Homobloc and The Warehouse Project respond to criticism over ownership and charity donations

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One of the UK’s biggest queer raves, Manchester’s Homobloc, has been criticised by local promoters High Hoops — who have accused the event of being “owned by and benefitting cis straight men.

In an Instagram post, High Hoops raised concerns surrounding Homobloc — principally around those who own stakes in the event,as well as doubts over if less established artists and creatives are being properly compensated for their involvement.

High Hoops wrote: “There is little doubt the potential benefit that an event like Homobloc can have for the LGBTQ+ community; in terms of creating a space for LGBTQ+ artists, performers and dancers to come together.

“Whilst we recognise there is input from LGBTQ+ staff into the organising and promotion of Homobloc, there remains a feeling of unease that the event is owned by and continues to principally benefit cis straight men,” it continued. “Not to shame the organisers for their status, but we want to ask they uphold the same standards we demand of ourselves.”

Read this next: Homobloc locks in Róisín Murphy and Honey Dijon for 14-hour party at Depot Mayfield

Homobloc was founded in a partnership between Homoelectric and The Warehouse Project — the latter is majority-owned by publicly-listed entertainment ticketing company Live Nation. Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (Pif) reportedly owns a stake in Live Nation valued at around $1 billion.

High Hoops wrote: “It demands continued scrutiny and protest that the kingdom and the individuals within Pif criminalise same-sex sexual activity between men and between women.

“The gender expression of trans people is also criminalised. Sentences include a maximum penalty of death,” they said. “In 2019 Saudi Arabia announced they had executed 37 men. Reports suggest that five of those were executed for same-sex sexual activity.

“It is unacceptable that an organisation such as Pif would benefit from an event such as Homobloc.”

High Hoops also raised concerns about where money raised for charitable donations had come from, with Homobloc claiming after the 2021 edition that it had raised £46k to donate to four LGBTQ+ charities.

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High Hoops wrote: “This amount of money will have a positive impact for the charities receiving these funds, but there is a question around where that money truly came from.

“It is believed that the other amount was raised via merchandise sales and other donations made directly from the LGBTQ+ community. We have raised this with the organisers and asked if they would be kind enough to open up their books to provide reassurance,” they continued.

In response Luke Cowdrey (AKA Luke Una), the founder of Homoelectric and Homobloc, addressed some of the concerns. He told Mixmag: “We appreciate and acknowledge the considered statement that High Hoops has made regarding Homobloc.

“Homoelectric was founded nearly twenty-five years ago in Manchester and has always been an inclusive experience centred around bringing people together. Our slogan ‘For homos, heteros, lesbos, don’t knows’ has always been our mantra,” he continued.

“This year there were 200 fully paid, mainly local, mainly LGBTQ+, artists and performers included within the show, and as Homobloc continues to evolve our ambition is for this number to grow. It has been questioned how and where the charitable funds that we raised came from: this was broken down clearly after the 2021 party and will be again once this year’s fundraising is concluded.

Read this next: Sweet salvation: How Homobloc took the queer underground to new heights

“The donation directly from Homobloc makes up around 50% and other Homobloc activations make up the balance – this does not include any bucket collections on the night, which are on top. We are happy to share all of this in detail with High Hoops.”

The Warehouse Project co-owner Sam Kandel also responded to the statement, telling Mixmag: “Homoelectric has been a constant and much loved presence in Manchester for over twenty years. Given their legacy in the city and the pioneering work they have done, we believe they are an appropriate outfit to host an event such as Homobloc.

“The Warehouse Project’s role in the event is to support form a production perspective and help them realise their vision. We are able to share the physical infrastructure and some of our core team, without which the event would not be viable.

“As an organisation we are always looking to improve,” he continued. “We are speaking to High Hoops directly and hope to meet with them in person very soon to address some of the points they have raised.”

Homobloc is an annual queer festival run by legendary Manchester party Homoelectric and The Warehouse Project. The most recent edition took place on November 5, with a line-up featuring Roísín Murphy, Honey Dijon, Saoirse, I.Jordan, Moxie B2B Shanti Celeste and more.

Isaac Muk is Mixmag’s Digital Intern, follow him on Twitter

Written by: Tim Hopkins

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