"Lent saw the birth of the new queer night ‘RAID’"Callan Keightley @callanphotos_ with permission for Varsity

As each term commences, the Cambridge queer community eagerly awaits a new glitzy Instagram story from ‘Queer Get Down’ with the date of the next night in tantalising curly font. This provides a certain thrill and excitement that mirrors the aims of queer nightlife, creating something more audacious and edgy than classic events. But it also seems to relegate queer clubbing to the margins: a special once-in-a-blue-moon sort of a night, rather than the ordinary reality for most people. While other queer nights exist, such as ‘Glitterbomb’ that runs every Tuesday at Vinyl, Cambridge queer clubbing is largely condensed into rare twice-termly nights: Queer Get Down and RAID. These are infamous to the commuter. Dani and Astrid, LGBTQ+ officers for Emmanuel and core frequenters of other queer nights, admit to me they have never attended Glitterbomb, and Rohan, founder of RAID, agrees that “no one really goes”. This is partly due to the popular Vinyl boycott following allegations of racially-motivated staff harassment of attendees.

Rohan decided to run the night RAID intermittently in an attempt to heighten the experience: running a few with a concerted effort, rather than many where effort is spread more thinly. People generally agreed the rarity brings an allure and they would be unlikely to go if it was every week. With the infrequency, Dani and Astrid shared that they almost felt an “obligation” to go to the nights. The high attendance of both nights reflects this, with RAID selling out twice (over 500 tickets both times), despite a slight drop in ticket purchases over exam season.

“However, Sunday and Monday, the timings respectively of RAID and Queer Get Down are far from ideal for any committed Cambridge clubber”

However, Sunday and Monday, the timings respectively of RAID and Queer Get Down are far from ideal for any committed Cambridge clubber, clashing with the popular Sunday Lola’s. Olivia, a bisexual first-year and Cambridge clubbing devotee, ashamedly admitted her steadfast commitment to the night at Lola’s, meaning that she has never been able to attend either queer night. A timing that marries queer nightlife with the rest of Cambridge clubbing rather than dividing would be ideal. Not that the different nights should be held in opposition, but people do feel the regular club night flirting is fairly straight. A friend shared they thought it was “really rare for queer nightlife to bleed into Sunday Lola’s or Wednesday revs”. A sense of new emphasis and revival in queer clubbing opportunities has been felt over the past year. Lent saw the birth of the new queer night ‘RAID’. Rohan, the founder, envisioned a new and more exhilarating club night for queer people in Cambridge. Aiming to amplify the experience through a carefully-adhered-to-theme through cocktails, decoration and costumes to match, he saw it as “a new step forward” for Cambridge queer clubbing. Queerbridge, a Camfess for the Cambridge LGBTQ+ community, is flooded with positive responses to both RAID and Queer Get Down. One person detailed the welcoming atmosphere they experienced on their first time attending, noting that, while they lacked interest in clubbing “I get the appeal of clubbing now if it could always be like that”.

"I get the appeal of clubbing now if it could always be like that"Callan Keightley @callanphotos_ with permission for Varsity

With rarity comes intensity. It’s undeniable the nights have a reputation for sexuality, or “feral gayness” as one Queerbridge poster put it. Does this reduce the nights to free-for-all hookup opportunities for a community lacking meeting spaces? The themes of RAID speak for themselves, dripping in allure and sensuality: ‘Forbidden Fruit’, ‘Exhibition’ and ‘Back to the Fetish’.

“With rarity comes intensity”

Even the title ‘Queer Get Down’ is hardly ambiguous. Olivia told me she’s always felt a bit hesitant for this reason, put off by its reputation of being overtly sexual. But this is not the universal experience of those attending. Keir, events runner of Butchsoc, shared that they don’t see the nights as overly hook-up heavy: “sometimes it’s just about having a chance to dress up and have fun with your friends.” What are the nights for if not unashamedly loud queer fun?

"What are the nights for if not unashamedly loud queer fun?"Georgie Middlemiss for Varsity

Sexuality is also a way of re-establishing identity. Rohan sees the religious theme as “cathartic”; a way of reclaiming what had been used against him. A friend told me they saw the sexual themes as exciting, particularly through the fashion they inspire. Revs and Lola’s are not best known for being catwalk spots for novel outfits, and since fashion historically is a form of queer self-expression, opportunities for outlandish outfits attract popular enthusiasm. The fetish-themed RAID night featured one person wearing a harness, and different Berghain-core outfits, and the Met-Gala-themed Queer Get Down saw fur, glitter and long regal gloves all taking to the dance floor. Dani shared that the nights feel a safe space to revel in new outfits while feeling safe from harassment and judgement.


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It’s the fun of bumping into seemingly every other Cambridge queer person that attracts people to the nights. But it might be an oversell to suggest the nights are a principal way of building friendships – a darkened mash doesn’t exactly make for great conversation. Other evening queer socials do exist, and not all are centred around drinking; here friendship-making and community-building are more possible. Dani and Astrid have organised bar swaps, queer formals and college bar pres for queer club nights. Similarly, Butch Society runs different social events.

The scene over the past couple of years relies on students’ innovative ideas, collaborating out of a desire to bring queer people together. While the infrequency brings with it a high attendance and a sense of thrill, perhaps it is time for a new, more regular night. At the very least, a new night should be set up to continue RAID’s legacy alongside Queer Get Down. A more regular night could also provide an easier entrance for those uncertain about attending their first queer event, without the pressure of knowing it is their “one opportunity” for the next few weeks.