emily After’s face. The third upcoming night is “literally blue tights and bin bags” and “some dodgy copy of photoshop” – but made fashion, obviously.

Aside from face paint and torrented Adobe products, WIMP, according to Xoey, is a direct response to a need for a night that “wasn’t going to be just like cis, gay, white men” (don’t @ me). “I know this family is here and it exists and it's tangible,” she says of the people the night is aimed at. “I know that there are people here, that it's going to resonate with them.”

This family became obvious to Xoey during her time as a judge at VFD’s Gender Fvcker non-binary talent show. She saw the potential for a night in which these performers made up the go-go dancers and the hosts, “a platform to give these people and these bodies opportunities to exist and to perform.” And let’s talk about those people and bodies: in its two outings, WIMP has seen the likes of Art School, Lewis G Burton, Rodent and Miss Hernia grace and disgrace its stage and DJ decks, all bringing their own lewks (see Damien Frost’s menacing portraits from the night) and boundless personalities to the Yard Theatre.

In creating a space for “queerdos” to congregate and also inviting these incredible queer creatures to perform on its platform, WIMP manages to blur the line between performer and party goer — everyone turns a lewk, there’s creativity spilling out onto the floor, and it’s coming from all directions. No binaries are safe.

Meanwhile, the more pragmatic goal for Xoey is clear: pay trans people. “I want WIMP to be a place where I can employ trans and GNC (gender non-conforming) people,” she states. She currently splits the door money in order to make sure everyone is paid something, but is aiming to provide more for those can’t operate in “pretty drag queen club kid situations.” “The people who are queerdos and don’t fit, where do they get their money from?” she continues. “I want (WIMP) to be a place where eventually I'll be like, ‘Come do this, I'll give you £100.’”

This is part of the reason WIMP isn’t just a night. 2019 is going to see the event expanding into modelling agency that “prioritises trans and GNC people.” Again, Xoey has pragmatic aims as well as being driven by creating creative opportunities, noting that generally, “designers using trans and GNC people has kind of been like on an unpaid basis.” There’s still an attitude towards trans and GNC people in casting situations that, if we’re not represented and we’re not high profile, we should be happy simply to be cast, and not have the audacity to ask for money. One more time for the people at the back: you can’t pay bills in transness.

“They're putting a magnifying glass on us,” Xoey says of the trans community’s current mainstream media attention, “but I don't think they're interrupting that dialogue that we're having with ourselves.” For Xoey, we can be in the spotlight, but as long as we have a connected community that knows and values each other, and spaces like WIMP and figures like Xoey, we’ll continue to grow and become stronger in ourselves.

Catch the Trashion themed WIMP this Friday 11th at Hackney Yard Theatre, with GFOTY and Jazmin Bean and performance from “east London’s most beautiful binbag,” Petite Lamé.