All Aboard the Bang Bus!: Dan Glass on the New Queer Culture History Project

Last weekend saw the odyssey of the inaugural odyssey of the ‘Bang Bus’, a charmingly choatic queer dance-party/protest/history lesson, all aboard a glammed up double-decker bus winding it’s way through London’s busy streets, and past to many of it’s iconic queer venues. We caught up with Dan Glass, queer activist and effervescent trouble maker to talk about the origins of the Bang Bus, queer activism today, nightlife, and what queer legacy means to him.

Dan Glass | 2017

How did the ‘Bang Bus’ come about and how did you come up with the name?

The BANG BUS came about as the perfect climax to an intense whirlwind of commemorative programmes, performances and protests for this year’s 50th anniversary of the passing of the ‘Sexual Offences Act’ of 1967 – which led to the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales. A year ago we started with ‘Look Back in Pride’ hosted by members of the Gay Liberation Front, Women’s Liberation Movements who made the ‘Sexual Offences Act’ and the ‘Abortion Act’ pass. All our programmes are about unearthing history with integrity. Both movements fought tooth and nail for sexual freedom and so we felt it’s so important to mark them equally – thus the next BANG BUS is a women’s specific bus. We wanted to pull the carpet out from under the establishments feet. It wasn’t the Government back then who passed the acts out of the goodness of their hearts just as it isn’t Theresa May who is leading the fight for seuxal freedom today. So throughout this year we have paid credit to the activists and artists who made these iconic freedoms happen and to highlight that the struggle continues – ALuta Continua! That is why we have movements like ‘The African Rainbow family’ supporting the freedom of LGBTQIA+ migrants and ‘The Outside Project’ creating support programmes for the rising numbers of queer homeless – are at the forefront of everything we do.

Everything we do is historically grounded from our queer ancestors and thanks to all the LGBTQIA+ archive projects across London we found out about ‘Club Bang’ – the iconic queer clubs of the 70’s in Tottenham Court Road and we thought the name was literally, sexually and soulfully perfect.

It was really funny though – whilst we were busy pulling it together my friend came round and said ‘You can’t use the name BANG BUS it’s already used by a horrific porn site.’ I looked online and saw one of the most vile, misogynistic porn sites promoting rape-culture and so had to make a decision. Do we leave the oppressors in peace (and in this case with their ‘BANG BUS’ name) or do the oppressed reclaim back space for freedom? The decision was easy.

Bang Bus | Ali Maeve (2017)

September 30th marked the official launch of the first ever Bang Bus. Tell us how was your first ever trip?

The first BANG BUS was raucous, wild, anarchic and soulful. In the current rising bigoted political climate – with turbo-capitalism and consequential gentrification slaughtering all spaces for marginalised communities resulting in the pathologies of rising LGBT+ hate crime, homelessness, suicide, depression and a catatonic mixture of destruction – it was time for a bit of ‘Carpe Fucking Diem.’

We learn through doing and now we have learnt so many lessons to make each BANG BUS tighter and more fabulous. The October bus is a tribute to queer women’s culture and the November BANG BUS, a few days before World AIDS Day, will be careering around the streets exploring London’s lost HIV+ culture. Underneath the bright lights are strong political demands. BANG BUS no.1 is to fight against loss of spaces and to demand a LGBTQIA+ community centre is built in London, BANG BUS No.2. is demanding an end to the closure of women’s domestic violence services and BANG BUS No.3. is demanding the building of an AIDS Memorial in the heart of London.

Bang Bus | Ali Maeve (2017)

Underneath the props to animate each different queer venue we went to (giant spliffs and long wigs for the 70’s, studded leather jackets and mohawks of the 80’s and neon UV rave sticks for the 90’s and so much more) and the aesthetics such as the ‘How dare you presume I’m heteresexual’ banners hanging off the back of the bus’ – the deeper transformation happened in the conversations on the bus. Isolation, depression and internalised homophobia has in some way eaten up our confidence throughout world-wide storm of state-sanctioned homophobia. So the bus served as a literal and metaphorical vehicle to weave together our histories, both our suffering and our liberation. The small conversations between people from different generations and different cultures on the bus created a wider tapestry of meaning for each punter to truly acknowledge and recognise their worth in the ongoing journey of queer humankind.

“The BANG BUS was one of the most anarchic events I’ve ever experienced. It had all the elements of a trip on LSD. I thought at one point I was in a modern version of Fellini’s Satyricon.”

— Stuart Feather, author of ‘Blowing the Lid: Gay Liberation, Sexual Revolution and Radical Queens’

Bang Bus | Ali Maeve (2017)

What’s your favourite queer nightclub ever, and what’s one of your wildest memories?

My favourite queer nightclub in London was Ghetto in Falconberg Court. Religiously every week I was caught in the toilets shagging or doing other things I wasn’t allowed to do, usually kicked out and within an hour I was let back in. It was a place which deeply understood the queer-soul. That in a society that deeply imprisons our psyche and our soul we need to let loose more than most. ‘Fuck the Pain Away’ was the tune they seemed to play the most and that was no coincidence. Personally I’d run away from an upbringing of Orthodox Judaism where being gay is prohibited. By the age of 14 I’d already had 3 friends commit suicide (where not only being gay is shameful but so is suicide) and so the remaining of us fled in what we called ‘running from the Synagogue to Soho.’

If I ever get the chance to see the bouncer again who stood outside those famous pink ghetto walls I’d give her my equivalent of an OBE, because she allowed me to be my own queen.

The Black Cap, The Joiner’s Arms, Madame Jojo’s— Iconic Queer London spaces are shutting left right and centre, how do we save London’s queer nightlife, or is it already too late?

It’s already saved. The fact that you are writing in a platform as intelligent, dynamic and forward-thinking as HISKIND and I am speaking about the ‘BANG BUS’, an outrageous vehicle to connect communities to protect and create queer spaces – means that we are already winning. It’s no wonder that the LGBTQIA+ community are fatalistic as we wake up everyday to centuries of compounded internalised shame, walk past homeless queer youth on the streets as we get our milk from the shops and end the day with speaking with more queer friends who are struggling to stay afloat. But without hope we are nothing. When Willem Arondeus blew up the Nazi records office, when Marsha P Johnson threw that brick at the police in the Stonewall riots and when Munroe Burgdof refused to be silenced by L’Oreal, they didn’t necessarily delicately strategise all possible consequences they just fiercely hoped that change would happen and took the necessary steps to enable it.

Queer culture has never been a walk in the park (well actually it has been a mince in the bushes, but more of that later) and so we have to daily shake off our fatalism and understand that every day progress is made in a myriad of ways.

Bang Bus | Ali Maeve (2017)

Do you feel that queer identities are still necessarily politicised? What would you say to LGBTQ people today who don’t believe they don’t have a dog in the fight?

Everything we do is politicised. Being conditioned to respect and inhabit your queer identity, community and spaces on your own terms is equally as political as being conditioned to believe that the height of our freedom is dependent upon the size of your bulge in your Barclays underwear at Pride – it’s just dependent on who really benefits. Today the politicisation of queer identity is heavily weighted by the control of corporations and their bedfellows in Government that has a huge influence on our ability to think, exist, imagine and genuinely breathe. It’s nothing new that corporations exploit tragedies for their own gain and sexual freedom is not free from their grip. The legislative freedom that we gained 50 years ago in the ‘Sexual Offences Act’ overnight turned into an opportunity for institutions to exploit us – also known as ‘pinkwashing.’ This year I’ve seen a huge resurgence in the queer communities need to politicise our world on our own terms which is a sweet reminder that however much money is thrown our way, our spiritual strength is far richer.

In a time of Trump, and May, and disability cuts, and police brutality, queer spaces making space for luxury flats and bougie coffee shops, it feels like everyday there’s something new to resist. How does one keep fighting the good fight?

Love, love, love, love, love, love, love! I could say ‘you gotta fight for this love’ until I sound like a broken Cheryl-Cole doll in the stockroom of Clinton Cards on Valentines Day- but it’s true. Loving our queer selves and our queer community in all it’s glory is the only way to keep going. Not the individualistic liberal love sold and repackaged to us but the revolutionary strength of love as Malcolm X says so well “We need more light about each other. Light creates understanding, understanding creates love, love creates patience, and patience creates unity.”

Truly taking hold of our enormous history of overcoming adversity makes waking up to empathising with those on frontline of this world of brutal inequality far easier.

What disheartens you about the landscape of contemporary queer activism and what worries you?

The military-industrial-complex. Knowing that last year the ‘red arrows’ flew over ‘Pride in London’ whilst on the ground BAE Systems (an institution at the forefront of the illegal arms trade which murders all people – queer and straight – for profit) marched in the Parade was an indicator that without clarity (and resistance) on the machinery of oppression the status quo will never change. So seeing drag-kings and queens blockade the recent DSEI arms fair was phenomenally encouraging.

Bang Bus | Ali Maeve (2017)

How can readers support the bang bus?

Create your own! With the scale of LGBTQI+ oppression as big as it is we need BANG BUSES on every street corner from Barnet to Bangladesh. 50 people made up the organising crew of BANG BUS No.1 who brought their own incredible skills. One of the most interesting parts in the curation of BANG BUS No.1. was understanding that every street has a queer story to tell and it’s not up to anyone but ourselves to tell it – for all the reasons above we certainly can’t wait. The privatisation of public transport in Britain has led to our public transport system being the most inefficient, inaccessible and expensive in Europe so let’s not recreate the wheel – speak with those involved in the BANG BUS and ask for the organising template of how to do your own! Also and very practically for now – if you can donate anything you can here to help cover our initial costs that would be so appreciated! We chose to give away a ⅓ of the seats for free to those in our community at the sharp-end-of-the-knife – LGBTQIA+ homeless and LGBTQIA+ migrants – because we believe that none of us our free until we all are.

What can we expect when the Bang Bus returns?

*QUEER CULTURE TAKES TO THE ROAD ON A DOUBLE DECKER – Climb aboard the BANG BUS on the last Saturday of every month! On the 50th anniversary of the ‘Sexual Offences Act’ send a message from London telling the world we exist to build strength, unity and passion within our LGBTQIA+ community, that we honour our history and won’t let our futures – or our spaces – be written over by anybody.

THE BANG BUS. HOMO HISTORY. HOMO HEDONISM. HOMO HOPE.” Find our website here, and you can email us here.

Bang Bus | Ali Maeve (2017)

What does the idea of queer legacy mean to you? Why is this history important, and why should it be handed down?

For me, the idea of queer legacy means being genuine. It means refusing to be photoshopped into anyone’s shiny brochure no matter how much is on offer. If we can’t share the pains and loneliness in balance with the glitter and the orgies then we are only damaging ourselves. History is told by those who write it so that’s why we, all marginalised people today, need to flip the script and write our ‘herstory’ otherwise the next generation will be left behind.