Qwerk: A story of Village house in Manchester

Adam Lowe

Faye clocked up her clubbing miles in the thousands during the Eighties, Nineties and Noughties. Along the way she met best friend Mike in Manchester’s Gay Village. Both are veterans on the clubbing scene and still very much active clubbers. Their past clubland experiences span events across the country with adventures in Leeds, Liverpool, London and beyond, but their hearts have always remained in the Gay Village.

Their combined clubbing scorecards include many venues that have since disappeared completely or morphed into new ventures. Clubland history books are full of places they used to frequent. The recent reunion of Paradise Factory brought back many fond memories enabling them to rekindle old friendships and discover new ones.

Both Faye and Mike, musicians in past lives, have very broad musical backgrounds and tastes, although they both admit to having a real passion for house music when it comes to a big night out.

Talking of the sense of adventure they both feel when going to a house event at a club, Faye says, ‘It makes such a big difference to your night. In a club you are with like-minded people who are there for the same reason as you, to embrace and absorb the space the atmosphere and the music.’

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Over the past few years, though, they have witnessed a shift away from club nights towards bars that often play a more commercial sound and offer free entry. Clubs are finding it tough in current times, having to work so much harder to entice people in that many venues have had to close over the past few years as a result.

The clubs that are surviving and even thriving are the ones that bring a high quality experience to their audience – be it drag shows or specialised house music mixed by talented DJs. What seems apparent these days is that clubs have to offer something completely different in order to stand out, make an impression and keep the customers coming back for more.

‘We became aware that there was a gap in the type of nights out you can experience in the Village,’ says Mike. ‘You have a choice of commercial dance, R&B and pop or highly specialised house nights. As clubs become fewer, it seems that the distance between one particular type of event and the other will only grow. In the past there was a funky, vocal, bouncy feel to Village house music, and this style is our passion. It’s a very accessible sound and covers the space between the commercial side of music and the more specialised house music.’

Faye adds, ‘Whilst we crave new music, the tunes from the Nineties and the Noughties’ dance floors molded us. We were out most weekends and living the scene. Manchester already had well established classic house nights dedicated to playing music from a particular era. These events pulled in the crowds. Our aim was to offer something unique that wasn’t already available. Not forgetting our roots, we wanted to pay homage to the classics whilst embracing the new. There’s something enriching about walking into a club and not knowing what’s playing. On the flip side it enhances your experience when you hear the hook of a track that you love from years gone by.’

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‘We’ve been inspired by Cha Cha Boudoir, an event hosted by Manchester’s own drag royalty Anna Phylactic and Cheddar Gorgeous,’ says Mike. ‘It’s a night of drag performances and soapbox disco. We’ve also been influenced by Club Aftershock, which offers specialised pumped-up house for the hardened clubber. Those approaches have proven to us that there is a desire for quality house music within an intimate basement club space. These nights share the same venue yet both have differing spectacles and attract dedicated followers to each and every event. Vanilla and Void also offer specialised house events and attract regular loyal crowds in the Gay Village.’

This was the inspiration for Qwerk.

‘The idea for Qwerk came from all these experiences and moments in time with an eye on the future too,’ says Faye. ‘We wanted to give back to the Village some of what the Village had given us over the years. Our DJs are tasked with discovering new musical gems that fit our desired vibe. They must be able to blend those new sounds with the classics resulting in a funky, vocal, bouncy beat which appears to inspire random dancing, crazy antics and smiling faces. All these are ingredients which guarantee amusement and memorable experiences. We encourage Qwerkers to bring daft accessories along with them to our events. We don’t define our crowd by age, gender or sexuality, and what you wear is entirely up to you. Most of all we ask that you respect those around you, don’t be a dick and have fun!’

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We’re as excited as Faye and Mike as Qwerk moves to the home of Cha Cha Boudoir and Aftershock at Sub 101 (the Cruz 101 basement club) on Friday 11 September. They’ll be delivering a Qwerky house fix the second Friday of every month.

Find them on Facebook, and we’ll see you on the dance floor.

About Adam Lowe

Adam Lowe is an award-winning author, editor and publisher from Leeds, now based in Manchester. He runs Dog Horn Publishing and is Director and Writing Coordinator for Young Enigma, a writer development programme for LGBT young people. He sometimes performs as Beyonce Holes.