Glyn Fussell on the power of Sink The Pink
WORDS BY CHRISTINA DEAN
“A beacon of pink light coming from a giant firework out of a drag queen’s asshole!” That’s how Glyn Fussell describes Sink The Pink, the LGTBQ+ club night and collective of drag queens, club kids, performers and creatives he co-founded with Amy Zing in 2008. And that light is finally shining on South London again as their inclusive, poptastic and all-around fabulous festival Mighty Hoopla, is back in Brockwell Park.
Speaking to Glyn ahead of Mighty Hoopla (as well as in the middle of finishing a book and sorting a Sink The Pink tour), the significance of the event’s return after the 18 months we’ve all had has not been lost on him. Whilst he enjoyed the time and space that lockdown provided for some normality, the longer it went on, the harder it became.
“I think we felt very dispensable, very as if it may never come back, we may never get back. And then all of a sudden you realise that everything you’ve built is a luxury to people. But it’s more than that with what we do,” says Glyn. “For a lot of people going out is just a luxury, it’s fun right, but for us it’s more than that, it’s a community. When you’ve forged a community and you’ve moved to a city and you’ve spent all your life trying to find your merry bunch of misfits, I think when that’s taken away, god the significance of it, it really knocks you for six.”
As a club night, Sink The Pink roves around town rather than operating out of its own venue – in the decade plus they’ve been going, the crew has put on events at venues like Troxy and Brixton Academy as well as larger outdoor parties in Finsbury Park and Brockwell Park and collabed with the likes of Mel C, Little Mix and Years & Years – but they’ve still been affected by the restrictions on hospitality and nightlife. The nighttime scene in London wasn’t without its problems before the pandemic, with venues and spaces (especially LGBTQ+ ones) being lost to development at a rapid rate, and enforced closures over the last two years has only exacerbated the issue.
For Glyn, it’s something worth fighting for. “Big large-scale events are where people find their partners, their lovers, where they make mistakes, have regrets and also find their best friends. All of those moments happen in nightclubs and they’re more than nightclubs, they’re memories, they’re part of our cultural landscape,” he says. “What makes London are the weird queer clubs and the underground goth techno nights and the flamenco flute-playing cyberpunks. Oh that’s a good night! You know the creases of the cultural landscape in London are what make London so unique.”
And it’s those creases that allowed Sink The Pink to explode into the force that it is today. There can be no separation between Sink The Pink and London, and it simply couldn’t have come from anywhere else, “we are as East London as East London is us” states Glyn. He’s quick to point out that what makes East London special is the freedom, the creativity and the rawness, which isn’t necessarily specific to drag, although “walk down Ridley Road Market, which I call the catwalk of dreams, on a Saturday morning if you want to find a dewigged drag queen.”
The area has changed now, aka “got a bit boujee”, but back in 2008 when Sink The Pink started, “we had all the little micro tribes of people that would be doing amazing interesting things and we’re allowed to do it and we were encouraged to do it….It’s just got this unbelievable energy of anything can happen. Sink The Pink was part of that and proved that and then we became this house that nurtured all of those people,” says Glyn. “We pushed people to be whatever you want. You want to paint yourself green and do spoken word and strap a giant kipper to your cock? Do that, that’s brilliant! Absolutely I’m here for that! We’ll put it on a stage and pay you in drinks tickets, go!”
That same energy and spirit runs through all the events Sink The Pink do, especially Mighty Hoopla, which has become a firm fixture on London’s festival calendar. It’s the first party that Sink The Pink and Glyn have done since New Year’s Eve 2019, and it’s an emotional return for him, “it’s made me realise the power of what we do and what we’ve all been wanting really for the longest time. What we’ve been missing is joy, we’ve been missing the joy that we find with other people and I think that is the embodiment of Mighty Hoopla. It’s not a festival where you go and listen to serious music and nod your head, it ain’t that honey! It’s where you jump on your friend’s back, scream, and pop your fan on the key change. That’s what we’re about and it’s going to be a lot of that.”
The line-up features the likes of Cheryl, Gabrielle, Atomic Kitten, Horse Meat Disco, En Vouge, Artful Dodger and Raye, with many of the acts being carried over from the cancelled festival last year. Glyn is personally excited about seeing Jimmy Somerville but the big news is definitely Cheryl. “I think the gays are going to lose it for Cheryl, like let’s be honest. That’s the major commentary is how excited they are going to be for Cheryl and how much confetti will drop on them,” he says.
It’s a Sink The Pink event so naturally there will be many a drag queen present, including Ginny Lemon and the United Kingdolls (A’Whora, Tayce, Bimini Bon Boulash and Lawrence Chaney) from RuPaul’s Drag Race UK. Season two of the show was a bright spot in a gloomy winter lockdown and spawned many iconic moments like the certified bop that is ‘UK Hun?’ The original Drag Race and Sink The Pink started around the same time but Glyn is quick to underline the distinction between the two, “we were like the antithesis of it, we were like the sordid underbelly all gaudy, brash, no rules, and they were very formulaic, it’s a TV show you know.”
And does he enjoy the TV show? “I do very much. Was I so proud that I cried every night when all our girls were on it? F*** yes, I mean like on a different level, I felt like a stage school mum. Do I think that the show is running out of steam? Should I say this to a journalist, but I do. They’re making it as big as it possibly can be. It’s the America’s Next Top Model model, you know, where it’s everywhere, you’ve got like Kazakhstan’s Next Top Model. When we’ve got Kazakhstan’s Drag Race, you know what I mean, it might be time to stop, But listen, what it is doing is it’s giving platforms to people that have been screaming and performing and hustling for years and so I’m all for that,” he responds.
“It’s amazing you can’t deny it, that’s one of the biggest shows in the world and it’s bonkers the fact that it is. All the kind of double entendres and the nods to amazing niche queer artistry, that’s an amazing moment for us. Everything I’ve been trying to do is to push this incredible queer world that I’m part of and that I’ve been fortunate enough to craft a little bit, I’ve been trying to push that to mainstream because people should see it. We should be seen and we should be paid and we should be celebrated.”
“Drop your mic, drop your pen, drop your bowels, they had a drag queen in Crocs“
Nevertheless, season two of the UK series, which featured queens like Bimini and Asttina Mandella who are part of the Sink The Pink family, definitely got his approval. “There were a lot of different styles of drag, it wasn’t just one note which I really enjoyed. Listen, they had a drag queen in Crocs, let’s not forget that, let’s just stop everything! Drop your mic, drop your pen, drop your bowels, they had a drag queen in Crocs and that was fine!” exclaims Glyn. “Drag for me I don’t want it to be shiny, I want to lift up the stone in the corner of the room and find a drag Fraggle frothing at the mouth and then push them out on the stage and see what they do. I think drag is essentially the new counterculture, the new punk and for me that needs to be on the edge and the motivation for it shouldn’t be a TV show.”
Drag Race may have pushed drag into the mainstream once again but Glyn is quick to point out, drag is part of our history in this country, from as far back as the Victorian era and beyond and right up to contemporary comedy like The League of Gentlemen. As Glyn says, drag is “punk, it’s chaotic, it’s anarchic, it’s tongue in cheek, it’s self-deprecating, it’s inherently British.” That’s the very spirit of Sink The Pink, that’s what has kept them relevant for the past 13 years and that’s what has made them more vital than ever. “We’ve been in a really quiet, meek, conforming, scared, fearful time and Sink The Pink is the complete opposite of all of those things. It’s debauched, raucous, it unites people, it’s celebratory, it’s silly, there’s no rules, so yeah it’s never been needed more.”
Talking of celebratory, Sink The Pink have just announced a history-making moment, a huge New Year’s Eve wig party at Wembley Arena featuring Raye and Bimini Bon Boulash. Until then, you can see Glyn dancing to Jimmy Somerville “wearing the biggest shoulder pads the world’s ever seen” at Mighty Hoopla.