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Kindergarten, Paris
courtesy of Kindergarten

Inside Paris’s thriving underground queer club scene

Kindergarten is the collective fronting wild, hectic nights for French club kids

“Wild, colourful, fun and hectic” is how co-founders Tiggy Thorn and Marmoset describe Kindergarten, a queer and club kid party that takes place every month in Paris. The long time friends created Kindergarten with a mission to build something new for the Parisian queer scene, taking a year to build their team and hit all the markers for ‘the perfect party’.

“We all have different energies – that’s what makes this project so exciting. We create together and adjust as much as possible for everyone to be able to create comfortably,” Tiggy explains. The collective is made up of nine talented artists, including performers Klaus Wiekind and Lavie Dabdel, stage designer Drama Troll, photographer Jean Ranobrac, and DJs VHS, Problèmes D’Amour ,and Jacquie. They’ve all met in one way or another through parties in the French capital.

BDSM and post-porn art informs the majority of Kindergarten performances, ranging from soft porn in plastic cages to absurd stripteases in a giant bathtub filled with shaving cream. Resident artist Klaus Wiekind aims to start conversations about body positivity and sexual liberation with each performance. Klaus says: “I try to redefine ways to deal with oppression and owning my body and sexuality in the hope that it would inspire others to pull through too. If you see someone you identify with killing it on stage, what’s holding you back?”

Klaus works very closely on the performances with Drama Troll, the stage designer who aims to incorporate philosophical and political meanings into their work, once putting a giant vulva mountain on stage to comment on the lack of representation for this body part. “I think everything in life, and therefore in art, is political and then even more if you are queer. Art is a way to express our pride.”

The music, just like the performances, allows the audience to express their identities freely, with DJ Jacquie adding “through music, we try to celebrate and embrace our individuality, our history as a community made of so many identities”. House music and queer culture have a rich history together, which VHS notes is often forgotten about – it’s a heritage which they try to celebrate at Kindergarten. The DJs are scouted at queer events throughout Paris, choosing artists who have a “special identity, a style that could work with our special creatures dancing and performing around them”. Problèmes D’Amour explains that this has helped them to develop their sound over time, which can range from “slo-mo trance to happy hardcore”.

Kindergarten is a microcosm of the diverse underground scene in Paris, a melting pot of creativity and resilience. Tiggy describes the scene as “emergent” and “full of super creative people”, where Marmoset affirms, “diversity is what matters most. We have way more than oppression in common – we gather around our creativity to feel free.”

Photographer Jean Ranobrac captures the nights. “Taking part of this beautiful and dynamic movement is exciting. As the photographer, my job is to fix in time the happiness of those moments,” Jean says.

“I would hate the day I have to make a jacket spray-painted ‘Queer is Dead’ on my back like it did with punk” – Klaus Wiekind, Kindergarten

Social media can be a double-edged sword, while it enables underrepresented people to find their tribe, it also amplifies the discrimination that exists offline. When asked about how we can fight back against the current assault on LGBTQIA+ rights, Tiggy Thorn notes that "visibility is key”, where Jean Ranobrac adds “As we force close-minded people to see us, they can’t avoid the conversations that eventually get brought up in public spaces.” They then explain that this is why safe spaces such as Kindergarten are an essential part of queer life, with Marmoset saying “When you want to party, you want to have fun and forget all the bad things in your life. It might be soppy, but this is a true challenge for many of us, daily judged on our looks, our way of life, our identity.” Tiggy Thorn and Marmoset pride themselves on inclusivity, from low prices which enables anyone to attend to fighting discrimination and raising awareness for their audience.

LGBTQ+ people around the world continue to face persecution, a role back on rights, and stifling of education and culture. Though queer culture has been repackaged and injected into the mainstream due to TV shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race and Queer Eye. Klaus and Tiggy describe the mainstreaming of queerness as a blessing and a curse – while it brings visibility to the community, it also “waters down and softens the edges of queer culture, overshadowing the true meaning of queerness”. Pinkwashing is another concern for the Kindergarten collective, with Drama Troll explaining: “it has to stay a culture and not become a product. Capitalism will not take it from us”. Klaus Wiekind then looks at the repercussions of companies pinkwashing queer culture: “I would hate the day I have to make a jacket spray-painted ‘Queer is Dead’ on my back like it did with punk.”

It may seem through the mainstreaming and pinkwashing of queer culture that its end is imminent, but queer people grow in the face of adversity, turning feelings of loneliness and rejection into the strength to push forward. “We won’t be erased, as simple as that,” affirms Drama Toll, a mantra of power that allows the queer community to flourish, and as it grows, so will Kindergarten. Looking to the future, Tiggy Thorn says: “we are so full of incredible, hard-working artists, so full of energy and willingness that I’m sure that this positivity is gonna continue to grow and be fab.”