Glastonbury’s Block9 to take ‘stand against right-wing populism’ and attacks on trans rights

A huge festival stage in the shape of a human head with a cube protruding from it

At Glastonbury 2023, late-night utopia Block9 will celebrate its 16th birthday with a weekend of queer culture, self-expression and resistance.

Block9 has become one of Glastonbury’s most iconic after-dark attractions, with a line-up of world-famous DJs and dance artists and the legendary NYC Downlow – routinely named one of the best queer clubs in the world – keeping the party going all night.

Mick Jagger once performed a surprise DJ set at Downlow, and Dua Lipa is a known fan.

2023 marks a major milestone for Block9 – its “oh-so-sweet sixteenth”. On Friday (25 May), it announced its plans for a birthday party that will combine party with protest.

“At Block9, we have always championed underground music, freedom and self-expression, and our 16th birthday feels the perfect occasion to celebrate our ‘coming-of-age’ with our Glastonbury family,” co-founders Gideon Berger and Stephen Gallagher said.

“In the last few years, our freedoms and our right to protest have come under sustained attack. The creation of new draconian laws means our liberty is being systematically eroded.

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“Block9’s 16th birthday party is a stand against right-wing populism, and a celebration of all things alt!”

Berger told PinkNews that Block9 is disturbed by “the weaponisation of the trans discourse, the criminalisation of trans people, the spreading criminalisation of drag, gay conversion therapies and the religious right’s persecution of sexual minorities internationally”, as well as “the global erosion of LGBTQ+ rights and the lack of access to HIV/AIDS meds in the developing world”.

“All of these things mark the creep of the far right,” Berger added.

A crumbling, dilapidated building with a huge hole int he front, a hotel sign to the side
NYC Downlow. (Felix Kunze/Redferns)

At Glastonbury 2023, Block9 will welcome the likes of The Blessed Madonna, Four Tet and Bimini, alongside the return of the Notting Hill Carnival soundsystem following an incredible collaboration in 2022.

Block9 will raise money and awareness for LGBTQ+ and other causes, including by selling moustaches at the door of NYC Downlow, with proceeds going “go directly to charities and organisations at the forefront of these fights”.

Since 2007, NYC Downlow and Block9 have donated over £90,000 to charities including the HIV/AIDS Alliance, Kaleidoscope Trust, Sexual Minorities Uganda, War Child (Ukraine) and Traveller Pride. It also operates an annual collaboration with HIV prevention group PrEPster, handing out advice and ‘f**k packs’ around NYC Downlow.

Block9 full 2023 line-up

Block9’s 2023 line-up includes the return of Notting Hill Carnival to Glastonbury, after a successful collaboration in 2022. There will be a permanent sound system in Block9 East (one of its two fields), with afternoon sessions from Rough But Sweet and Love TKO, plus a Saturday memorial tribute session dedicated to the mighty Jah Shaka. Daily carnival processions across the festival site will feature dancers, Moko Jumbies, masqueraders and Caribbean sounds.

At IICON, the immersive audio-visual arena inBlock9 East, artworks will be on display from Detroit’s legendary Black political techno collective Underground Resistance and Turner Prize nominees Black Obsidian Sound System. Performances will come from New York queer rapper Cakes Da Killa, South African amapiano superstar Vigro Deep, German techno royalty the Zenker Brothers and Washington producer Baronhawk Poitier, and the legendary Four Tet.

At NYC Downlow, the gay bar housed inside a life-size film set replica of a seedy New York bathhouse-cum-meatpacking warehouse circa 1982, there’ll be a “cumming-of-age” party on the Saturday night, headlined by founder of seminal New York club Shelter, Timmy Regisford.

Across the weekend there will also be an Elton-fuelled Rocket Glam Night, a Leather Night, and a homage to the late, great Lily Savage. There’ll also be sets and performance by Detroit deep house titan Rick Wade, New York’s Mood II Swing, London UK garage artist Scott Diaz, Downlow residents The Carry Nation and Drag Race UK runner-up turned it girl Bimini.

At the back of NYC Downlow, The Meat Rack hosts the “ultimate sleazy, homo-centric line-up” including Black Artists Database founder Niks, Call Super, Dungeon Meat and Gina Breeze.

The Genosys Sound System – broadcast from a massive rig and a vintage coach – will “fuse the lo-fi spirit of stripped back, old-school rave with a line-up of top-tier electronic talent”. On the line-up are New York twins Analog Soul, Ukraine’s Pavel Plastikk, Ben UFO, ISAbella and Berghain resident Sedef Adasi. The Blessed Madonna will also holds a bus party with “very special guests”.

Glastonbury 2023 takes place 21-25 June.

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