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Queer On The Pier

Written By Hannah Collisson

Queer on the Pier was a monthly LGBT club night held in the ballroom on Hastings Pier in the early to mid 2000s, which drew a crowd of locals and out-of-towners.

Having grown up in Hastings, Jules is one of those for whom the event was significant at a formative time in her life.
“I’m a Hastings lifer, so the pier was always a thing. We used to go and play pool there, even though we were all banned by our parents because it was ‘seedy’.
“I’d been away at university. I came out when I was 17 just before I went away to university, and at that time Hastings did not have a gay scene. It was a massive pain to go to Brighton, and a bit scary.
“And I didn’t have many gay friends at that time. My straight friends were supportive but I felt bad saying lets save up our money and go over to a gay night when 90 per cent of you probably won’t get anything out of the evening.
“Where I was working during the summer at that time there were about seven or eight of us in our late teens and early 20s working there who were gay. One week someone said, “Are you going to come to Queer on the Pier with us?” Actually it was quite a big thing - Hastings has a gay night and we are going to go to it.
“I don’t have specific memories about the kind of music they played, It was more the idea of just being there really (It was certainly the first place I ever drank black sambuca). It was easily the largest gay night in Hastings at the time.
“In terms of a mainstream gay night there wasn’t anything much, so Queer on the Pier was it. And I love the fact that it was called Queer on the Pier; it was so open about what it was. not that I told my parents that.
“Queer on the Pier was the thing that everybody went to. You knew that you would see people there.
“I remember it being well attended. It felt important, like something was happening.
I remember it being quite varied. Because it was quite large, I got the impression that people used to come over from Eastbourne for it.
It kind of pre-dated the internet explosion. It wasn’t quite as bad as raves in the ‘90s where you had to ring phone numbers but it was still a word of mouth thing. I didn’t see it advertised anywhere - I knew about it because one of my colleagues told me and said ‘Are you going to come to it with us’ and that’s how I knew it existed.
“I think it’s amazing how quickly social change in Hastings and St Leonards has moved in the last 15 years.
“Where I went to university there was one gay club and one gay pub, and that was a city. I
It wasn’t the Ministry of Sound; it never became a big thing, but in a way I like it more for that.
“It was such a memorable name that hooked people. It was outrageous but in a cool way. At that time, early 2000s, there hadn’t been a lot of reclamation of the word ‘queer’. Calling your event Queer on the Pier in 2002 was very different to calling your event Queer on the Pier in 2014.
“I don’t think there is anywhere like it now, but I think that is more about the fact that Hastings doesn’t really have a venue. I wonder if now is the time for something to happen; there is such a large student population in Hastings now. Young people, without much money but with a bit of disposable income.
“I would think if you did a gay night you would get the older gay population in Hastings as well as the younger gay population.
“There has been a real generational shift. The new generation of kids seems to be far more open minded. If you have a good music night that happens to be gay, I think there’s far less of a stigma attached to going to it now. Something like Queer on the Pier would probably be even more successful now than it was then.
“What happens when Hastings Pier re-opens? Are they going to do Queer on the Pier again? I really think it would work. I would love to see it come back, and I think it would appeal to nostalgics like me and also younger gay (and straight) people as well.
“I look back on it fondly. It was something that wasn’t available anywhere else in Hastings.
When you grow up and are gay or bisexual or trans in a small town, to have something like that as a focal point I think is quite important, so I think it probably meant quite a lot to the people that went.
“It was a cult thing, but I think cult things are better. It’s better to mean the world to 200 people than to mean a little bit to 20,000.”
Some more memories of these nights can be found online at: http://www.realbrighton.com/story/1010 and http://www.realbrighton.com/story/1190
We’re looking to feature gigs by artists such as Hawkwind, Jimi Hendrix, The Specials among others and even the Raves on the Pier in future issues of The Stinger.
If you have memories of those gigs, or the Queer on the Pier events, we’d love to hear from you and maybe include those memories in future articles, or on our website.
Email us at: contact@thestinger.org.uk

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