What’s the party providing a safer space for London’s *FLINTA community? Technomate

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TM8 has rapidly grown to be a pillar for education and queer representation in London’s techno scene

  • Words: Becky Buckle | Photos: Michele Baron
  • 13 December 2022

If you’re looking to experience the same sweaty dancefloor vibe commonly found within the dark depths of Berlin’s techno dungeons, but want a break from the typically white cis male crowds stomping through the night — Technomate (TM8) at Tottenham’s Unit 58 feels like a breath of fresh air. TM8 is a space for the *FLINTA community — AKA people who identify as Women, Lesbian, Intersex, Non-binary, Transgender and Agender/Asexual — and allies. Founded solely by Russian-born DJ olesia, it’s now a community that goes beyond the walls of Unit 58.

Starting in 2018, the building blocks of the concept came about when olesia was attending weekly meet-ups to learn how to DJ with her friends. “As a group of friends learning to DJ, we all identified that there wasn’t a platform for marginalised people who are only just starting out in the industry,” olesia says. “It just came up in a conversation we had one evening and that’s when I had this light bulb moment. I instantly knew I wanted to give running events a go. It was a very intuitive decision for me. I felt it in my gut and was instantly drawn to the idea of starting a night.”

The name itself derives from a meme which reads: “What music you into?” with the image of a satellite dish branded “Technomate”. The “somewhat ‘laddy’ language”, olesia explains, is used ironically, juxtaposed with the party’s aims of reclaiming techno spaces back from bros. A satellite dish often hangs as a prop behind the booth of their events, reframed as a symbol of that intent.

The identities Technomate sought to represent became more focused as olesia began to explore her own. “I wasn’t fully out as a queer person when I first started the collective,” olesia reflects. “Originally we were a women-only collective, but as I was coming to terms with my own gender and my own sexual identity, I was unpacking my privilege and identifying the need for spaces for people like myself and my newly found friends from within the queer community.” She decided that TM8 would be a space for people that were experiencing a similar, significant, self-exploratory moment. “When you come out later in life, it’s intimidating,” says olesia. “It’s a lot to process and take in. It can be really overwhelming to go to your first queer event. Queer spaces are often dominated by cis men and at the time when Technomate took off, there weren’t a lot of *FLINTA-oriented events within the harder dance scene.” From this moment, the collective began to focus on providing a space for *FLINTA patrons.

Read this next: Body Movements festival was a landmark occasion for queer self-expression

“A lot of my experience going out to parties both before and after I came out as queer has been about being harassed. I don’t want the guests to experience this at my events. Safety is at the core of Technomate.” The parties are open to everyone who shares and respects TM8’s values, while the line-ups and podcast, panel and radio guests are exclusively *FLINTA people.

“I was getting bored of seeing the same big names on line-ups all the time, and felt like there are so many artists under the radar who have a lot to offer and deserve a spotlight,” olesia says. Finding herself constantly in a club or on a dancefloor prior to starting her own night, she has experience searching for *FLINTA DJs that deserve a platform. “A lot of the time people wouldn’t know the majority of people on our line-up,” says olesia with confidence, adding: “I’m fully aware of the additional challenge it brings into my work as a promoter and it definitely means that my team has to put in extra hours into promoting our events. But giving a spotlight to lesser-known, up-and-coming names is a change I’d like to see within the music space. Our writer Niamh O’Connor normally writes a detailed bio introducing the artists we invite.”

At Technomate 07, the hazy red room within the unit has a friendly disco ball shimmering across the faces of shoulder-pumping, hardcore techno-heads. They get face-to-face with the DJ, observe the spectacle from the balcony, or sit outside, cigarette in hand, with the thumps of bass echoing out. You are safe to express yourself, make friends and dance freely.

Read this next: Queer the dancefloor: How electronic music evolved by re-embracing its radical roots

In November TM8 had its most successful night with its first-ever sold-out party. “It was such a joy to see our attendees come out in full force and support an outstanding bill of artists from around Europe. Each artist delivered an incredible set and the energy flowed seamlessly throughout the night.” These artists were, Amphibian, Golden Medusa, High Speed Violence, Viscerale and Drazzit. To ensure all those that played enjoyed their time, olesia reconnected with those involved to have a catch-up on the same weekend. “It’s so special to me, building these friendships. I see nourishing the relationships with the artists and staff I work with as an important part of my role as a promoter. Getting to know and work with people who share the values that TM8 holds means the world to me. It is one of the main reasons why I run events despite the insanity of being a promoter.”

Still receiving positive feedback from ravers, olesia is beaming with pride as she recalls: “It was such a warm, family-like feeling throughout the night.” A highlight was finding out that a person met their now-girlfriend at TM8’s last party, and that they were partying together as a couple at this latest night.

Technomate’s system to create a safe and inclusive environment is thoroughly thought-out, with a number of simple yet effective policies that olesia has hand-crafted. Tickets are reasonably priced, with olesia setting aside guestlist for NHS workers, sex workers and those who are on a low income or unemployed so that nobody feels like they have to miss out.

Read this next: Unorthodox Event is leading the first queer movement in drum ‘n’ bass

Upon entry, people are given the option to wear a badge with their pronouns on, so as to stop anyone from assuming the identity of fellow ravers. Consent is also required when taking photos. With a no-flash rule, people can take pictures, but an on-site photographer Michele Baron is present and will also ask for permission before taking a snap.

Not sure what to wear? No problem. TM8 has no dresscode. People are encouraged to dress freely and express themselves, as there really is a sense of no judgement. olesia explains this in-depth: “Lots of queer events see people put a lot of time and effort into how they dress, but you don’t have to look any kind of way to be queer. While we encourage self-expression and provide a safer space for it, we do not require a specific look. There simply isn’t one. And then there’s also the financial burden that often comes with buying makeup and outfits. It isn’t accessible to everyone, and we want to respect that. Cishet people often want to come to queer events to be around the “cool kids”. For them, the weekend ends, and they take their leather harness off and continue to live on the life of privilege, but the LGBTQIA+ community continues to face the day-to-day reality of homophobia and transphobia off the dancefloor. Queerness isn’t a look or a buzzword, it’s a radical identity and a political statement.”

The aspect that makes Technomate’s ethos so bulletproof is its caring welfare team Safe Only. The nightlife industry has a long history of poor security, discrimination, and a general lack of welfare teams at many events, including LGBTQ+ nights, yet TM8 has a solution. Each night a queer welfare team are constantly present to deal with any issues that may arise. At the end of every night, at 5:AM, olesia has a debrief with the team to talk through any situations that might have happened on the night, how they’ve dealt with them, and how they want to deal with similar situations moving forward.

These resourceful and logical policies are why so many people join olesia’s .edu, an educational meet-up for those who wish to delve into the industry as DJs, promoters, managers, staff, etc. Each .edu sees a panel of usually three industry experts, from fellow *FLINTA event Femme Fraishe’s Michelle Manetti to the Inferno founder Lewis G. Burton, who provide insight and discussion. olesia says: “Education is one of the main pillars of Technomate. There isn’t a crash course you can take in order to become a part of the industry. You can only learn by actively being in it and dealing with the challenges that arise along the way. This is why it’s so important to share the knowledge and pass it on to the next generations coming into the industry. I learned everything I know now through running this project and through being present within the wider music community as a raver, getting to know and learn from other inspiring artists and promoters around me. I want to encourage others to put themselves out there, embrace the newbie status and be brave. The industry can be a cliquey and unwelcoming place at first, but I want to change this message. Everyone has their own unique voice and take on music and should be welcomed to express it.” For those who can’t make the .edu events, TM8 posts a call on Instagram for people to submit questions which get asked for them.

Beyond the club, Technomate also hosts mixes from artists that are associated with the community, and often due to play a party in the coming months to give you a taste of what to expect. Starting prior to its nights, there have been almost 100 episodes – all available to freely listen to on SoundCloud. “At the beginning, it was just our friends and friends of friends but then as we grew I was able to invite more DJs whose sound I enjoyed and wanted to share with the wider community. With the podcast, we are moving towards inviting mostly more international guests while keeping it local with our radio residency.”

Ready to top a triumphant a year, Technomate has big plans lined up for the next. After making their festival debut at Body Movements last summer, they will be back for its first-ever winter edition in February, and return to Unit 58 across 2023 with even more enthusiasm to keep podcasting, educating, supporting, showcasing and, of course, raving.

Keep up to date with Technomate’s podcast, nights, educational panels and more here

Becky Buckle is Mixmag’s Video and Editorial Assistant, follow her on Twitter

Written by: Tim Hopkins

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