Jaguar: London's nightlife made me the person I’ve always wanted to be - Features - Mixmag

Jaguar: London's nightlife made me the person I’ve always wanted to be

With the London Music Conference kicking off this month, Jaguar Bingham explores her relationship with the city

  • Words: Jaguar Bingham | ILLUSTRATION: TIAGO MAJUELOS
  • 27 January 2020

It’s been three years since I moved to London from Leeds. It felt like the inevitable next step, and I was curious to see what the big smoke had to offer. Initially, the idea of uprooting my life was unsettling; but once I committed to the move it was as exciting as boarding a grubby tube carriage and whooshing into the swirling mayhem of stomping commuters and wide-eyed tourists.

Each day starts the same for me: out the door, onto the bus, a brisk half-run to the underground, mind the gap – quick! Sprint, before I’m left behind. A sigh of relief when I’m safely, and tragically, pressed up against somebody’s armpit – until “We’re being held here due to a signalling problem”. Rage boils through the train, before a sharp jolt sets us on the move again.

This quickly became my daily route to and from North and Central London. Londoners love to complain about it (“How’s it going?” “Oh you know, the Piccadilly Line was late this morning and I was waiting on that platform for five fucking minutes” – cue eye-roll), but after adjusting to the disorientating hum of pedestrians and traffic, I began to explore. My first flatshare was a mediocre three-bed on the third floor above a mouth-watering Turkish restaurant on Green Lanes, with kebabs and kofte on tap. I fell in love with the quirky cafes of Stoke Newington; the panoramic views from dog-walker’s paradise, Hampstead Heath; and the Turkish supermarkets brimming with fresh fruit and veg right on my doorstep. It wasn’t bad, after all.

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And of course, I was intrigued by London’s nightlife. It’s a privilege to step out any night of the week and discover something new. Whether it’s 12-hour sessions at monster clubs like Printworks, losing yourself on Fabric’s dancefloor or getting down in the dark and dingy Peckham Rye basement that’s home to Keep Hush parties, there’s something for everyone. I’ve met some of my best mates clubbing – you’re brought together by a shared excitement of not knowing where the night will go, as you swig on corner-shop wine on the night bus. I’ve fist-pumped to Dusky’s live show at Electric Brixton; transacted ‘business’ in Village Underground’s murky green room; I’ve danced under a sea of glittering weaves and voguers at Pxssy Palace.

And experiencing the rise of inclusive club nights like BBZ and Femme Fraiche, centred around queer folk, women and non-binary people has been life-changing. Connecting with like-minded individuals in a space where you feel safe is exhilarating; these experiences taught me how to be free, and look inwards at my own identity.

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Naturally, London clubs were also integral to my growth as a DJ. One of my spiritual homes and favourite venues is Dalston Superstore. Every time I’m behind the decks in the sweaty cellar I’m transported back to my first ever gig there, engulfed by sweaty, genderless torsos twirling freely with each other. Superstore prioritises the LGBTQ+ community, but welcomes allies, creating a utopian world where paranoias and fears are cast away for five hours of pleasure. It’s the most liberating experience I’ve ever had, both in terms of the music policy and how safe and accepted I felt.

Twice a month I find myself in bustling Brixton to host my Reprezent Radio show. I make my way through the colourful markets and lip-smacking smells of Caribbean curries and West African dishes, and pick up my favourite coconut oil in the afro hair shop on the corner. Reprezent, located in a brown chipboard shipping container above Pop Brixton, is an epicentre for young creatives and youth culture. I feel inspired by each visit and I’ve met friends old and new there over the past two years, bringing in guests like Dance System, Louisahhh and La Fleur.

I used to religiously trek over the road to Phonox to catch HAAi throw her colossal force behind the decks to 550 ravers during her residency. I remember being captivated by the lighting engineer’s ability to artfully conjure lasers using a keyboard while I absorbed the crashing sound-waves as HAAi dropped another psychedelic roller.

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Unfortunately, come light, reality, and 5:AM, the bubble bursts. The prospect of facing suited and booted commuters on the night tube is grim, and the alternative of a £30 Uber home across the city snaps you back to sobriety. You ask yourself, ‘Was it worth it?!’ You answer your own question, of course, by finding yourself at Corsica Studios the following Friday night.

London is a labyrinth of possibilities. Here I could discover the person I’ve always wanted to be and live in a new world. In an intense, overwhelming, and strangely welcoming way, it’s my home, and now I can’t imagine living anywhere else.

The London Music conference takes place January 30–February 1 at Fabric, London

Jaguar Bingham is Mixmag's TV presenter, follow her on Twitter

Tiago Majuelos is an illustrator and animator, follow him on Instagram

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