It’s 10pm on Saturday night and the first punters are trickling into Glastonbury’s south-east corner. It’s quiet now, but in a few hours when the action on the main stages is over it’ll turn into a swarming throng of heady revellers.
In the middle of Shangri-La – one of Glastonbury’s late night party areas – the doors have just opened in a small building completely covered in mirrors. A group of inquisitive men go to wander in, but are turned away. “It’s women only,” they’re told politely but firmly, and the group of lads continue their nights elsewhere. The venue they tried to enter is The Sistxrhood, Glastonbury’s women, non-binary and trans-only venue, and one of the most crucial areas on the entire site.
Alice Holland is the producer and curator behind the space. “We’re open to women, non-binary and trans friends, and the freedom that comes from being in a space where you’re extremely unlikely to be fucked with, and are very likely to be welcomed into an environment where you feel amazing, means that attendees can relax more,” she tells me.
The Sistxrhood has existed on site since 2016, where they opened as a private members club. 2017 saw a change to a “locker room-cum-fightclub” (in response to a “a certain American Presidents comments about sexual harassment”), and this year they’ve created a beautiful temple nestled in the heart of Shangri-La. “We were getting so excited about all the ways we were starting to see each other, listen to each other” she explains of the choice of décor, “that’s why it’s all shiny and reflective.”
The reception has, in general, has been incredibly positive. DJ YaYa Bones first discovered the Sisterhood in 2017, when they ended up visiting loads as a punter, “I kind of fell in love with everyone and I met,” they tells me. This year they DJed on the Friday, and loved the experience. “I even had a few technical problems and I had so much support around it! I had to restart a song and everyone there was just supporting me, it really felt like you were performing to all your friends.”
Musician, DJ and founder of Booty Bass (a female only DJ collective from Bristol, who were invited down to play the Saturday night) Ngaio Aniya echoes Yaya’s words, “It’s been really amazing to come and be part of something so inclusive.” Bozanna (who’s one half of DJ duo 2 Honeys) agrees, “We need to show there are spaces for young women to do their thing, to enjoy what you love.”
Of course there are a handful of people who don’t see these positives. Alice tells me that whilst most men are enthusiastic about the Sistxrhood “you do also get met with a lot of entitlement.” The front of house committee have been able to deal with “the confused who are met with a no, you can’t come into the space the size of a cornershop on a site the size of Bristol,” but there have a few times when they’ve had to close the venue until the hostile punters leave.
But these moments are few and far between, and most can see the Sistxrhood as what it is, a crucial addition to Glastonbury’s vibrant club scene. Performance artist That Ray, who works with drag as a political art form, agrees. “I think for female and none-binary performers and musicians it’s an incredibly important thing, it’s an incredible thing to have, and I find myself irate that queer men have some much cultural capital and get all the venues and the reviews and coverage, and queer women and none-binary people are having to build from the ground up and eeking out the space of these festivals that predominantly programme men. So I think it’s wonderful.”
So why should you go down and check out the Sistxrhood? DJ Ellie Prohan, who hosts a show on female led radio station Foundation FM and played the venue in Saturday night puts it best: “Why would you not want to be involved in movement that’s grown so fast and got so many incredible, dedicated people around it, pushing it, who aren’t necessarily earning that much from it. They’re just earning a space for us, fighting for a space for us. It’s one of the most incredible places to want to be!”