The UK's largest queer rave is defiant in the face of hate

The UK's largest queer rave is defiant in the face of hate
Homobloc returns — Digital creator Aaron James, who appears in a new video released to mark the return of Homobloc, recalls a traumatic homophobic attack that reaffirmed to him the importance of queer solidarity and community.

One Sunday morning during the first lockdown, Aaron James jumped out of bed in his Manchester apartment, turned to his boyfriend and said, “Let’s do something fun.” He got dressed up and they barrelled out of the flat into the street. 

“We ended up just filming this little reel for Instagram of me pushing a shopping trolley down the street outside our apartment. It was just an off the cuff thing, we filmed it, put a Honey Dijon remix on it and put it up.” 

The resulting video, in which Aaron walks nonchalantly up the street, pushing a trolley, holding a disco ball and dressed in heels and a one piece with “J’adore Hardcore” emblazoned across the front quickly garnered attention when it was picked up and shared by the Homobloc festival account. 

It’d be months later that Luke Unambomber, founder of the festival, would reach out to Aaron. Homobloc held its inaugural event at the Depot in Manchester city centre in 2019. The festival shaped cousin of infamous clubnight Homoelectric, the event saw 10,000 people come together from all corners of the globe for a huge queer party, headlined by The Blessed Madonna. Other artists on the bill included Honey Dijon, Robyn (Dj set) and the XX’s Romy. 

The pandemic meant no event could legally take place in 2020, but as preparations for the 2021 event began, Luke enlisted Aaron to create a special video promoting the festival, aimed at showcasing Manchester’s thriving queer community. 

“Luke messaged just a few days before the shoot was happening and was like ‘Look, we’ve got the whole idea together, this is how we’re gonna do it, do you want to be involved?’” 

For Aaron, participating in the video took on a greater meaning, as it came just a few weeks after an attack on the street left him shaken: “I was on my way to the dentist, which I thought was the worst part of my day, and two guys and a girl literally just came out of nowhere behind me and attacked me,” he explains. 

“They asked me for my phone, but me being the person I am – I’m attached to my phone – I said no. I immediately thought, ‘why did I say that?’, and they pushed me on the floor, and kicked my head in a little bit. I managed to eventually get up and get away, phone in hand.”

As he recalls the events, Aaron pauses, choking back tears. With the attack leaving him scared to go outside, Aaron says he feels “lucky” that it happened during lockdown. The few times he did have to go out, Aaron made sure to have his boyfriend by his side.


“The threat of being attacked has always been there in the back of my head anyway, like, because of who I am and the way I look. It’s a risk but I think when it happened, it became real, because nothing like that has ever happened to me before.” 

The attack on Aaron comes as homophobic attacks are on the rise in the UK. Figures from the BBC show a near trebling of such attacks in the last five years. A spate of four homophobic attack in Liverpool in the last month have prompted hundreds to take to the streets to counter homophobia. 

Just weeks later, Aaron was back on those same streets, filming the video for Homobloc. “I was massively overwhelmed with nerves on the shoot just because I’m quite a nervous person. Even though I am a lot, in the sense of the way I dress or how people perceive me, I’m kind of a bit nervous with it.”

Once the filming wrapped, Aaron says he felt overwhelmed by the love and support from the community. “Even though shit can happen, there are always people to lift you up and support you, acknowledge who you are, and defend who you are.”

It’s why he was so keen to be part of the film, and why he’s so excited about Homobloc in November. “Through lockdown, I’ve constantly said to my boyfriend that all I want to do is to go out and dance.” It is, he says, the one time when you can be in a room full of strangers and feel nothing at all, and given the last 18 months, it’s what people really need right now. 

As Homobloc’s founder Luke puts it: “There’s never been a more of time for people to feel liberated. A place where we can be free and let loose together under one roof and hold up the flag for all things real and passionate. A queer party for all.”

Homobloc returns to Manchester on November 6 2021, view the full line-up here. The last remaining tickets are on sale now. 

Ben Smoke is Huck’s Politics Editor. Follow him on Twitter.

Enjoyed this article? Like Huck on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

 

Latest on Huck

Save the date for Rishi’s Leaving Drinks
Election 2024

Save the date for Rishi’s Leaving Drinks

Huck is teaming up with our friends at Dalston Superstore and Queer House Party to bring you an election night viewing party like no other.

Written by: Ben Smoke

Activists claim victory after major UK festivals drop Barclays as a sponsor
Activism

Activists claim victory after major UK festivals drop Barclays as a sponsor

Groups and artists have been campaigning for Live Nation to drop the bank as a sponsor for Download, Latitude and Isle of Wight over alleged ties to the arms trade.

Written by: Ben Smoke

Exploring the football fanatic culture of the Middle East
Outdoors

Exploring the football fanatic culture of the Middle East

New photo book ‘Football كرة القدم’ draws together pictures from over a dozen photographers to explore the region’s vibrant football culture.

Written by: Isaac Muk

Drag artists unite to get out the vote, babes
Election 2024

Drag artists unite to get out the vote, babes

East London legend Crystal talks to Huck about her new campaign, Vote, Babes! which brings together over 20 drag artists to encourage young people to use their vote.

Written by: Ben Smoke

I interrupted Keir Starmer’s manifesto launch – here’s why
Election 2024

I interrupted Keir Starmer’s manifesto launch – here’s why

One of Starmer’s constituents, Alice tried every way to talk to her then MP about the crisis facing her generation, but he did not listen she writes exclusively for Huck.

Written by: Alice, Green New Deal Rising

Bashy: “My dad kept me alive”
Culture

Bashy: “My dad kept me alive”

In our latest Daddy Issues column, award winning actor and MC Ashley “Bashy” Thomas talks traditional masculinity, learning survival skills from his Dad and ‘making it’.

Written by: Robert Kazandjian

Sign up to our newsletter

Issue 80: The Ziwe issue

Buy it now