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Rallying For The Rejected: Thorny’s Upcoming Arnolfini Takeover

Thorny are rallying for the rejected at their upcoming Arnolfini takeover

Thorny put on gigs, shows and parties that create local platforms for the underrepresented voices of Bristol and beyond.

Latex-covered dancers armed with whipped cream, a provocative performance artist lipsyncing at the white walls of a gallery foyer, flocks of femme wrestlers roaring Theresa May quotes at each other. This winter, I’m bringing Thorny to Arnolfini, Bristol’s largest art gallery, with an entourage of the most politically relevant and necessary artists we know right now.

This might sound a bit intimidating, especially if you’re lactose intolerant. But fear not: before we delve deeper into this ridiculous happening, let’s backtrack a bit. Thorny put on gigs, shows and parties that create local platforms for the underrepresented voices of Bristol and beyond. We started three years ago when I was becoming frustrated by the lack of spaces in Bristol for people who feel socially outside. A lot of my friends who are women felt excluded from mainstream gay bars, and I was seeing a lot of the same bands on bills at music venues.

At the same time I was discovering Bristol’s vast and diverse underground scene, from queer cabaret shows at The Cube, to a feminist zine launch at the now relocated Milk Bar, to intimate gigs in the basement of Café Kino. These delicious spaces existed, but the people I was meeting shared the same problem: they felt disconnected from their city, because it wasn’t listening to them.

This was the reason I decided to start putting on my own events.

This was the reason I decided to start putting on my own events. In the back of a pub with 30 enthusiastic audience members, I cobbled together a gig that would bring some of the weird, inspiring people I’d met together on one stage.

The motivation behind nervously clambering into that pub, squeaking ‘hello, look over here, I’m doing something’, was to create a space for people on the margins to be able to meet each other, see things together, have conversations, and most importantly dance, away from everyday oppression. Skip two years, and we’re now regularly selling out parties to armies of beautiful creatures. And I think Thorny is filling some of the void for outsiders in the city, and we’re starting to be heard.

I was very excited when Arnolfini got in touch and asked us to take over their building for one evening this winter. It comes at an interesting time for the institution, who have appointed new director Claire Doherty to rethink what a major modern UK arts centre should be in an uncertain climate, after the gallery’s funding was cut by Arts Council England earlier this year

I was very excited when Arnolfini got in touch and asked us to take over their building for one evening this winter.

I’m excited by the challenge our takeover brings us to imagine it as a space that includes the breadth of the local scene in the city, through a loud, disruptive intervention of underground art from all over the spectrum. To open up a massive space in the centre of Bristol for one evening and use it to amplify voices from the communities who really need a platform.

It’s going to be a packed schedule. Local drag demons Red Rash Inn will be pervading the ground floor in boundary-blurring ensembles. THERESAMAYSMACKDOWN, a live femme wrestling match, will be going off in the auditorium against a cacophony of the current Prime Minister’s speeches. Travis Alabanza, a Black trans artist from Bristol, will be reclaiming space in front of a ceiling-high projection of themselves beside the white walls of the gallery foyer. And it’ll be topped off by sets from Heavy Petting, brainchild of local artist Harry Wright, who will be performing original pop banger remixes, and Manara, a south London DJ cutting a unique sonic intersection of Bollywood soundtracks and club hits.

And after we’ve all witnessed the chaos of these two worlds colliding, hopefully we’ll dance harder together.

Here’s the event poster. See you there.