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Gut Level: A pocket of queer club culture

A new DIY event space and community built on a shared love of dance music and creativity, Gut Level has come at the right time for many.

Queer hedonism is alive in the North. Tucked down a quiet lane just off the A61, to be exact.

In a former cutlery works in Shalesmoor, five friends have spent the last year cultivating their own pocket of queer club culture here in Sheffield, clearing out the relics of heavy industry and transforming the once-dilapidated courtyard into a thriving community garden. The result is Gut Level, a DIY event space and community built on a shared love of dance music and creativity.

Gut Level’s core team – Adam Benson, Hannah Beres, Katie Matthews, Frazer Scott and Dan Watson – met doing what they love: partying. Over a pint in Shakespeare’s, they tell me how the collective originated.

“We all kind of made friends from going to the same nights,” Hannah says, “and when you have a regular club night that the same people go to every time, well, that’s where you’ll meet like-minded people.”

Adam jumps in: “We realised that there’s a space to fill and we’ve all got something different to offer, so it made sense to build our own thing. We started thinking about the future, about how we could build something that inspires other people to start their own thing – and that’s really how a city builds itself a rich cultural scene.”

Four people sit together on a wooden corner bench, smiling into the camera, surrounded by greenery. The person on the far left holds a coarse-haired Jack Russell on their lap. The person sitting just right of holds a plant pot with bright orange flowers.

4/5 of Gut Level’s core team. From left to right: Katie Matthews (with top dog Badger), Adam Benson, Hannah Beres and Frazer Scott.

Gut Level

At a time when DIY venues are closing everywhere and gentrification is noticeably creeping around the post-industrial edges of the city, planting the seeds for something new is anything but easy. Why here and why now?

The group has been organising club nights and parties at other venues (Hatch is mentioned fondly) for some time now, but as Frazer explains, the overheads involved in renting a space and hiring equipment pose an economic barrier that’s insurmountable for those without funding, directing the organisers’ energies away from a love of music and towards recouping costs through ticket sales.

“Adjacent to that inaccessibility,” he adds, “is the lack of queer spaces in Sheffield. We’ve been partying in cities where there’s a thriving queer community and club scene, and here, that just didn’t exist in the same way.” Heads nod around the table.

Gut Level intend to change this by providing a permanent base for LGBTQ+ music collective Working Them’s Club and skill-sharing network FLAW. Throughout lockdowns, the two collectives worked together on a series of online talks, listening parties and DJ workshops for women, trans*, non-binary and gender non-conforming people, all of which they want to bring onsite in the not-so-distant future, as part of a wider programme of social and skill-sharing events.

Frazer again: “When we got together and we were writing down our aims and vision, we realised that being a social enterprise – skills-building, skill-sharing, community-led events – is really half of what we want to do with Gut Level.”

A sunny courtyard with a pink, khaki and chartreuse mural wall from which several planters are hung. To the left, greenery spills out of a wooden raised bed. To the right, an outbuilding is visible, windows open. Several people stand around chatting.

The courtyard, once drab and neglected, is now a thriving community garden to be used for workshops, daytime events and open days.

Gut Level

As ever with a new project, there have been a few teething problems and unforeseen obstacles, one of which is the building’s soundproofing – or lack of. When the group moved out of their former home in the Attercliffe Arches and into the old cutlery works last year, they were excited about joining a multi-use space, but inhabiting the same building as rehearsing bands is proving challenging, with the noise pollution pausing their plans for daytime activities for now.

Luckily, the Gut Level folks have a plan. They’re teaming up with their pals at DINA, a fellow DIY organisation with fresh new digs at Fitzalan Square, enabling Gut Level to run their daytime events at DINA and DINA to host late-night events at Gut Level, something they can’t do given their proximity to residents.

“We’ve inherently got similar values, which is really important,” Katie says, “We’re both focused on building a community base and nurturing new talent through skill-sharing and that.” Dan neatly sums it up as a “scratch-back situation”.

A mirror ball hangs over a darkened dancefloor. The ceiling’s brickwork is lit up by pink fluorescent light and white shards of reflecting from the mirror ball.

Partying at Gut Level’s former site in the Attercliffe Arches.

Gut Level

And what about the pandemic? How has that impacted the project?

“We know that it’s unfortunately been a really hard time for a lot of organisations like us,” Katie explains, “and that’s a massive shame. Actually, for us, Covid gave us the time to apply for the National Lottery [Culture Recovery Fund], and then that funding meant that wecould build the community garden and really level up the space.”

This successful grant, along with the spare time afforded by successive lockdowns, meant the collective could grow Gut Level organically and at their own pace. They’ve had the space to experiment, to really think through what it means to rebuild a community and bring people back together on the dancefloor after so long apart.

The community garden, a collaborative effort led by Hannah, is the star of the show, with pastel murals and raised beds overflowing with life. A framed Black Lodge Press print hanging in the main indoor space at Gut Level declares:

Queer utopias are not fantasies – queer utopias are necessities!

Considering that the pandemic has transplanted so many DIY projects into a solely digital space, and forced others into further precarity or total closure, this is a call to action rather than a statement.

A Jack Russell sits on a brown leather chair in front of a pale green wall. The dog looks to a pink framed print on the wall, which reads “Queer utopias are necessities”. To the right is a woodentable with a retro lightbox that reads ‘MIDAS Disco's'.

Gut Level’s new venue features an indoor event space, which the collective want to use for LGBTQ+ club nights as well as workshops and daytime events.

Gut Level

There’s lots on the cards for Gut Level in the coming months. This Friday (10 September), acclaimed Manchester record label Bakk Heia take over the decks for a night of “cosmic pumpers, slammers, wigglers and spankers”. On Sunday 12 September, join Wet Patch and pals at their community garden for a workshop on saving your seeds (£3 OTD; Gut Level membership required).

The group are currently applying for status as a recognised members’ club, allowing them to grow the collective and giving agency to the people who use and love the space. You can join the Gut Level community by becoming a member for £2 per year.

Learn more

You can also support Gut Level in style by copping a Wet Patch t-shirt or an enamel pin from the online shop.

Follow Gut Level on Instagram to keep in the loop with the project’s events, developments and opportunities to get involved.

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