Inspired by the American direct action group of the same name, Queer Nation was a club night that started in London in 1990 and quickly built a reputation as an attitude free, affordable and welcoming night that played the best in soulful house.
And my guest this week is the activist, health promoter, and mentor Marc Thompson, who tells me why the night is so dear to his heart.
As well as being an absolute sweetheart Marc has an incredibly impressive CV and I’m just going to break down a few of his accomplishments. He is:
- Co-director of The Love Tank, a community interest company that promotes health and wellbeing of under-served communities through education, capacity building and research
- Co-founder of Prepster.info, a community based intervention that aims to educate and agitate for PreP access in England and beyond
- Co-founder of Blackout UK, a movement dedicated to working with and building safe spaces for Black gay men.
Key to all of this work is a focus on Black and queer communities, sexual health and HIV, and he is particularly interested in the intersection of race, sexuality and HIV.
Ah, and a quick note – the club got around, having been hosted in venues including Fire, Crash, and Barcode, but the era that we focus on in our conversation is in its early days at Gardening Club, where it first started, and Substation South.
Follow Marc on Twitter.Transcript
Marc Thompson 0:00
When we reminisce about clubbing we met we reminisce about those nights in that space. And I know that that has everything to do with the music, the memory, who you around the drugs, we took the people, we fell in love with the people we went home with fact with all of those things. We missed that.
K Anderson 0:25
Hello, I am K Anderson and you are listening to lost spaces, the podcast that mourns the death of queer nightlife. Every episode I talked to a different person about a venue from their past, the memories they created there, and the people that they used to know.
This week we are visiting queer nation, inspired by the American activist group of the same name, queer nation was a club night that started in London in 1990. And quickly built a reputation as an attitude free, affordable and welcoming night that played the best in soulful house music. And here to tell us why the night was so close to his heart is the activist health promoter and mentor Mark Thompson. As well as being an absolute sweetheart, Mark has an incredibly impressive CV, which includes being the CO director of the love tank CIC, as well as co founder of both Prepster and blackout UK. We talk all about the use of the word queer, being picked up at the bus stop and dancing shirtless and sweaty on the dance floor.
Marc Thompson 2:09
Well, I mean, I think for me as a, as a black gay man, living in London, my choices were even slimmer, you know, because the big venues while you know, one, they weren’t necessarily playing the music that I wanted to hear, or many of the men that were like me listen to so high energy and that commercial pop music wasn’t something that me or my friends wanted to hear. A lot of the clubs that were open be they have earned the scene was really heavily in sales call there one or two underground clubs, still were quite racist, you know, so they either had racist door policies, or you would go there and you’d feel really unwelcomed as a black person, you’d be fetishised, you may only be the only black person in the club. So there was all of these factors in the mainstream commercial scene, which were not necessarily appealing. And then you had the small local pubs to go to which were all over London, which are amazing, you know. So in Brixton, we had the Prince of Wales clap on the two brewers, the union in the Camberwell, the markets have an in Vauxhall, but what was really special about those is that they then had specific nights that you could go to, and then they would cater to the tastes of black gay communities and black queer communities. So the music would be black or the DJs would be black, or you know that it would just attract attract a much different audience. So the scene was commercial, it was growing. But if you were young, and black and queer, there was very, very few spaces for you to really go and enjoy yourself and feel safe.
K Anderson 3:48
Can we talk about the racist door policies? And it was at this like weird thinking that people had at the time that was like, well, you, you are either black or you’re gay, but you can’t be both?
Marc Thompson 4:03
Yeah, I mean, absolutely. And I think that, you know, I mean, I’ve got to add in there, it’s not so much at the time that is still ever present today. And I know lots of young do you think? Absolutely, absolutely. I know, I know, black queer people that go to clubs and face racism at the door. I’ve experienced that in recent years. So I mean, imagine you go to the club, you brew up, energy, all of this, you might be really nervous. It might be your first time you get there and you think, Okay, I’m going to be safe here. And the first question you’re asked at the door is, do you know this is a gay club? Now to most people, they may just go that’s no big deal. They’re just checking for safety and all the rest of it. But I’ve seen you let five white guys in and you didn’t question you didn’t question them. We also have to be aware of how we might dress you know, certain you know, if we’re in hoodies or trainers and all of these sorts of things can be used again. There was extra layers. Yeah, if there are five black guys that turn up at a club door, I guarantee you, they’re going to get a lot more hassle than five white gay men that will turn up, you know. So these are real life issues we experienced. And so we had to go and create our own spaces. And then even when we did get access to some of the big clubs like heaven, you know, we be shoved upstairs into the small bar, you know, because black people don’t buy drinks, you know, so there’s all of these stories in the LGBT scene, which meant that black folk had to go and create their own spaces. I mean, I mean, it has definitely changed, you know, there, there are more of us. Now, you know, we are in a much more accepting, you know, less bigoted society. And clubs like queer nation, helped to change the sea helped to change that, that perspective and to change the way that you’ve looked. But there are still young black, queer people who have to and feel the need to create the space that they will go to DOS and superstore. They will go to the glory, they’ll engage in your mix, but they will still want their own Yeah, spaces. That’s why clubs like bootylicious, urban world, they are still necessary because that, and sometimes it’s just down to the music. Yeah. Sometimes people just want to hear, you know, hear black music in those spaces.
K Anderson 6:27
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And quaint nation. Yeah. You went to the very first night? I did. Do you remember anything about that night,
Marc Thompson 6:37
I remember, it wasn’t really packed. And it wasn’t, it wasn’t busy. But it was such a vibe. And it was the music. I mean, I discovered, you know, Chicago, and New York house music a couple years before, funnily enough in heaven. And I just wanted to be in a space and I remember going my best friend at the time, and just dancing and just being like, blown away by this amazing sound system, this underground space, which is really new. And just the vibe, you know, because I went back the following week, I couldn’t wait to get back the following week.
K Anderson 7:15
So vibe is a little vague for me. Is it? Can you like, unpack that?
Marc Thompson 7:20
You know, I mean,
it’s just I mean, it’s it’s so full, other clubs that I’ve been to prior to queer nation felt like big clubs, that you weren’t going there. For the music. You were going there to hang with your friends to meet men to hook up. When I went to coordination that night, it was the music that was in my soul. That’s what I mean, by the vibe. It was a it was a small space. There weren’t a lot of people there. But there was no attitude. There was no I’m here to cruise I’m here to pick up I need to stand by the bar. People went in. It was small, it was dank, it was dark. And they danced. And that was really new that for me that felt really, really new, that you would go to a space just to dance and not to pick up.
K Anderson 8:15
That’s interesting. Yeah. Because I like a terrible conversationalist. And even worse in a club where there’s lots of like loud music, and no one can hear me and I can’t hear them. Like, listen to how soft spoken I am. So I would only go to clubs to dance. And it wasn’t until like later on when I kind of developed some skills in picking up that I used those in nightclubs. So it’s interesting. It’s the other way around for you.
Marc Thompson 8:40
And I suppose for the first few years, I like for lots of queer people, you know, for and this is pre Grindr, you know, so, you know, it’s generations a generation ago. So this was the only way to meet your partner’s been a sexual these were the only places to meet your friends. So whilst you might go out to a pub for a pint, which wasn’t necessarily my thing. It was the space where I knew that if I was horny, if I wanted to look for a new boyfriend, it’s rare I would. These are the spaces that I would go to. So going out every Friday night, I love music, and I love dancing. But that wasn’t the primary reason. I was quite young. I didn’t want to go to gay youth groups. I wasn’t necessarily political at the time. So this was the one avenue where I knew I could be with my tribe. So I didn’t mind where I went to. But when I went to coordination, the music took over everything. And that became the reason to go there.
K Anderson 9:40
And it’s like, it’s kind of easy to pick up on the dance floor as well. All right.
Marc Thompson 9:44
Well, exactly this is that you’ve hit the nail on the head. That was a beautiful thing because you would go I mean, I would certainly go there know that I’m going to hear my favourite DJs playing my favourite music and my main focus is down I’ve seen in sweating. And if I meet somebody on that dance floor, that’s a bonus. Because that person is definitely then into the same vibe and the same feel as me. And he’s talking about connecting on the dance floor, which is different to eyes across a bar, you know, you can bump and grind, they can see your moves. And they can see, yeah, you’re grinding, but they
K Anderson 10:21
can also like, they already know what you look like really sweaty. So there’s no surprises. But no, I’m fascinated by this, like, what makes a venue or a night or a space, feel like home? And, and what the ingredients are to bring people back. And it’s knowing it’s not just the architecture, it’s not just the music, there are like all these other factors at play. And that’s why I was kind of like, project you about vibe to better understand.
Marc Thompson 10:56
Well, I mean, I think that, you know, queer nation, certainly not on that first night, because it was it was new, but really, really quickly established a family. It had a consistent roster of DJs. It had the same promoter, Patrick Lily, it had the same door stuff, the door staff were either queer, or queer allies, they weren’t big bounces. So working the moment that you got into the space, you will, you will welcome it was never going to get shaved down, pat it down. People don’t want me here. It was like, get you in the door. Right. So that was that was key. And really quickly established. The the punters the people that went there, when every single week. So it was a Sunday night, it was relatively early, it finished about two, three o’clock, and it built up that reputation. So we would go you would go every week, and you would see the same people time and time again, after years. And so it created that family vibe that was in there. And I think what was really important about it was, you know, lots of people and club promoters, talk about having clubs, particularly, you know, queer male spaces with no attitude. And that always makes me giggle. You know, because you know, there’s always posturing in there, when you go out, there’s always a little bit of attitude, that’s what we do. But queer nation, that was a genuine thing, it really was a loving space. And this is kind of post the Summer of Love 1989. So there may have been a few, you know, ecstasy pills involved in all of that a few, but it was genuinely well. I mean, I didn’t kind of I personally didn’t come to that party till a little bit later. So I was quite sober when I went to Q when in those early days, and I was younger. But it was really, you knew, but you knew everybody that went there. And later on down the line. I mean, I’ll take a leap when it moved to Brixton, and me and my mates would go there every single Saturday from about 2001 to 2004. We were known there about six of us for walking in as a click, and standing in front, the DJ booth. And whoever was here would move out of the way, because it was our spot
K Anderson 13:23
to hang out. Hang on, hang on, hang on, hang on. Didn’t you just tell me there was no attitude.
Marc Thompson 13:30
You got to check it out. Because we were like, six or 730 something guys in the prime, you know, all kind of queue kind of hard, we’d rock up and one person would get there we like take little spotting from the DJ booth. And if people just got out the boys are here. And it wasn’t bad. Boys. Yeah, I mean, we just hold court, dance, get off tops of, you know, I just carry on because it was that kind of space where you could live that it was so much energy and for a club to consistently do that, for nearly what, 1516 years, nearly every single week, and only have a couple of breaks in between that is quite incredible for a club. And that says a lot about going back to that word. He says a lot about the vibe and the family nature that was created there. And no word of a light. It was London’s most diverse club. And that’s the other issue we should talk about with this.
K Anderson 14:33
Okay, let’s talk about it.
Marc Thompson 14:36
Well, before this, you know, because many clubs were, you know, the, the quest scene or the gay scene in the in the late 80s. was, you know, it was it was, you know, in a subculture so it was overwhelmingly sis what we would call now sis and male. There were women’s clubs left, right, you know, in other spaces tucked away, tucked away. Yeah. And the gay men kind of had the big Kind of commercial spaces. But when queer nation comes along, and we’ve already spoken about where people of colour are, and where queer nation comes along, it truly is a queer club. You know, there are, it is not overwhelmingly gay and male, there are men, there are women, there were trans people, you know, there are what we would now define, or people might define themselves as non binary. You know, there was it was a space, which was open to anybody, and you felt that there, you know, it was renowned for that. And that continued for years.
K Anderson 15:33
And how, like, how do you think that that was achieved? Is that down to Patrick as the promoter or the venues that they were held in?
Marc Thompson 15:42
I think it was, because it was, I think Patrick did a lot around that, you know, just by simply promoting it as queer nation, and, you know, the promotional materials, and the promo not being overwhelmingly male, the fact that they had, you know, a mixed self of DJs. So princess Julia, without a long club in history, Luke, Howard, Marin breeze, all of these DJs had already come from clubs that had played to mixed crowds. So they brought that audience with them. And then again, the reputation builds up that all are welcomed here. And I think that was really important, you know, that, if you put that out, then starts to draw people in, I would often go there with girlfriends, you know, it was that kind of space, it was really safe to do that.
K Anderson 16:30
And can we talk about the use of the word queer, because, like, currently, that word has lost? Well, from my perspective, at least that word and lost its charged nature, and people use it quite freely. But at that time, it would have been quite a strong word to use. At least in 1990, when the club started, do you remember anyone having any opposition to it?
Marc Thompson 16:57
I don’t think I don’t recall anybody having any opposition to the name of the club. And I’m sure there may have been people that might have taken umbrage to it. But by that point, queer nation, the radical political movement in San Francisco was already up and running. So I think that there was probably and of course, you know, if you attach it to a club, which is kind of like, you know, a silly fun night out on paper, you know, they’re not, I’m trying to think of the word that probably uncharged is that a little bit? You know, if you call it queer nation, it’s a fun night out. And again, I certainly as a gay man, go in there didn’t claim the title queer at all. I mean, I didn’t claim title queer until about, you know, 10 minutes ago, that’s always
K Anderson 17:46
in preparation for this interview.
Marc Thompson 17:49
Yeah. gay, gay is probably 10 minutes ago, but just a couple of years ago, and I still describe myself as a gay man within the queer family. Right? That’s an estimate you’re hold for conversation. But I think that at the time with queer nation, the club, I don’t recall there being any pushback. But in hindsight, it was creating a queer nation. And it was a queer nation that took place within those within that sweaty dance floor. So maybe if that was Patrick’s intention or not, it certainly was the result of
K Anderson 18:28
and so I’ve written this down. I probably shouldn’t have I’d like, let’s just see where this conversation goes. But dancing topless. Yeah. Now. It’s brilliant in the fact that you don’t have to, like plan an outfit to go out in. But, like touching I’ll do. Well now cuz you’re just gonna take it off. No, no, no, no, no, no. Okay, break it down.
Marc Thompson 18:55
Are you still because the teacher is interesting, right, because you still got a walk in the club. You still have a nice little t shirt to show off. You know, when I was a bit more muscular. Yes, the T shirt says who you are. It’s all that kind of stuff. The whole thing you could train this way.
K Anderson 19:08
Like, you could just wear a white t shirt because you’re taking off like I guess
Marc Thompson 19:12
you could just wear it occasionally. You could just wear a white t shirt. Sometimes you need to do a little bit logo. You know? Got mix it up. So what would you do? I would I would vary. I got a different t shirt. I’d buy a nice t shirt. Nice Polo. Yeah, come on top isn’t often good time is it? I built I build up to take him I built I built up to taking my top off.
K Anderson 19:37
Oh, okay. So what At what point do you know it’s time to take your top off?
Marc Thompson 19:44
You shouldn’t do it too early. So certainly not within the firm this Listen, first of all right. This is many years ago children said there’s a certain age where you stop taking the top off as well. Anyway Well, this
K Anderson 20:00
one is a just nonsense, you can take the top off whenever you want.
Marc Thompson 20:06
You can top off whenever you want. This particular daddy is keeping this. Now, when I used to go out, it used to be, it would never be within the first hour. Definitely not, you know, make their lives you know, be around hate your mates and all that. It’s not, it’s when the music hits you, you feel when it’s time to take it off. It goes back to that vibe thing because, you know, I’m all about the music. And so if I’m out and I’m dancing, and I was in Q n, and the music hit me, I’m like, Oh, yeah, now is the time and then it would off off it would cut
K Anderson 20:47
the music is telling me to take my clothes off.
Marc Thompson 20:52
I mean, it’s a pet show voice song right cool. The boy who couldn’t keep his clothes on. And that used to be my, I think my favourite shoe because I used to love getting my top off and dancer coordination was known.
K Anderson 21:07
But okay, so so like, it’s fine to look at people dancing tablets, or just like when they get really close to you and they’re all sweaty and you’re all sweaty like that is ours
Marc Thompson 21:18
is gross. And I am I am. I know, I’m trying to demonstrate my hands right now. I have a I have a barrier around me, I have an invisible box. When I go out there the man that steps inside that box about an invitation. I gave and I and my friends know it and I’m alright my friends. But I give a look. I turn my body in a particular direction, whatever it is, but I’m like, No, you need to step back. Well, that I mean that is all good.
K Anderson 21:51
It’s all good. And well until it’s very, very busy. And then there’s no space. gateway space. Okay, so what do you do then if someone encroaches on your personal like yours? So how do you get rid of them?
Marc Thompson 22:05
Well, you know, it’s, that’s an interesting one. That’s part of the reason why I got a little bit fed up with going clubbing. As I got older, I got a little bit less tolerant of it. I think it’s alright with people, you know, invading my personal space when I’m out dancing with top on on top.
K Anderson 22:22
But when do you have your tripod?
Marc Thompson 22:28
But there is I also think that there’s there’s just there’s a there’s also it’s about respecting people when you go out. Okay, so we can all fly around the dance floor and lose ourselves and all of the rest of it. But there is something about respect to somebody’s space. And I get that you might bump into me and I say hey, you know, me, my friends dancing, but if you’re dancing is so exaggerated. You’ve lost yourself that you’re taking somebody else’s enjoyment in that’s disrespectful.
K Anderson 22:56
Oh, yeah, no. I absolutely agree that that’s totally disrespectful. But if someone is really fucking drunk, and is just like not getting the hint that they’re in your space. How do you manage that?
Marc Thompson 23:08
I have learned now to just to move away to find another spot. You’re
K Anderson 23:12
in front of the DJ booth. That’s your spot
Marc Thompson 23:18
that can listen. Nobody came. Nobody came within that space in this room. And they were usually cute boy.
K Anderson 23:27
Oh, how do you like, oh, okay, like I beckoning with the fingers. Yeah, actually, no, shake my shimmy. I could tell by the way you were listening. Yeah. I find Yeah, I find dance flow is really interesting to navigate.
Marc Thompson 23:51
I mean, that’s again, what one of the reasons why I really love coordination in the different spaces it went to and in the different guises it had, because because it was so much about the music, and so much emphasis that was put on that even when it became much more male when it moved to substation in Brixton, and a little bit heavier, it was a lighter, it was a Saturday night, it was only got, you know, much more dragging, because we will learn lots more ecstasy, then it was still there was still space to breathe. It was a really enjoyable night out. Whereas there were some other clubs I’ve been to where is that Jocelyn is top, you know, tops off. And, you know, we’re all in this together. And nobody cares about the music. It’s all about Come on. You know, I mean, I’m pumped up on ecstasy and steroids and I’ve got all my tribal tattoos and come on night, or that was queer nation. It was like nah, girl, come on. Do you hear that BB attack example. That’s what that was about completely different vibe, man.
K Anderson 24:57
And you said that like when it went to substation, everything came a bit Draggy and kind of male only do you know kind of what the factors were? I mean, just more people were taking drugs and that’s why it became drug here. But why was it was substation more of a male venue? Yeah,
Marc Thompson 25:12
it was very male who was an underground boots on kmicker night one night, you know, hardcore night another night.
K Anderson 25:19
Wait, why knicker a night. What was
Marc Thompson 25:21
it was called rescoring. Knickers underwear night. Or if you were French, it was the panty night.
On Monday night was underwear night. And so they had it was open seven days a week, I think. And each night was different and queer nation was on a Saturday. So most of those nights are quite male. So I think that that probably just carried over not to say it wasn’t, it wasn’t mixed, but it wasn’t as mixed. Yeah, yeah. And I think you’re right that in the early 2000s, the late 90s, early 2000s, we saw, you know, a massive increase in the use of part drugs. You know, cocaine, Ecstasy, Ketamine made a really hit in the scene. That’s where you got the big super clubs like ttpm, home, the end, all of those things start to happen as well. The coordination in Vauxhall not voxel sorry, in substation was the music was still the same. It was bigger, harder, louder. Because it was a Saturday night, it was a night out, you know, so Sunday, you’d be home in bed by three and back at work. Whereas on the Saturday night, you know, five, six o’clock, and you’re going to chill out. So it was very, very different. Oh, yeah. Yeah, it’s
K Anderson 26:43
a very different perspective. Can you can you imagine going out clubbing, like next week till two o’clock, and then on a Sunday night, and then coming home, going to bed for a few hours and then working but not in your life? Not on your life? I was so bizarre. I was 22. You know? Yeah, yeah, yeah. But you’re just like, yeah, this sounds reasonable. That’s
Marc Thompson 27:12
that’s how I’m gonna get there. For me. It would never even crossed my mind. I mean, I must admit, there were a few Monday mornings where I didn’t make it into work. You know, I’m not gonna lie. But more often than not, I did. But you know, that’s, you know, that’s what you did. You know, there were loads of nights during the week where I would go out and then still go to work the following day. I was a big party. Boy.
K Anderson 27:33
Did it make you less likely to take someone home if it was on a Sunday? Yeah,
Marc Thompson 27:38
I know. I wasn’t less likely. But it happened less frequently. Because of them. I think because I think because both of everybody knows everything. I’ve got go to work on Monday morning. I’ll get your number.
K Anderson 27:51
But the thing is, like it is it is horrific. Like it is horrific to do that. And then like have to go to work the next day. But there’s a built in excuse to leave
there. I just say I’d love to say and like find out more about you and have breakfast with you and awkward conversation by I’ve got to go to work. Sorry.
Marc Thompson 28:19
Yeah, I never remember. I must admit I don’t I think I probably came home or pulled more queer nation on a Saturday night than I did when it was a Sunday. Oh, but it’s
K Anderson 28:29
hard to compare though. Because it’s like there’s like 10 years difference, right? Yeah. But when the Saturday night once a Sunday? Yeah, but you were probably like in a different life stage. No, no, no, no, it’s me. You’re talking to her? Well, so you’ve not you’ve not changed your worldview at all. Since your worldview has changed. But
Marc Thompson 28:48
no, no, no, what I mean, is that I think No, what I’m saying is I was just as likely to meet if queer nation had been on the Saturday night in the early 90s. In the same way it was in the in the, in the naughties. I would have gone home with people on a Saturday night.
K Anderson 29:05
So you’ve just always been really smooth and confident. Yeah, pretty much. This whole this whole show is about your trauma and and like, you know how, when you were a child, you were just so messed up and screwed in the head and I’m not gonna get any of that from you.
Marc Thompson 29:20
I came, you know, I came kicking out that closet door at 16 and found the club’s love music love men. And, you know, I was I you know, the thing is, is that I was you know, I say a lot but I was very, very lucky in so far as my family were incredibly supportive of me as a young gay man and allowed me to go out into the world and explore and didn’t put any kind of, you know, pressures on me, they want me to be Denmark, my family always be safe, they will be secure and they provide the things around me to do so. So I was able to then go out and party and dance and meet boys and fall in and out of love and have lots To set and do the things that young people straight down people get to do. And you you are born and bred Londoner that very rare breed from Brixton. Yeah.
K Anderson 30:10
So, so that is like mind blowing, like if I was 16 and had access to all of those clubs in London. I don’t know if I would have finished school.
Marc Thompson 30:22
I mean, the thing is, I was, you know, I was studying, I was at college during my, you know, do my studying film, do my own levels and eight levels. And I was always a quiet, you know, out there confident kid who was really really sociable in before I came out. And when I went to college, I was, I was the same and made friends really easily. And it’s not a boast, it’s just, it’s just just who I am. And so when it came out, I met other black gay men, within a couple of weeks of me telling my family that I was gay. So I was lucky in that way. So I was introduced into a black gay community, with friends, I didn’t have to go and negotiate lots of things. I mean, I did have to negotiate the world on my own, in order to have people holding my hand. But it meant that I could, there were certain points that people helped me through quite early on. And I had a small group of friends who also my age as well, straight girls, usually, that, you know, just stood by me and was curious about the world as well. So I would go to these little black gay clubs and parties and my girlfriend’s, you know, other young black straight women who about my age I went to college with, and we would just be like, fascinated. And in all these cute boys would be like, oh, who’s this? And I’m like, Okay.
K Anderson 31:41
Great. Okay. See your friend from school? So, your family was just like, Oh, yeah, okay. Okay. Was it just one of those things that they all knew? And they’ve kind of had time to come to terms with it before? You did?
Marc Thompson 31:57
No, no, no, not at all. I mean, it wasn’t, wasn’t expected. And, you know, just that. I, you know, my family were working class, they Jamaican? You know, my mom’s really smart. My dad’s really smart. But, you know, homosexuality wasn’t in their world and weren’t like Guardian reading, you know, radical lefties, you know, they’re just regular folk. But for them loving their children Trumps absolutely everything. And sexuality, they may have understood it, but they knew enough to protect their kids. And that’s what it boils down to. Right. I don’t understand it. The world doesn’t like it, but you’re my child. And that’s what matters.
K Anderson 32:39
Like, but so was there like a period where it was a bit weird? Or was it just like, I got your back, let’s go.
Marc Thompson 32:46
But no, my mom wanted me to get therapy, but only because she wanted to make sure that I was okay. So not conversion
K Anderson 32:51
therapy, just like,
Marc Thompson 32:52
No, no, no, no, no, she, she was she was a social worker. And she was like, Look, do you want to talk to somebody, you know, just to make sure and, and that kind of thing. So and then it was just like, take care. And it took a little while for them. And for and for, you know, because, you know, we don’t talk about when we talk about people coming out, you know, whether parents accept or not. There’s also some adjustment that we have to do as queer people, as well. So if I find these do accept us, because we go in expecting them to be so god awful, then when they do we still have to do a bit of an adjustment as well. You know, so I had to adjust to my parents, they had to adjust to me. And that took a little bit of time. And also, as a teenager, you know, I want to be out. I didn’t want to you know, it wouldn’t just be gays. I want to be gay, and I want to go out party and I want to drink. Yeah. You know, and your parents are actually no, so they want to control you because you’re a kid. So there’s all of that stuff. But it took a little while. But they were then like, yeah, we’ve got your back. Go do this.
K Anderson 33:57
It’s great. What was it like at school then?
Marc Thompson 34:00
We’re school wasn’t tough. I mean, it was tough. Because I went to a really, I went to a really all boys comprehensive school in South London, which is quite rough. And for a good few years, I was right there. But as I got older, and I realized, not that I was different. Because of my sexuality. I was just different because I wanted different things. I liked art. I like music. I like fashion. And the boys in my school. They didn’t present they wanted that, for example, my favorite magazines when I was at school, when I was 15 was the face an ID. That’s Those are my Bibles. Right? So it was difficult because I was different in that sense. And I wanted to get out and I got out as soon as I could. But I also told my best friends, two straight boys and my head of year that I was gay when I was 15. And they were amazing. They were so supportive. So I’m again, you No, my story is quite unusual for that time. But I think it’s really important that people hear that because not all of our stories are horrific. Not all of our stories are traumatizing or bad. And that should demonstrate that trust some people around you sometimes, you know, there is love around us. We just have to find the right people sometimes. And I was very lucky.
K Anderson 35:24
Yeah, really lucky. And so you’re hitting the town, you were like, right, I’m 60. And it’s about time I got out and, and had a drink and like found out things where you like going to actual bars, or just parties.
Marc Thompson 35:39
Initially, I went to, I had just, you know, I knew people through my first boyfriend. And then I started when I when I went to college to do my own level. And there was a pub in Kings Cross called the belt. And me and some friends I’ve made at college who were a little bit radical rule, I thought we were really radical. We weren’t really. And we would go to the bell at lunchtime, because you could drink between 12 and three games before the class closed. And fat. It was a gay pub. And that’s why I started to go on my own. And he had an indie night. And I, you know, kind of like indie music pen and there, and the Prince of Wales in Brixton, when my two spaces initially. And then I slowly started to meet and make more friends and go to places.
K Anderson 36:28
And no one was like, you look suspiciously young straighten.
Marc Thompson 36:32
Yeah, especially in the pliers. That’d be your ID. And I didn’t have this gray beard. I mean, I was baby faced I was, I look at pictures of me now. And I look about I was really,
K Anderson 36:46
and, and so where you going there for like really confidently and just kind of striking up conversations with people, or were you just like, I don’t know how any of this works. I hope someone shows me the way.
Marc Thompson 36:57
And I think if I remember rightly, you know, I was I just got the bull by the horns. You know, I mean, I think when I went to pubs, I was always a little bit nervous, a little bit anxious, that whole thing of, you know, if somebody’s going to see me going in, although I was relatively out to my family, I wasn’t out to the world. So there’s all that sort of thing. And you know, and also, you know, this is a time of deep homophobia in this country, violent homophobia, right. So you one risk, you know, getting attacked or beaten up going in or coming out of a gay pub. So that is the other factor. You’ve got to bear in mind, being a young black man out on the streets after a certain time, and could get pulled up by the police, not because I’m going to a black man. There’s all of these factors. So once you’ve got over that, you have no choice. I had no choice. But to striding. Like, I own the goddamn place. You know, because you gotta you gotta be a backup. I’ve got to do this. Oh, so there was no, that was my attitude.
K Anderson 37:57
I mean, that’s the best attitude to have. I know. I sound a lot. I sound a lot tougher than I am. I would just be like, here’s my fear. Have you have a whiff? Not me, me. Not me. But yeah, so I just got to a few of those places. Yeah. And then so did you start being sexual very quickly?
Marc Thompson 38:17
Pretty much. Yeah. I mean, I wasn’t I wasn’t that kid that explored, you know, the cottages or cruising grounds? Or was that only eight experiment or? Oh, I’m going to touch dick before I go to a nightclub now. I was I wasn’t, I was out going to get me a boyfriend. We’re going to have a boyfriend the relationship and then that’s it. And that’s how I rolled it wasn’t about experimenting with the world that came much later.
K Anderson 38:48
Who Who was the first boyfriend if it’s okay to ask.
Marc Thompson 38:53
Without name makeup, and he’s still alive and he’s still around. Let’s call him Let’s call him the model
K Anderson 39:00
the model okay? Because he was
Marc Thompson 39:03
six foot something called the our incredibly beautiful, absolutely stunning. And I was surprised to meet my surprise. He gave me a second glance. And he was only a couple of years older than me as well which is quite nice.
K Anderson 39:15
And and you met him where
Marc Thompson 39:17
he opened a castle. One evening on my way home from work my part time job when I was 16. Good old cruising. Those were the days boys and girls. When you could go to a bus stop and meet your first love. Do you remember those times children?
K Anderson 39:32
Where they said wait, wait, wait, so designated bus stop. So just like you would just like stare at someone? Yeah, this is the this is the letter bus. Oh, no, no, no, no, no. Like, you know, this is where you go cruising. Like behind this bus stop on here. Was it just like
Marc Thompson 39:49
yeah, I didn’t know about I’m sure there were those places but I didn’t know about any of those places. So I was just on my way home from work one evening. Okay. Full disclosure, somebody tried to cruise me. I didn’t know they were cruising me the week before on the tube. By I picked up the homosexual signals and 15 come up to 16. And
K Anderson 40:13
how do you Oh my god, I’m so naive to him. How did you pick it? Well, you know, I mean you. Well, you just wait, did he have his deck in his hand? What was happening? No, no, you just, you’re just on the train and somebody is giving you the I. I just I just assume they want to beat me up. Okay. Sorry. Carry on. Right. So it happened to you the week before
Marc Thompson 40:35
you haven’t read the week before. And I didn’t follow through because I was shit scared. I didn’t know what this man I didn’t know. And in the fall, I went home and I regretted. I was like, I should have followed through. I said, if that ever happens to me again, I’m not going to be nervous. I’m not going to be nervous. And a couple of weeks later, I’m coming home. I’m at the bus stop. And I look and he looks and I look and he looks. I can’t I don’t know who but the conversation. He was reading a book. That was it. I was reading a book and the book was called the milkman is on his way.
K Anderson 41:07
Oh, David Reese, and every someone
Marc Thompson 41:10
that said, David raves, yeah, a gay young adult fiction novel. And I was reading it. And he said to me what you read in and I showed him when he was that.
we swapped numbers, and I fell giddily heavily, madly, madly in love. for five minutes, I find
K Anderson 41:33
that is so smooth and brazen.
Marc Thompson 41:37
Maybe, yeah, maybe, maybe. But you know, you know, as I said, you know, I’m, I’m not I’m not an arrogant man. I’m not, you know, boasted follow or anything like that. I just report to be confident. In Sandy my truth.
K Anderson 41:51
So I am moving on to I’m not gonna ask too many questions about this man who I can’t remember what we’ve called him. What did we call them? We call him the model the model? Who is the model? Were you then were you then just like going like, I want to say going from boyfriend a boyfriend? And I don’t mean that in there. Like, were you just being a big slag? I just mean, like, were you like, in love with the idea of love?
Marc Thompson 42:14
For a few years? Yes. for a few years. I mean, I didn’t I certainly in those first, first year or so, I certainly didn’t go from boyfriend to boyfriend because I didn’t know where to meet men as such until I, you know, my, the time between that boyfriend, and my next was probably seven months. Okay, you know, because I didn’t know where to where to go to meet guys. And as I said, You know, I wasn’t going to go quite a general cruising. But when I did meet somebody, which was usually at a bar, or a pub, I would get really sort of like, Oh, my gosh, you know, this is going to be, you know, the love of my life. And then, you know, we knock the boots, you know, and I’ll be like, Oh, okay. Now, I didn’t go out again, because I didn’t realise you see, I didn’t such a young age, I didn’t understand that one could just have sex. You know, of course, I was. And it was, um, I mean, I don’t want to label it this head, you know, heteronormative I don’t label it that. It was just,
K Anderson 43:23
but it was there like, well, maybe because I think you were conditioned. You were conditioned to think that there was one person out there. And that one person was for you. Yeah. And they would complete you and off. You ever have a look for them? Like so of course you’re thinking. Yeah, maybe we’re quickly changed. Yeah. Yeah, there’s like 1700 for me. And I’m still looking. And I told you, we were gonna go like completely off topic. And we have, do you remember hearing about Korea nation closing? Or like, the final night was coming?
Marc Thompson 44:00
The final night of its last iteration in Brixton? Yeah, I do. I do remember. I don’t remember exactly when. But I do remember.
K Anderson 44:09
And what did that feel like?
Marc Thompson 44:12
It felt at the end of an era. It was really sad. Because it did pick up half the somewhere else. But it had been such an institution in Brixton. And I live in Brixton as well. So to have that special place on my doorstep for so long, was was also really important. It was it was it was my local. That’s, that’s what it felt like when somebody in your local pub closes. That’s what coordination closing down felt like for me. It was Yeah, because it’ll just help so many, so many amazing memories, not just for me, but for me and my group of friends. It was a group of friends that built around that space over so many Yours. And we grew up in both iterations, both gardening, and I can talk about those two, gardening club and substation south. You know, we grew up in those spaces.
K Anderson 45:11
What did London lose when it lost coronation?
Marc Thompson 45:15
places like queer nation, jerk, because this is the height of the epidemic in the UK, the queer nation opens in 1990, right with ban in the middle of it here. And that place is a lifesaver. Because it gives us young, gay, LGBTQ people a space to release to let go to, to forget about our friends who were dying, those of us ill, she press this attacking us that is violent, the homophobia this potential in the street, we can go there for those five hours on a Sunday, and transport ourselves somewhere magical and different. And we’re not even leaving the garden club because the love is, is in that room. The Love is there. And that’s what saved us. So as a positive man, when I went to his coronation, it was my safe bubble. And that and that was profound, you know, because outside of the world outside of that space, and that’s why those queer spaces even if the big commercial mainstream spaces that played high energy that I may not have loved through to que en they were the safest spaces for queer people at that time. And we found joy, we found love, we found community in that dance floor in that church. And many of us sometimes found salvation. When I’m at my lowest ebb, and I go in that dance floor, and I listened to Crystal waters, gypsy woman or Barbara Tucker Beautiful People, or some classic the letter Holloway, there was all that was played QA. I can lose my ship. And everything else math matters. We transect and that is why that space in particular coordination will always be my church. Always.
K Anderson 47:28
Did you ever go to queer nation? Well, if you did, I would love to hear from you. Tell me your stories and share any photos or anecdotes that you have from that time. You can reach me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram with the user name K. Anderson music. And there are Bonus points if you have any photos of Mark topless dancing. You can also follow mark on Twitter, his profile name is Mark t underscore 01. And that is mark with C naught okay. And I’ve also included links to the love tank blackout UK and perhaps they’re in the show notes for that program. Last basis is not only a podcast, but a concept record as well. I have been writing songs about queer venues and the people who used to live their lives there and we’ll be releasing songs over the next year. You can hear the first single which is called well groomed boys and is playing underneath my talking right now on all good streaming platforms. If you enjoyed this episode, I would really appreciate if you subscribed, left a review on Apple podcasts or just told other people who you think might be interested in giving it a little listen to I am K Anderson and you have been listening to lost spaces.