With the easing of lockdown restrictions in the UK, live music events are returning to Islington Mill at Regent’s Trading Estate from Thursday May 27th (with full social distancing measures in place).
The Mill’s own Fat Out are working in conjunction with the Partisan Collective to put on shows initially slated to run last October as part of Fat Out Fest 2020, but which had to be postponed due to the pandemic. Whilst Fat Out have been putting on events as part of the Mill’s creative community since 2010, these will be the first ever events for Partisan Collective at Regents Trading Estate, after moving from the collective’s original location in Shudehill last year. With a growing reputation amongst Greater Manchester’s queer and artistic communities, I took this opportunity to find out more about Partisan from the members of the collective, covering its past, present, future and overall ethos:
How did the Partisan Collective come to be formed?
[Sophie] A group of activists and event makers wanted a new kind of space in Manchester. It was borne, about 5 years ago, out of the lack of low-key & safe spaces that could double up to host activist activity, social justice work & music. The idea has always been that the cultural activity, like putting on club nights & live gigs, would go toward subsidising affordable space in Manchester for meeting & organising. The collective wanted this space to be owned & run by the people using it as well, a workers cooperative. It took a couple of years of hiring space for pop-up events and getting moved on until Partisan found it’s first home and started renting the space on Cheetham Hill Road. Many people in Manchester may identify Partisan with that wonderful building in Cheetham Hill, but they might not know how much work went into getting there!
Does Partisan have any specific ethos?
[Floz] I’d say that walking into the Partisan space at Cheetham Hill, there’s a strong sense of community and a visibly active ethos. I also really like the fact that anyone can help out, volunteer, or contribute in different ways. It creates a sense of trust and accountability.
Although not all the events that take place at Partisan are queer led, I have always felt comfortable being myself at Partisan.
[Viv] The best moments at Partisan are when you walk in and there’s a load of different stuff happening at once, the Riso’s going at full blast, there’s a bike workshop happening, the projection screen’s being put up for a film, there’s organising meetings going around the place, the office users are moving about, and the bar’s getting prepped for some big DJ playing that night. We’re a big collective, and we’re a space for organising – we’re at our best when that’s the most obvious.
What are your fondest memories from the original space at Cheetham Hill?
[Issy] The first Fatty Acid – none of us had ever put together large events before and on the day we had no idea if anyone was going to turn up. Seeing the space fill with people was beautiful. We had a comfy, friendly vibe at the beginning, people coming in, being welcomed, chatting, eating hot food together and doing crafts and then Viv pulling everyone downstairs (which was packed) and the energy rising watching with our incredible live acts/performers. Then the seamless transition of everyone pushing the stage aside to make the dancefloor when the DJs started. Also speaking to one person on the night who said they had always dreamed of an event like this and how special it felt for them to actually be there was amazing.
[Floz] The first Fatty Acid was also a magical experience for me, I felt right at home even though I didn’t know that many people there at the time. I really enjoyed the fact that there was a lively dancefloor but also a chillout space with activities. It was the wholesome DIY queer event of my dreams! I help out at Queer Family Tea, one of the community groups in residence at Partisan, a sober social space which offers hot food on a pay-as-you-feel basis. One of my fondest memories is the Christmas cabaret we put on in December 2019. It was just really cosy and fun and I got to see loads of my friends together in the same place.
[Viv] Any moment when Fatty Acid comes together. It’s so chaotic in the weeks leading up to it because we’re disorganised and try to get everything happening at once, and then suddenly you have a bunch of people eating together, meeting each other, then moving to watch a whole bunch of amazing performers and then dance all night? It’s worked every time and I’m not sure how. Also when we hosted the Manchester book launch for Revolting Prostitutes by Juno Mac and Molly Smith, that’s easily one of the best set of talks that I’ve ever seen, it was a ton of really amazing researchers and writers talking about great and important work, and really typifies the political basis that Partisan operates on top of.
[Sophie] Any of the All Hands on Deck open deck parties or the NYE parties. The times when you see Partisan working at it’s full capacity, volunteers running events and DJing all at the same time, are so special. Times like when Mafalda was playing upstairs and beginner DJ’s were doing their thing downstairs jumping on the decks for the first time! That sense that you get that the place is for everyone, it’s not about exclusivity but fully about everyone supporting each other.
How did the connection with Islington Mill happen?
[Sophie] Partisan’s move to Islington Mill came about because Emma Thompson, a studio holder at the Mill and Fat Out events organiser, heard we were thinking of leaving Cheetham Hill and on the hunt for a new home. Emma put us in touch and very quickly we were on a call with Mill’s directors deliberating our future there! We spent a lot of time making the huge decision as a collective to move, the uncertainty of the pandemic meant that moving out was the safest and most logical option. Partisan & Islington Mill hold shared values of trying to protect and create inclusive cultural spaces. It’s been a very fortuitous turn of events and we’re grateful to Emma & all the people at Islington Mill who’ve helped us so far. We’re very excited to see how the relationship will develop, and for what they’ve already helped us to achieve.
Can you tell us what the future plans for Partisan at Islington Mill might be?
[Sophie] Future plans… Our immediate plans are very much focused on getting the space up and running, we have started building works planned for accessibility, and re-designing the interior space. Partisan volunteers and our ace contractor Magic Martin have been working hard over the past few weeks/months to get our doors open in the summertime! We launched our first live shows back in over a year last week and they’ve sold out! We are proud to present Partisan staples & friends, old & new, who’ve given us their magic & support over the years. On Thursday 27th we give you a jam-packed evening of incredible live music from Ellen Beth Abdi, MSC Records [House Band], HUSK, Algernon Cornelius and Bunny Hoova! Then on Saturday 29th, 3 of Partisan’s favourite collectives, who bring so much energy to the city. Queer Family Tea and Fatty Acid join forces for a night of gloriously queer entertainment and performance art. Accompanied by in-house DJ Collective All Hands on Deck to keep you warm with inferno selections during a cabaret extravaganza. We’ll start as we mean to go on, with collaborations and showcasing talented local DJs & performers and Partisan staples!
[Issy] We’re focusing on how to become a proper resource for people, locally in Salford and through our whole membership. We’re doing a lot of internal changes to make sure people can become involved and shape Partisan more and more!
Do you think anything about Partisan might have to change post-Covid/lockdown?
[Issy] Focusing on immediate needs for people worst affected by the pandemic. We need to figure out how we provide mutual aid/support as well as being a place for joy. I think the two things are linked but we will need to think about what ‘post-covid’ means, as some people may be able to be out and about earlier than others. How can we be useful for all our members, including those who may continue to shield or won’t feel comfortable in large groups.
[Viv] The biggest improvement with the new space is that it’s going to be a lot easier and cheaper to make it wheelchair accessible, and we’ve been lucky enough to get funding that makes that work affordable, and have started an access survey and are drawing up plans to get the ramp and an accessible toilet installed. Partisan has always had problems in being very white, middle-class & able-bodied, so especially given the disproportionate impact that Covid’s had on disabled people, it’d be an unethical move not to focus on that going forward.
If you are interested in becoming a Partisan member, you can find out more via the website: https://partisancollective.net/membership-2/membership/
You can also donate and support at: https://partisancollective.net/donate-2/
All Fat Out/Partisan shows will take place at Unit 2, Regents Trading Estate in Salford, which can be found behind Islington Mill and accessed via Oldfield Road. Unit 2 is fully wheelchair accessible with accessible welfare facilities. To ensure the safety of the audience, artists and staff all events will be socially distanced and seated and COVID-safe measures will be in place. The series is produced in partnership with Soundhaus and Islington Mill and has been made possible by Arts Council Cultural Recovery Funding. Tickets, and more information on the acts performing, can be found here