A unique and celebratory night that mixed religious ritual and community celebration with a sci-fi reinvention of the self and reimagining of futures.
Brownton Abbey is like no other church you will have experienced while remaining a place of sanctuary and celebration. The Brownton Abbey collective have curated a fantastic night of performance and music from the QTIPOC community (queer, trans, intersex, people of color).
Upon entering you are greeted by immaculately dressed other worldly beings who baptize you with glitter as part of the ceremony. Performers Rachael Young, Ria Hartley, Malik Nashad Shape and Lasana Shabazz dazzle the congregation with rapturous dance and live art while DJ Jemeau, I am Fya and Sista Selecta: DJ Yes Mel keep people dancing between acts. The atmosphere is one of celebratory joy and excitement and some guests have come dressed as flamboyantly as the performers themselves (the theme being intergalactic techno church realness).
By the time New Orleans ‘Queen of Bounce’ Big Freedia takes to the stage there is already a great energy in the room but as anyone who is familiar with her music knows Big Freedia’s music demands a manic energy and her call and response lyrics square the audience focus on her. As a performer she possesses a natural charisma and poise and is constantly engaged with the audience throughout the set who respond with adoration.
Half way through her set Big Freedia explains that some of her dancers are unable to be here tonight and so invites 10-15 people from the audience to come on stage and twerk with her. This act of sharing her stage with the audience in order to dance with her adds to the feeling of inclusivity and celebration that runs through the entire evening and culminates in an on stage conga line of twerking.
After teasing the crowd with Formation and her RuPaul collaboration Peanut Butter Big Freedia closes her set with a cover of Whitney Houston’s I Will Always Love You which feels as much a sincere message to her fans as it does a popular song choice. Before leaving the stage she makes her way through the crowd thanking her fans to the crowds delight.
Brownton Abbey was like no other show I have seen in Brighton and one that Brighton certainly needs more of. The jubilation of those present shows that there is a hunger for a more substantial and inclusive nightlife scene in this city while offering a blue print on how to achieve it.
Friday 25th May 2018
Review by Jack Coulston