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Issue #122 A Sweaty Disco Haven Where (Almost) Anything Goes: Inside Glastonbury’s Legendary Gay Club NYC Downlow
Issue #122 A Sweaty Disco Haven Where (Almost) Anything Goes: Inside Glastonbury’s Legendary Gay Club NYC Downlow
Issue #122 A Sweaty Disco Haven Where (Almost) Anything Goes: Inside Glastonbury’s Legendary Gay Club NYC Downlow
Issue #122 A Sweaty Disco Haven Where (Almost) Anything Goes: Inside Glastonbury’s Legendary Gay Club NYC Downlow
Issue #122 A Sweaty Disco Haven Where (Almost) Anything Goes: Inside Glastonbury’s Legendary Gay Club NYC Downlow
Issue #122 A Sweaty Disco Haven Where (Almost) Anything Goes: Inside Glastonbury’s Legendary Gay Club NYC Downlow
Issue #122 A Sweaty Disco Haven Where (Almost) Anything Goes: Inside Glastonbury’s Legendary Gay Club NYC Downlow
Issue #122 A Sweaty Disco Haven Where (Almost) Anything Goes: Inside Glastonbury’s Legendary Gay Club NYC Downlow
Issue #122 A Sweaty Disco Haven Where (Almost) Anything Goes: Inside Glastonbury’s Legendary Gay Club NYC Downlow
Issue #122 A Sweaty Disco Haven Where (Almost) Anything Goes: Inside Glastonbury’s Legendary Gay Club NYC Downlow
Issue #122 A Sweaty Disco Haven Where (Almost) Anything Goes: Inside Glastonbury’s Legendary Gay Club NYC Downlow
Issue #122 A Sweaty Disco Haven Where (Almost) Anything Goes: Inside Glastonbury’s Legendary Gay Club NYC Downlow
Issue #122 A Sweaty Disco Haven Where (Almost) Anything Goes: Inside Glastonbury’s Legendary Gay Club NYC Downlow
Issue #122 A Sweaty Disco Haven Where (Almost) Anything Goes: Inside Glastonbury’s Legendary Gay Club NYC Downlow
Issue #122 A Sweaty Disco Haven Where (Almost) Anything Goes: Inside Glastonbury’s Legendary Gay Club NYC Downlow
Issue #122 A Sweaty Disco Haven Where (Almost) Anything Goes: Inside Glastonbury’s Legendary Gay Club NYC Downlow
Issue #122 A Sweaty Disco Haven Where (Almost) Anything Goes: Inside Glastonbury’s Legendary Gay Club NYC Downlow
Issue #122 A Sweaty Disco Haven Where (Almost) Anything Goes: Inside Glastonbury’s Legendary Gay Club NYC Downlow
Issue #122 A Sweaty Disco Haven Where (Almost) Anything Goes: Inside Glastonbury’s Legendary Gay Club NYC Downlow
Issue #122 A Sweaty Disco Haven Where (Almost) Anything Goes: Inside Glastonbury’s Legendary Gay Club NYC Downlow
Issue #122 A Sweaty Disco Haven Where (Almost) Anything Goes: Inside Glastonbury’s Legendary Gay Club NYC Downlow
Issue #122 A Sweaty Disco Haven Where (Almost) Anything Goes: Inside Glastonbury’s Legendary Gay Club NYC Downlow
Issue #122 A Sweaty Disco Haven Where (Almost) Anything Goes: Inside Glastonbury’s Legendary Gay Club NYC Downlow
Issue #122 A Sweaty Disco Haven Where (Almost) Anything Goes: Inside Glastonbury’s Legendary Gay Club NYC Downlow
Issue #122 A Sweaty Disco Haven Where (Almost) Anything Goes: Inside Glastonbury’s Legendary Gay Club NYC Downlow
Issue #122 A Sweaty Disco Haven Where (Almost) Anything Goes: Inside Glastonbury’s Legendary Gay Club NYC Downlow
Issue #122 A Sweaty Disco Haven Where (Almost) Anything Goes: Inside Glastonbury’s Legendary Gay Club NYC Downlow
Issue #122 A Sweaty Disco Haven Where (Almost) Anything Goes: Inside Glastonbury’s Legendary Gay Club NYC Downlow
Issue #122 A Sweaty Disco Haven Where (Almost) Anything Goes: Inside Glastonbury’s Legendary Gay Club NYC Downlow
Issue #122 A Sweaty Disco Haven Where (Almost) Anything Goes: Inside Glastonbury’s Legendary Gay Club NYC Downlow
Issue #122 A Sweaty Disco Haven Where (Almost) Anything Goes: Inside Glastonbury’s Legendary Gay Club NYC Downlow
Issue #122 A Sweaty Disco Haven Where (Almost) Anything Goes: Inside Glastonbury’s Legendary Gay Club NYC Downlow
Issue #122 A Sweaty Disco Haven Where (Almost) Anything Goes: Inside Glastonbury’s Legendary Gay Club NYC Downlow
Issue #122 A Sweaty Disco Haven Where (Almost) Anything Goes: Inside Glastonbury’s Legendary Gay Club NYC Downlow
Issue #122 A Sweaty Disco Haven Where (Almost) Anything Goes: Inside Glastonbury’s Legendary Gay Club NYC Downlow
Issue #122 A Sweaty Disco Haven Where (Almost) Anything Goes: Inside Glastonbury’s Legendary Gay Club NYC Downlow
Issue #122 A Sweaty Disco Haven Where (Almost) Anything Goes: Inside Glastonbury’s Legendary Gay Club NYC Downlow
Issue #122 A Sweaty Disco Haven Where (Almost) Anything Goes: Inside Glastonbury’s Legendary Gay Club NYC Downlow
Issue #122 A Sweaty Disco Haven Where (Almost) Anything Goes: Inside Glastonbury’s Legendary Gay Club NYC Downlow
Issue #122 A Sweaty Disco Haven Where (Almost) Anything Goes: Inside Glastonbury’s Legendary Gay Club NYC Downlow
Issue #122 A Sweaty Disco Haven Where (Almost) Anything Goes: Inside Glastonbury’s Legendary Gay Club NYC Downlow
Issue #122 A Sweaty Disco Haven Where (Almost) Anything Goes: Inside Glastonbury’s Legendary Gay Club NYC Downlow
Issue #122 A Sweaty Disco Haven Where (Almost) Anything Goes: Inside Glastonbury’s Legendary Gay Club NYC Downlow
Issue #122 A Sweaty Disco Haven Where (Almost) Anything Goes: Inside Glastonbury’s Legendary Gay Club NYC Downlow
Issue #122 A Sweaty Disco Haven Where (Almost) Anything Goes: Inside Glastonbury’s Legendary Gay Club NYC Downlow
Issue #122 A Sweaty Disco Haven Where (Almost) Anything Goes: Inside Glastonbury’s Legendary Gay Club NYC Downlow
Issue #122 A Sweaty Disco Haven Where (Almost) Anything Goes: Inside Glastonbury’s Legendary Gay Club NYC Downlow
Issue #122 A Sweaty Disco Haven Where (Almost) Anything Goes: Inside Glastonbury’s Legendary Gay Club NYC Downlow
Issue #122 A Sweaty Disco Haven Where (Almost) Anything Goes: Inside Glastonbury’s Legendary Gay Club NYC Downlow
Issue #122 A Sweaty Disco Haven Where (Almost) Anything Goes: Inside Glastonbury’s Legendary Gay Club NYC Downlow

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A Sweaty Disco Haven Where (Almost) Anything Goes: Inside Glastonbury’s Legendary Gay Club NYC Downlow

If you find yourself wandering around the southeast corner of Worthy Farm at Glastonbury this year, you may well happen upon an enormous queue of festival goers, all sporting stick-on moustaches and, curiously, not much else. No need to be confused at this sight, for you have found yourself at the ever-growing line for the NYC Downlow, Glastonbury’s very own purpose-built gay club.  

Designed as a replica of a seedy New York bathhouse-cum-meatpacking warehouse circa 1982, the Downlow is a sweaty disco haven where almost anything goes. Despite existing for just five days a year, the club boasts such an esteemed reputation that it often causes swathes of people to sacrifice their chance of seeing bona-fide superstars such as Elton John or Coldplay conquer the Pyramid stage in the hope of beating the crowds to get a peek through its storied meat-curtained entrance. 

Now in its 17th year, the Downlow – which has been described by nightlife bible Resident Advisor as “categorically one of the world’s best nightclubs” – has come a long way since its humble and muddy beginnings. Harking back to the club’s inauguration in 2007, Stephen Gallagher, co-founder of creative studio Block9 which created the space, said: “We had no money, but we did have a bunch of very talented friends and some big ideas. We went to see [Glastonbury founder] Michael Eavis and he loved the idea of building a gay club inside a dilapidated New York film set. 

“It was one of the wettest Glastonburys ever. Crazy storms, the mud was knee-deep. We had no idea if anyone would bother coming in but we needn’t have worried, because from the moment we opened the doors there was a queue around the block,” recalled Gallagher, who has also lent his stage design talents to artists including Gorillaz and Lana Del Rey. Over the years, the queues have continued to grow, leading the Downlow to implement crowd control strategies, such as giving out stick-on moustaches earlier in the day to ensure entry for later that night.  

While the club’s rising popularity and international reputation is a clear testament to the magic of the space, it does present some challenges. First and foremost, the NYC Downlow is a queer space, however, with queue times which can last for hours, this can often see members of Glastonbury’s queer community left waiting outside while their straight counterparts enjoy the club. Maintaining the club’s integrity as a queer space is of the utmost importance to Block9.  

“The NYCDL is a queer club for queer people. It was born out of necessity as there were no LGBTQIA+ spaces at UK or EU festivals outside of Pride events back in 2007,” explained Gideon Berger, co-founder of Block9. “Today, as queer becomes mainstream, we are increasingly having to find ways to ensure that the Downlow remains accessible to the people it was created for. I guess it’s a good problem to have – although it doesn’t feel like that sometimes.” 

In addition to its lineup of world-class DJs – which this year includes the likes of The Carry Nation, Sandy Rivera, Sean McCabe and Panorama Bar resident Lakuti – the Downlow is also a performance space where you’ll find a plethora of drag queens and performance artists. The troupe of talented queers is curated and MC’d by Jonny Woo, co-owner of new east London gay bar The Divine and an acclaimed performer in his own right. Woo has been there since day one and is truly part of the furniture (which consists of not much more than a stage, a meat rack and a vintage gay porn kiosk by the entrance). 

“The first [Downlow] was just so epic and such a surprise to us,” says Woo. “Shirley Bassey played the mainstage. It was an unforgettable year, even if the details are sketchy. Oh my god, we used to be part of a parade around the Arcadia field on the back of a truck, like a bunch of crazed, drugged up – I mean dragged up – Fraggle Rock characters.”  

If you’re lucky enough to get inside the Downlow, you might also be treated to an impromptu performance from your favourite pop star – the likes of Jake Shears, Róisín Murphy and Shygirl have been known to stop by to sing a song or two (and then join the party). This year, the Downlow will brave the daylight and open its doors for its very first day party on the Saturday of the festival, headlined by François K, increasing the opportunity for more people to experience its wondrous hedonism and create some wild memories. 

As for their own favourite Downlow memories, Gallagher’s mind returns again to that very first year and Luke Howard of Horse Meat Disco MC’ing the club with chants of: “Vogue and poppers.” For Berger, also a resident DJ at London’s premiere gay rave Adonis and part of the team behind the soon-to-be-reopened members club The Roof Gardens, it’s a little harder to narrow it down. 

“Beyond the obvious ones, such as hosting childhood heroes including Kerri Chandler and Roger Sanchez, or taking care of Mick Jagger or Dua Lipa when they visit, I really love being in there in the early evenings, running through ideas for my annual Saturday night DJ set, playing to an empty club – for just the litter pickers, the bar staff re-stocking and the go-go boys and drag crew rehearsing dance routines for later performances,” he explained. “The magic of that empty space is sublime.” 

Photo credit: Henry Mills

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