Harpies, the UK and Europe’s first LGBTQ+ strip club, first opened its doors on July 20, 2019, and following the devastating effects of the pandemic, thankfully managed to return with force earlier this summer.
The revolutionary event was founded with the aim of making “radical social change” by displaying how “wider society is attracted to Trans people.” Organisers pointed to the fact that ‘Transgender’ is one of the most searched terms on porn websites, and they want to de-stigmatise and celebrate Trans bodies, and people’s attraction to them.
The club nights which have been hosted in London venues such as Metropolis Gentleman’s Club and The White Swan, see performers get tipped using ‘Harpies Dollars’, and strippers keep 100% of what they earn.
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“We will be paying all of our dancers just for showing up, ensuring that nobody goes home with negative cash – and dancers will keep all of their earnings and not just a percentage, which happens in almost every other club,” one organiser reports to Huck.
From midnight, each of the Harpies performs a solo stage show, and customers can also pay for a private dance – strictly no touching or photography allowed.
Harpies and London Trans+ Pride founder Lucia Blayke, says that the club night was created to “revolutionise the industry by changing the patriarchal structures of stripping and exotic dancing.”
“We are taking back control over our fetishisation and putting money back into our own community. We aim to spread messages of love and acceptance for all LGBTQI+ people and solidarity with sex workers all over the world.”
She continued by saying: “We want our patrons to come and be proud of their desires, for queer people to sit in a strip club just like heterosexuals do, for all women to be able to receive private exotic dances, just like men do.”
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Performer and co-founder, Jeanie Crystal, said that working at Harpies allows her to make a lot more money than an average wage, and for fewer hours. “I get to spend more time with my friends and family,” she says. “It also allows me more time to work on self-development and educating myself, which is a massive privilege in today’s society.”
However, the pandemic was quite difficult for many of Harpies’ employees. Despite hosting several successful virtual shows with strippers being tipped through PayPal, work was still extremely limited. The period was particularly challenging for two employees who had been evicted and left homeless during the crisis.
They were unable to avail of any pandemic or government financial support, or charity assistance due to their immigration status. Blayke, who herself lost her home but found help through an LGBTQ+ charity, created a GoFundMe page for the pair, to enable them to put down a month’s rent and housing deposit in the capital.
Harpies founders and performers have shown great resilience, characteristic of the queer community, to see out the worst of the pandemic and return to their beloved stage. Speaking to VICE, performer Barbs spoke of the club night’s return, saying: “It felt incredible to be back at Harpies. I was there at the beginning, when Lucia was just talking about it. So it’s just been really beautiful to see how Harpies has grown.
“It’s such a needed and unique space. We’re like this little family. You have to come to feel the queer, Trans sex magic in that place, and in that party!”
To stay up to date with all things Harpies, follow their Instagram where they regularly post about their forthcoming events.
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