Selextorhood: The female and non-binary DJ’s igniting Birmingham’s electronic scene.

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Selextorhood fit perfectly into Birmingham’s underground scene. In fact, they fill a gap in that very culture.

Undeniably Birmingham is a city rich in LGTBQ+ culture with this year marking the 50th anniversary of Birmingham’s ‘gay superclub’ The Nightingale, a community owned nightclub which has pushed and inspired a vibrant gay culture throughout the city. Yet in terms of underground, electronic music minority groups like the queer and female community have lacked representation. 

Operating out of the cozy Café Artum, Selextorhood aim to change this with monthly workshops aimed at womxn and non-binary DJs, talks from female selextors such as Eclair Fifi, Jossy Mitsu and Sampa the Great and open deck nights. After attending one of their workshops last week, which felt very warm and welcoming, I caught up with five of the members of the ever-evolving collective: Holly, Deena, Josie, Emily and Nikki to find out more about how they fit into Birmingham’s underground scene. 

Selextorhood was born out of a desire to create a space for female DJ’s. After receiving a postcard with the phrase ‘sisterhood, it feels good’ Holly was inspired to name it Selextorhood, taking the X from the non-binary representation of womxn and the selector from, of course, DJing. Created at the start of the year Holly “saw a real need for it in Birmingham with other collectives and workshops popping up around the country”.

With such a need for this kind of space in Birmingham, I was surprised it hadn’t been adopted before. As a woman who is involved in the Manchester scene, a scene rich in female and non-binary collectives with the likes of B.L.O.O.M, Not Bad For a Girl, Shifting Spheres and All Hands on Deck, Birmingham seemed very behind.

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And yet at the same time this is unsurprising. Last year proved to be a tough year for Birmingham’s underground scene. Known mainly for The Rainbow Venues, it looked as if the city’s underground nightlife was to be buried along with the club after they surrendered their battle with the council in June. Alongside this, the Blackbox was closed after its fleeting revival due to gentrification causing noise complaints; another death occurred, this time at Lab 11 and warehouse venue Boxxed was closed, with plans to transform it into a fine dining establishment.

As Nikki highlighted “Birmingham’s big clubs have been closing causing a lull in the music scene…even big nights that have good bookings don’t completely sell out. Places like Manchester, London, Bristol, Leeds, they are known for good music scenes, people travel to those scenes to go to nights out, there’s been the demand for them”. Alongside this, artists that start getting big within Birmingham move out. As we chatted about particularly inspiring females who have come out of Birmingham it became apparent that most of them had moved on due to “lack of gigs and a good scene” (Deena), including Rebekah who moved to Berlin and Jossy Mitsu who moved to London. 

However, as gentrification and licensing attempts to silence the creativity of Birmingham the smaller promoters, venues and DJ’s have been ignited in a bid to spread their creative energies with Birmingham adopting a DIY culture. As Josie highlighted the Custard Factory and Digbeth have come on leaps and bounds in recent years and Selextorhood adds another dimension to parties like Kristian Burch Hurst’s Voyage Events, George Winter’s Ghost Town and Leftfoot’s incredible lineups at the Hare and Hounds who are filling the gaps despite large venues shutting and threats from licensing and the council. Josie told me that “what’s really exciting is that we get to shape our scene. In no other city could I have joined at the start, not having DJed, to become a member of the group”. “This is providing a really good place for community to grow; people are bored of seeing men behind the decks…the workshops have bought everyone out of the woodwork”. Deena and Holly excitingly added. 

Indeed, Birmingham’s scene has been very accommodating, recognising the need for getting more womxn behind the decks. Brands like Lab 11’s Space Lab has reached out to them, where Nikki will be supporting Ben UFO and DJ Storm. Leftfoot at the Hare and Hounds invited them to open their second room in support of Jadya G, Eclair Fifi and Ruby Savage and the vintage store Cow has also asked for a selector from the collective.

It’s these kind of collectives which make a city so important to young people. As Emily highlighted students are leaving. They don’t stay on in Birmingham but instead seek out more creative places. Indeed, they even talked to me about their thoughts of leaving, with Holly noting that she’s on a “rolling contract” with Birmingham and Josie stating that she used to be reluctant to put money into housing. However, Selextorhood for them is an incentive to stay: “I was looking at leaving but even just having Selextorhood is one of the reasons why I’m looking at staying. Meeting more womxn that are into music has meant that the draw to other cities is not as strong anymore” (Nikki)

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Arguably, while more people are moving out of London and into Birmingham - as Emily pointed out to me in a recent Guardian article which states that a growing number of people are leaving the capital each year - there needs to be a reason to stay and creating strong and safe spaces like these are essential to keeping a thriving culture which does not just turn Birmingham into a “shopping destination [where] gentrification and chain stores” are prioritised." (Emily)

Fundamentally, this is an amazing space for womxn and non-binary DJ’s to grow in confidence, be in a welcoming community and provide a much needed “springboard” to womxn and non-binary groups who have not had as much as a “head start” as men (Holly).

Yet, it’s also about keeping Birmingham’s scene alive and by including these groups it inspires a whole new demographic to become DJ’s, to start their own nights and to become involved in the electronic music industry. As Holly sums up “you could either be at the forefront of something here or latch on to the back of something else in London”.

With Redbull interviewing Selextorhood and not including the question “who should we watch out for in Birmingham?” (which they did include for Bristol) the collective questioned whether Birmingham as a scene was being taken seriously. 

So, let’s give them something to be serious about. It’s time to put Birmingham back on the map, and this feels like a positive step towards it.

  

About the author:
Rachael Finch runs LGBTQ+ workshops and her own website Halcyon Wax. Her top 3 artists as of last week were: Telephones, Byron The Aquarius and Henry Wu.