Alex Fice enters the orbit of Cambridge’s bold, bright and beautiful new club night for the queer community
Image © Zack Henderson
The cosmically named Club Urania first burst onto Cambridge’s nightlife scene back in February, the outcome of a meeting of minds between Cambridge Junction, Wysing Arts Centre and other local collaborators who had grown frustrated at the lack of queer spaces in Cambridge – despite the city’s liberal heritage. The night aims to provide a much-needed space for members of the LGBTQ+ community to express themselves through performance, reflective contemplation and dance. It builds on the legacy of The Dot Cotton Club, which paved the way for nights like this in the city and has been a staple of the scene for over 25 years. Urania’s ambition is to connect and uplift organisers all over the city to celebrate the creative queer community in Cambridge. Following the sell-out success of its first three events, Club Urania is now preparing to launch its biggest night yet, with an other-worldly extravaganza at the Junction’s main venue on 28 May.
The event takes its name from the title of a pioneering feminist journal that ran from 1916 to 1940 called Urania, a publication that rejected traditional notions of gender, fought stereotypes and celebrated same-sex love. Club Urania offers the LGBTQ+ community a space in which to embody the spirit of Urania: “Often, queer people are going against the norms of how we are expected to operate in the world,” says Ema Boswood, arts producer at Cambridge Junction. “This celebrates that, where we leave behind any expectations of gender or heteronormativity and make our own utopia.”
Ema and fellow collaborators Rosie Cooper (director of Wysing Arts Centre), Celia Willoughby, Diarmuid Hester, Hannah Wallis, Chloe Page and Roeland van der Heiden have worked hard to capture the utopic atmosphere of Urania at their first three events. By combining arts and culture with music and dance, Club Urania provides a platform from which people can express themselves freely, in a welcoming setting.
“We start with an open-mic slot, offering the opportunity for people to share their work, be it drag, poetry, or stand-up comedy – it’s a real open book.” This is then followed by two programmed performances organised by the Junction and Wysing Arts Centre. At February’s opening event, Wysing brought in Whiskey Chow, who subverted Yves Klein’s blue nudes by dipping the macho children’s toy Stretch Armstrong into blue syrup to make prints on a piece of paper, as footage of Yves Klein making his own prints was projected in the background. “While Club Urania provides a space for fun, silly, frivolous activity, it’s also for contemplative performance. I think it’s really important to have a night that incorporates both,” comments Ema. The evening concludes – as any good club night should – with a couple of hours of joyful, unbridled dancing to live music sets by local DJs – the perfect mixer for the cultured spirit of Club Urania’s opening acts.
While curating a diverse line-up for each event has been key to establishing Club Urania, another important aspect has been to make the event as accessible as possible – from pay-what-you-feel tickets, to the provision of quiet spaces at the venue. For those who aren’t comfortable entering crowded venues right now, there’s the option to livestream the event from the comfort of your home. Live captions are also provided for both online and in-person events. For Club Urania collaborator Hannah Wallis, this is a significant step forward: “It’s something I would never have dreamed possible in a small club night like this one,” she says. “To have been able to instigate it and see in practice what it means to follow performances by artists I so admire, has blown me away.”
As the Junction’s spring season draws to a close, it was vital to Club Urania’s organisers that it should go out with a bang, before taking a temporary pause over the summer. For the final night of the season, it will move from the smaller studio space into J1 – the Junction’s main venue, which has a capacity of up to 1,000 people. There will be performances by artist Harold Offeh and circus specialist Symoné, followed by a showcase of local DJs, plus a headline DJ set. Ultimately, Ema hopes it will provide a stimulating atmosphere in which LGBTQ+ people can gather and connect with a bunch of fellow queers and allies, while cementing Club Urania’s reputation as a welcoming queer venue. “We want people to picture this cool, other-worldly space where anything is possible, everyone is celebrated and accepted for their quirks and queerness
– that they feel they can express themselves in whatever way they like,” she says. “We want that to be synonymous with Urania and the whole vibe of the night.”
Follow Club Urania on Instagram (@cluburania) to keep up to date. Tickets can be purchased from the Junction’s website.