Meet the people putting on the best parties in London and dissolving gender stereotypes: all while they’re in 6 inch heels.
I’m ashamed to say I’d never been to Sink The Pink when I met its makers. I’d heard whispers of it around the Wonderland office and in every club east of Hoxton but I’d never quite made it there. “There” had once been Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club, where hundreds of club kids in drag would queue, rain or shine, to make it inside and throw a look on the dance floor. Now, Sink The Pink has evolved into a beloved festival feature, into an event fit for crowds of thousands and a country-wide, if not worldwide, renowned party.
That’s all it is, on the surface, a party. But in reality, it means a whole lot more to the revellers who attend religiously. As I quickly learnt from the brains behind the operations, you don’t just go to Sink The Pink once. “Family” is the word du jour and I was inducted with open arms despite being in the corner of a concrete studio instead of peeling myself off of a sweaty dance floor wearing latex. Whether you’re a Sink The Pink veteran or just as green as I was, get to know six of the faces inviting you to join the fun. Welcome to the family.
JONBENET BLONDE wears MIU MIU
So you’ve moved from Belfast to London, how did you join Sink The Pink as a performer?
I first met Amy over 6 years ago, so I’ve seen it go from basement club to 4000 people at the Troxy. Whenever we use to do it in those clubs, we were like ‘someday it’s going to blow up, it’s going to happen’. Then one day it just sort of happened. I can’t remember. It’s been crazy to see it. I could just feel the intent and love. As soon as I met them, it was instantly family, like such good friends. I can’t remember the exact point, but one night it went from nobody was there, well like 50 people, then to 100 people, then to 300 people, then 900 people, then we’re like shutting down the club, and can’t get anybody in…
When I first moved to London, I stopped drag for about a year, and after that first year was up, I felt something was missing in my life, and then I realised it was drag. My whole experience of London was completely different then, to it being in the first year. I met all of my friends, and really amazing things started happening. Doing things like this shoot! So that’s definitely why I associate it with happiness as well, because it makes me happy doing it. And that’s one of the most important things in life. And as long as you’re happy in life, you don’t need anything else.
How long have you been doing this? Can you see a difference from when you started?
For nearly 10 years now. Oh my god, 100%. I used to be hopeless. I used to be one of the girls that you’d see up in Leeds on a night out. Completely pissed and on the floor. I mean, I still do that now, but I look a lot better. You’ll still see me lying on the floor.
You work in fashion as well, can you see a big crossover between the fashion world and drag?
Oh god yeah 100%. I mean, more so now, but I think it’s always been there. You see people like Jonny Woo, who is a magnet into the fashion world as he’s quite arty, and he makes his way into the fashion world by the arty side. And there are girls creating runway looks, which I think is really cool. Obviously we can’t all afford runway looks. I think there are a lot of times that even designers I know have been inspired by looks that we’ve worn, so I think it goes both ways.
We get inspired by them, and they get inspired by us. Even with stylists and photographers and stuff like that as well. This photograph I did three years ago, me completely pissed, drunk, in my friend’s swimming pool, I saw a well-known magazine copied it recently. Isn’t it mental? I know these people as well. But nothing was ever said to me. It comes full circle. We get inspired by them, they get inspired by us. It’s just how things go.
Sink The Pink is the place where people can do whatever they want, that wouldn’t always be accepted in the every day, are you glad that it’s like that, that you have a specific place? Or do you wish it was more widely accepted?
I think it’s amazing. The thing is… we’re so open arms to everybody, we get new members all the time. When people come in that we love, we genuinely do. We don’t just go out together in night clubs, we hang out together, and circle our lives around each other. We actually are friends. And it’s really amazing to have that. And I hope that wherever else in the world, other people have that. Obviously one thing can spread, and I think it has. I think lots of people have a haven for that. Not through Sink Pink, but I think everyone should spread that message, to at least have that place to go. I didn’t have that in Belfast, it was a new thing to go out and find it and find people that accept you for you are and accept you for things you do and love you and don’t judge you for anything you do, don’t put you down for anything you do. In fact it’s completely the opposite, they build you up.
LOTTIE wears VIVIENNE WESTWOOD
So you’re a dancer and part of Sink the Pink?
Yeah, part of Sink the Pink, I’ve been an original Sink The Pink-er since day one. It was a smaller crew. There were four of us at the beginning, and now it’s extended to a huge family of lovely people!
What is it when you’re getting ready for a night, when you’re planning, what is it you most look forward to doing?
When I’m getting ready for a night, the most thing I look forward to is just performing and being out there. So my regime of getting ready is as quickly as possible, for as little time as possible. Open a suitcase, smudge on whatever I feel like in the evening, and just go!
Is it all completely about being as out there and over the top and amazing as possible? Or do you have a tendency to be more refined?
My look is a very disco-based look. Almost like a whirlwind from beginning to end. Basically as much glitter and little clothes as possible. The more I start with wearing, the less I have on within the space of about half an hour.
That’s a good philosophy for life!
Yeah as much glitter and little clothes as possible.
You’ve done some stuff for Glastonbury as well, and choreography?
Yeah I do lots of work with the trannies. Lots of work for Jonny Woo at the NYC Downlow. It’s actually my favourite gig of the year.
Why is it your favourite?
It’s my favourite gig because it’s all my friends in a really amazing venue, with lots of amazing people. And it’s been set up with nothing but love really, so from beginning to end, it’s pretty amazing. Nothing prepares you for when you walk out on the main stage at Glastonbury, and as soon as you walk out, just thousands of people just scream as soon as you come out… Little old me, with a pink wig and all my friends, stomping around!
Does it ever feel like work, like a job, like okay I need to stick to my schedule today?
Being a transvestite is never a job, never a chore! I dance for a job because I love it, and I’m a tranny because I love it.
Everybody’s creative at Sink The Pink and when it comes to performing, you all have to be extroverted, do you have to compromise?
I don’t think any of us ever compromise our ideas. We share our ideas, and collectively go into a bowl they’re all mixed together, and then out comes everything. It’s pretty amazing really, no one fights to be the best. It’s literally a big mixing bowl to create this amazing cake. Like eating your favourite cake all the time.
How’s the team made up?
You have hard-core Sink The Pinkers. Which actually most of us are, we have a hard-core crew that do the routines. We have different elements in Sink the Pink, some of us are dancers, some of us do hair, some of us do fashion, some of us are photographers. So there’s just this collective of people that just care for each other. That’s the nicest thing about it. There’s lots and lots of fabulous people, but there’s never any cattiness or anything, just all respect. And lots of food!
Even better! Do you think it’s a specific type of person who will come to see you guys?
I think it opens everyone’s creative mind, I think people come because they’re interested in seeing all these crazy weird mentalists on stage. It’s a good education, lots of people from different walks of life, and maybe it’s something they’d like to do, but maybe haven’t had the confidence to do. I think Sink The Pink allows people to get involved, and to do things that society probably wouldn’t allow them to do on a day to day basis. Very freeing.
Yes definitely, is that what you set out to do?
I think it was set out just to be a bit of a LOL, to be honest. We needed a bit of fun, and there was nowhere for us to do it. I think that’s what it’s done, created somewhere where we could have some fun. And not be judged, which is the best thing, or be thrown out of a venue because you’re hanging off of a ceiling. Which has happened, and does happen quite a lot.
RODENT DECAY and FINNE LOVE wear GILES
How do each of you identify yourselves?
B: I identify as they, and would use the term androgynous to describe myself. I use he pronouns because it’s just easier in the day to day, but I feel more like a they.
F: I identify very much as queer. If someone calls me he/she/they, that doesn’t faze me because it’s terminology they’re choosing… We’re both quite androgynous, or girlish and boyish, so pronouns aren’t something as important to me, but yeah, queer covers everything for me. I wear that badge with a lot of pride.
What about the both of you day-to-day in your dressing style?
B: There’s been such a massive overlap recently between my drag wardrobe and my day to day wardrobe, it’s just blended into one thing. I throw on a top and then I realise oh no, it’s a dress I wore two weeks ago! I’ll throw some jeans on underneath it and a pair of boots and off I go!
F: I don’t really do drag, it’s never any kind of sense of female impersonation, so I definitely have like a wardrobe of stuff I’d wear to a club and a wardrobe of stuff I’d wear during the day, but for me there’s no distinction between the person I am in either of them, because I always look like a little girl. Like a little girl slash boy.
B: You don’t tend to wear that much makeup during the daytime. You just wear a fresh face and clothes whereas I tend to either do little dots on my face or I wear like a smoky eye or like a red/pinky, ‘I’ve been awake for three days’ heroin chic kind of eye. That’s the vibe I’m going for, heroin chic.
How important is the way you present yourself to people, to you?
B: I’ve always said I really don’t care about looking either male or female, I just want to look beautiful on my own terms and on my own – by my own autonomy. I want to present myself how I look, and that is striving towards an otherworldly, slightly waifish kind of beauty. Which kind of ties into the whole heroin thing! It all kind of like packages up into one, but it’s all through a lens of ‘I want to make sure I look beautiful.’
F: It’s strange, I guess for me — to look beautiful doesn’t really come into it. I don’t really know anything at all about fashion or about the industry, but I think shooting with Benedict and doing this together – because we’re kind of known as a pair, you would never split us apart – it’s really nice to have a photo of that. We do matching looks, we do performances together, so to do the uber fashion glam and still really feel like me and really feel like us is actually something quite special. It’s really nice. It’ll be really nice to see that, because you know, we’re rolling round on the floor with all our makeup smeared off in the middle of a club at 6am, and then we’re here in like thousands of pounds worth of clothes. I think our identities and our genders and stuff are something that we’ve discovered and come to terms with together.
B: We’ve definitely done it together, it’s been a kind of we’ve influenced each other and helped each other become the people that we are today.
F: It’s kind of, it’s building that confidence, cause I don’t think you wake up one day and realise ‘I don’t care what people think’… And then you know, I don’t think today is any more the best we are. Today is the best I can be, but being with these people –
B: It’s just another fashion environment, rather than the club environment that we’re used to –
F: It’s the people, it’s not how we look.
B: Same salad, different dressing.
So how do you two know each other – how did you come to be a part of Sink the Pink?
B: We met each other three years ago when we first started uni.
F: When Ben hit on me –
B: The first night of freshers I tried to pull Finn, not realising it would never have worked, but then we got paired together in our first seminar class as well and I was like ‘shit’.
B: There’s a synchronicity between our lives so we both end up in the same situations together. People have picked up on that and I think the fact that we have this synchronicity just makes a really fun energy that people pick up on and want us to be involved with, which is why Louie got us to be shot together.
F: It’s strange because yeah, there’s definitely a synchronicity but we definitely have our specific artistic, professional interests… I think with some people there’d be a sense of competition, but with Ben and I it’s entirely not that – any thing that any of us does –
B: It’s sisterly, or brotherly –
F: Yeah, if Ben gets an opportunity, something will come and swing round and help me, like it’s just the way Sink The Pink works, the way this family works, the way this scene works, and the wider performance art scene, it’s just like a matrix of really amazing creative opportunities that we’ve both kind of managed to place ourselves into –
B: And absolutely piggybacked to the bank.
F: It’s the same as anything. Sink The Pink, they always say the door’s always open, like Ben came in and I was like ok, I’ll come to Sink The Pink –
B: Rode my fucking coattails!
F: I was like well, ‘Ben’s doing something’ –
B: Let me have something for myself!
F: So many times, Ben and I have been standing side of stage or woken up, or in the car on the way somewhere and just been like ‘I cannot believe this is our lives’. Looking back three years ago, the two awkward Topman-wearing faggots that we were, and then looking now, not as though we’re some amazing glamazons – the values are sill the same. I can’t believe the confidence that I have now, and the fact that I can walk into an environment confidently being my queer, transgressive self.
What are your performances like together? What do you do?
B: When we perform together we do push the boat, and are just like, how outrageous can we be. We did the last one at Sink the Pink Round the World in 80 Gays, and we decided we were going to be a Berlin sex club, so we did a performance to Scheiße by Gaga where we did this –
F: Full bondage gear –
B: Both of us in our bondage gear, and then ended up – I poured chocolate mousse all over Finn, and then writhed on the floor for a bit – it was just – when we’re together it’s really outrageous, but then my personal aesthetic is more sort of slightly disjointed, on the verge of breakdown kind of frenetic energy.
How do you see yourselves when you’re performing, is it just who you are every day?
B: Definitely for me it’s an amplified version of myself. I’m still quite shy and awkward at times, but I think on stage that all is dropped and it’s just a balls to the wall – it’s a boost, and I’m just a more confident, more engaging version of myself rather than the person who doesn’t really like to talk to people.
F: You don’t second-guess yourself on stage.
B: Yeah, I second-guess myself all the time in daily life. On stage when I’m Rodent, when I’ve got all my drags on, I do my first instincts and just go with it, it’s much more organic. But it is at the end of the day just an amplified version of myself. It’s not like I have a different, complete character.
F: For me I think it’s just like, it’s really like, my personality I don’t think really changes that much in or out of drag —
B: You’re probably more sexual on stage
F: Yeah, it’s more sexual, but I guess it’s just literally like what are the opportunities – I will seize whatever opportunity is put in front of me and so if there’s a stage, it’s like right, I’m going to writhe around like a sexy, bizarre, leather-clad whore, that’s what I’ll do.
B: The environment just changes. You get offered a playground when you perform.
LOUIE wears ASHISH
You’ve been taking the photos all day, everyone here is your friend, is it a challenge to you to visually represent these people you know so well, or is it something you enjoy?
It’s mixed. I did a talk and it was all about how this separate part of my life has started happening and how I’ve, instead of trying to separate them, I just have to really push it and start incorporating this into my work. So I’ve been doing a lot more shoots with friends with strong identities and people that have something to say. It’s important to me to do shoots like this and not always conventional portraiture or editorial. Of course it’s good and it’s bad as it is whenever you’re shooting someone who is, themselves, an artist! When I work with musicians and pop stars it’s great but you’re shooting them as they are and that might sometimes might not always be how I’d do it. You just have to find that balance of you and them.
I’ve asked everyone here how they identify themselves?
I’m just Louie, I don’t really care!
Is it to make a point of having no labels?
I just don’t even think about it, you know? I think it’s good in some ways. It’s good for people to have labels because they can associate themselves with a certain type of person. I am who I am and I do what I do.
Amazing, such a good attitude to have! Other than photography, what else do you do?
Louie: This! My career is photography and I love it, but I always used to go out and I always used to dress up so it’s just kind of an extension of that, I’m doing it with this family I’ve found and it’s nice when occasionally it can incorporate into my a work a little bit, like today.
Everyone has been saying that Sink The Pink is this fun thing, you’re there to do what you want to do and nothing matters. But, do you think that there’s a bit more of a serious undertone about how important it is for people to have the space to do that?
I would say that it is important but I wouldn’t say that it is trying to be important. Essentially it is just fun. But as a result, of course it is amazing to watch. You know, there’s so many people that I’ve seen come to London, like male models that I’ve known that have only, kind of, existed in their own work life and they’ve kind of flourished and experimented [at Sink The Pink]. So it’s amazing to watch people come into their own. I think it’s definitely a movement.
When did you start dressing up and doing this? Do you think you have a different persona?
When I was about 4 I started dressing in women’s clothes, like almost everyday. What I wear changes everyday you know some of it’s all drag, then some of it’s androgynous and then sometimes it’s like full blown trashy costume! It never really happened, it just always existed I guess.
Do you prefer being pristine and dressed to the nines like today or do you ever like feeling a bit vulnerable and less put together?
Well there’s nothing vulnerable about being me, ha! I like, I like all of it! I’ve always dressed up and sometimes it’s impressive to dress up and look beautiful and look like a woman but most of the time it’s just my inner punk coming out! I like to go crazy and really fuck people up and crowd surf, you know, and jump on them and rub their faces with my bumhole. Go a bit nuts! I guess it’s just a release.
Why do you think other people should come to Sink The Pink and what do you think they’ll leave with?
People should go just simply to have fun and people will probably leave with a broader horizon and maybe with less… Maybe they’ll shock less easily!
AMY ZING wears checked dress by VIVIENNE WESTWOOD, Glitter boots by NATACHA MARRO, headpiece by PIERS ATKINSON
You started Sink the Pink, didn’t you? What was the need for it, or was it more of a want?
We came to London and we didn’t find anything that was us so we figured that we needed to start it ourselves, cause we would go to Soho, gay bars or whatever, and it didn’t feel very fun, we wanted a space that felt like a house party where you could just be really silly, like just put on each other’s clothes and jump around. We decided we didn’t want to do it in traditional clubs – I didn’t particularly like going to straight spaces where men can be really sleazy and lager-y, and you can’t just run around with your boobs out– it kind of gets taken out of context, where actually it’s just fun and celebratory. It can be seen as overly sexual or – none of what we do is in any way sexual, it’s just all really silly and childlike in a way.
It’s almost like it steers itself and so my job almost now is to check with everyone that they’re cool, is everyone still enjoying it, does it still work in this venue, are we still providing what we feel like our community wants? And we kind of all call each other family because it really feels like family.
All I want to do is put on amazing parties. I don’t care about anything – everything I wear is from the pound shop, or given to me by a drag queen. This is why it’s so hilarious to be wearing Westwood with my tits out, and worrying that my period blood will go on a fucking Westwood dress. But I’m really proud to be a woman, and I’m really proud to – like, those things to not be my priorities, and I think people that come to the club are attracted by that energy.
But at the same time, the fashion industry has been really interested in Sink The Pink because of our almost anti-fashion stance which is just like, ‘I’m going to find a load of shit from the Dalston pound shop and get two loo rolls and stick it on some elastic and put it on my head.’ I think what Sink The Pink’s achieved and what the fashion industry is actually on the same page, and I think that’s why our guest list is always full of all these wonderful people that work in this great industry. It wasn’t like directed for the fashion industry, but I suppose the fun of it is that everyone we know ends up coming, and then gradually it’s become more and more.
Earlier you were saying there’s a silly vibe, – is it just fun, or is there a bit more of a serious undertone?
There’s never meant to be a serious undertone, but probably like all kind of great wonderful things, if you do something with such passion – I don’t notice that I’m doing Sink The Pink stuff because I just live and breathe it, and then it’s become a full time job, I had to end up giving up my other job, which I was happy to do. But you kind of, you do end up almost having a political stance with it or a depth to it because – if you’re so passionate about providing a space for people to come and party in such a freeing way, it becomes a job, but I would never call it a job.
There wasn’t intentional depth to it, but – people have written things that have kind of made us LOL, because it’s like, ‘oh, you’re sinking the pink, the Soho, the pink poundness of the past, you’re kind of sinking that’ which is so hilarious because the name Sink The Pink, it’s just because it was an album cover for AC/DC and when we were kids we’d seen it and it was really rude because this girl had her vag open, so we just remembered it and thought it was naughty, and it also means like taking someone’s virginity.
Someone came up to me when we did it in Margate, and said ‘this feels like the beginning of a revolution’ and he wasn’t even, like, that fucked. But he was feeling these emotions and he just needed to tell me, like yeah, it is! ‘Cause you can kind of take the dressing up and the fun and the freedom that you experience in the club into your daily life.
Do you have any Sink The Pink idols? Is there anybody who you think embodies everything that you’re trying to do?
Everyone around me. It’s like when young kids come to the club, and I see me and Glyn [fellow founder of Sink The Pink with Amy] but baby versions, you know they’re like baby fag and hag, who are out clubbing together and it’s like, that’s me and Glyn! That I suppose, someone who’s just finding out who they are, and really finding freedom, they’re my idols.
You made me think, when you said that people had Sink the Pink stories. We had an intern and I adored him, I remember him coming in and being like, ‘Oh my god, Sink the Pink is on in like three weeks, what am I going to wear?’ Every day he was planning, and he was coming to the office like, ‘Can I borrow this?’ and we were like, ‘That’s Dior babes, you can’t borrow that’!
That gives me such joy. I say it all the time, but people really fucking plan their outfits, and that gives me so much joy, that he would do that. And you see it on Instagram, like ‘planning already, I’m sewing at home’… I just want him to have the best night of his life basically, just for him… I think probably as the older I get, the more proud I am of that, because I think I used to be him. Planning my outfit, hating my job, getting drunk, letting my hair down, having the most amazing time getting my tits out with gays. Which I still do, but now I take a real responsibility as like an older member of the scene I suppose, because we’ve been around long enough, you know, I’ve had my party years, I’m happy to be sober throughout the night and just make sure everyone’s cool, everyone’s having the best night of their lives, and they’re just safe and supported. That gives me a lot of joy to hear, thank you.
When did it all start to feel like it was actually coming together – it had become more of a thing than an idea?
I don’t know if I can think of one key point. I suppose when we started doing the Troxy, cause that’s like – that was scary, like the first ever Troxy was like, ‘is anyone going to come?’ There’s such a demand for it, you know, there’s always a queue at midnight at the working men’s – we can’t always let everyone in, so we’ve started doing after parties in the old strip club because I feel terrible. Say if the theme is like, Sink The Pink Wedding and there’s like hundreds of people in wedding dresses, ready for the best night of their lives, and they can’t get in? And I would like cry my eyes out, because the doorman’s like, ‘no you can’t let anyone else in, the club’s full’. I’d be like ‘but they’ve fucking planned their wedding dress!’
So the Troxy’s actually perfect because it’s still got that real Sink the Pink faded glamour of the old – it’s an Art Deco old cinema, it’s really special – and our friend Daniel who’s a Sink The Pinker runs it, and he’s so loving and supportive of us being in his space.
What is the message of Sink The Pink? What do you think the reason is people should come, and what should they leave with?
Freedom, I think is our ultimate message. Being you, and being as happy as you possibly can be. That’s massively hippy, but it kind of really is, because what are we living for? Life’s pretty short, so we should really max out on the fun factor. So coming to the club and letting your hair down – there’s ultimately no depth to it, it’s just like have a really fucking good time and get shit faced or not, just be in that space and really enjoy the great vibes, and maybe leave with a slightly more opened mind and heart? That feeling that there is this sort of queer utopia out there that I can find my home in, particularly if you enjoy dressing up and playing with gender, it’s a space for you, and you’re so welcome in our space. And bring something to it – it’s an open door policy, because this is your place to get on that stage and try out that tomato headpiece or whatever you wanted to make. People come – someone came with a fish hanging off his willy, that was like one of our gang – people just want to – there’s this thing that they want to try, just come, there’s such a space to do it.
What will people get from it? They’ll probably have loads of bruises! I’m covered in fucking bruises all the time. You’re so inspired to like get on the pole and jump around, and it’s really encouraged – there’s no rules, so literally climbing on the tables, and climb up the curtains – I think it’s a job to manage the madness of that, because the venue, we’ve had like toilets fall off the walls. People just want to climb on everything, that’s why it’s the perfect space for Louie. But yeah, it’s your home if you’re kind of up for that level of anarchy. I suppose it is pretty punk. Be as fucking punk as possible and as happy and in love with life as possible.
Amy Zing, Rodent Decay, Jonbenet Blonde, Finn Love, Lottie Croucher, Louie Banks @ SINK THE PINK