In the 1990s Claud Cunningham and Paula Gannon-Lewis launched a new Manchester club night, Black Angel providing the first women-centred safe place for LBT women of colour to come together and be themselves. 25-years on, the pioneering club night returns as part of Black History month for a special event at Contact. Quays Life talks to co-founder Claud Cunningham to find out more:
For anyone who doesn’t know, what’s the history Black Angel?
Claud: “Paula and I grew up in the 80s. Homophobia was a given and there were no positive images of LBT women of colour which was very isolating. I dreamt of socialising on Manchester’s gay scene greatly anticipating some sort of Utopia. Alas it was not to be. The scene was predominantly white and male-dominated. As a black lesbian I felt invisible. It did not cater for me.
“Paula and I met, by chance, in the village one day. We spotted each other as queer women of colour were few and far between. We shared a common experience. We wanted to hear the music we wanted to dance to, see and meet people who looked like us and provide a space where Black and Asian women could feel safe and express themselves.
Black Angel was born”.
If you could describe a Black Angel event in three words, what would they be?
Claud: “Amazing, diverse, fantastic – words supplied by our incredible clubbers!”
Why was it so important to carve out a space for LBT+ Women of colour in 1997?
Claud: “There was practically no representation for queer people of colour at this time, which was very isolating. It was important because we needed a place where we could be ourselves, have fun, feel safe and meet other people who looked like us. It was great to be out and not be in a minority.”
It’s been 25 years since the inception of Black Angel; what do you perceive as the defining moments of the iconic club night?
Claud: “Premiering the world’s first calendar for LBT women in 2004!”
Why should people come to Black Angel 25?
Claud: “The atmosphere will be amazing. Warm, friendly and welcoming. Great music. Very diverse. All are welcome as long as they respect where they are. Also, funds raised on the night will go towards funding our upcoming documentary, Black Angel: Feel Free to Be”.
What music can audiences expect?
Claud: “The best old school RnB, Hip Hop and soul. The type of music that’s guaranteed to fill the dance floor evoking feelings of euphoria!”
Why is Black Angel still important today?
Claud: “Things have not moved on nearly as much as they need to. We’re still hearing about homophobia on Manchester’s gay scene. We still need a safe space where we can express ourselves. We and our white allies need to vote with our wallets and not attend venues and events that are racist towards us!”
Black Angel: 25 is at Contact Saturday 8th October. To celebrate 25 years since its inception, founders Claud Cunningham and Paula Gannon-Lewis and Paula are making a documentary, Black Angel: Feel Free to Be. The documentary, premiering next year, tells the story of the trailblazing club night and captures the experiences of Black and Asian LBT women at that time. The documentary will be accompanied by a touring exhibition of archive images taken over its 25-year history.
Read our interview with Contact CEO Keisha Thompson.
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