In The Middle with Not Exotic

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Not Exotic is a new collective and club night created by and for people of colour. We caught up with DJ and founder plugkeisha to hear about the clubbing scene in Leeds and the need for representative parties.

Why the name Not Exotic?

Not Exotic was coined by my good friend and collaborator Baile! Unfortunately I cannot take any credit for the name. I was so drawn to it because, between my peers and I, we have countless experiences of being described as “exotic” – usually (but not always) by white people. I found the idea of rejecting a gaze that dehumanizes and simultaneously fetishes us empowering.

So on social media you describe Not Exotic as ‘a POC led exploration of underground nightclub culture’, what motivated you to create this night with these intentions?

My experience and relationship with nightclubs and club nights is inherently political. The reason being because nightclubs do not exist in a vacuum – systems such as white supremacy and hetero-patriarchy all manifest and operate in these spaces. Consequently, after I moved to Leeds I really struggled to go out. I struggled to enjoy myself in spaces that typically capitalized on my identity and heritage for a white cis/het audience. Therefore my motivations behind this night were borne out of the frustration and disillusionment many People of Colour (POC) in Leeds feel – I wanted a night that was primarily for us, by us, allowing us to not have to minimise or reduce ourselves in such spaces. 

Why do you feel it’s important to recognise the history and cultural context of dance music?

Marginalised peoples (specifically queer Black and Brown people) have played an integral role in shaping dance music and club culture. Due to this role often being negated and erased from history, I think even our sheer acknowledgement is a form of resistance to this whitewashing. Furthermore, I want to be able to pay my respects to those who were at the forefront of a culture that overwhelms, excites and inspires me – to those who lived their truth through music and dance.

In the 3 years I’ve been in Leeds, I’ve definitely found that in the last year there’s been a bigger push for more POC – led and – centered nights and networks (read: Race Zine, Equaliser, Sable radio), why do you think these are occurring more? Or is it a matter of knowing where to find these nights and the communities they create?

To some extent, I do think that the longer you stay here, the more in tune you become with the city and its various scenes, which leads to greater awareness of the really cool people here doing amazing things (Leftovers, Season, Slut Drop and Race Zine to name a few). In the last few years we have seen organisations aiming to serve marginalised communities such as Equaliser, Sable, Our Space, OnBeat, Race Zine and QTIPOC Leeds all pop up. I think it’s due in part to more and more people feeling empowered enough to be the change they want to see.

How important is creating a community and celebrating community for Not Exotic and yourself?

The purpose of the project was to create a space for communities that already exist. In a city like Leeds, POC at times can be really disconnected from each other – I remember going to BHM events at this University and being amazed at all the black and brown bodies I was surrounded by – so many unfamiliar faces that I wouldn’t see again for the next 11 months. For lots of POC who relocate to Leeds, it can be very isolating at times not seeing and interacting with people who look like you, very often whilst also feeling somewhat ostracized and excluded by institutions. It is of paramount importance that POC, especially our QTIPOC family, can come to Leeds and know where to find spaces that accept them wholly.

There is a lot of playfulness and joy in Not Exotic; the Unofficial Opening party at Wharf Chambers was genuinely fun and exciting. Do you feel this is important to creating an expressive communal night?

Ah thank you! I’m super glad to hear that. I think those themes are important in creating most nights. I want people entering the space to be able to freely express themselves, without taking themselves too seriously. I think clubbing can be a form of escapism and an outlet of expression – creating a carefree and playful environment can help to facilitate this.

What do you envision for the future of Not Exotic and when’s the next event?!

Our official big boi launch is on Saturday 16th November. The future? More parties and more fake fruit for sure.

All images credit to plugkeisha.