It’s October 2017 and Amsterdam is adrift in a sea of ADE, the world’s largest electronic music event. Parties are going off in shops, art galleries, railway stations, and every club in town. Streets awash with yesterday’s survivors, daytime animals, and locals avoiding the carnage, Sophia Kearney and Steven Braines stand under an umbrella, staring at a phone, wondering what happens next.
Both artist managers, they’ve just put wheels in motion on a project which, in many ways, has been decades in the making. Co-founders of The Weird & Wonderful agency, its roster “primarily women, queer people and people of colour,” the pair are in the Dutch capital for meetings with some of the world’s biggest clubs — from Pacha in Ibiza to Berlin’s Watergate. Their pitch is simple: take over comparatively mainstream venues on peak weekend nights for diversity-positive parties where LGBTQIA+, cis, POC and any other demographic can get sweaty together.
The events would be called HE.SHE.THEY., so-named to give men, women and non-binary people an equal platform, and one look at recent research by Ballantine’s True Music proves why the concept was and remains so essential. In a study of 2,300 club goers across four continents, one third reported experiencing discrimination on the dance floor, rising to 64% for intersectional identities, including gender, sexuality, race and ability. Meanwhile, 84% said they had witnessed prejudice on nights out.