Fat Out, in my opinion, have been at the centre of the alternative music and DIY queer culture in Manchester for over 13 years, having a residency at Islington Mill for about 8 of them and then having 2 years of running The Burrow. With that came a lot of responsibility, but after going to see probably hundreds of gigs put on by Fat Out, I can guarantee that Emma has truly done justice to the work and the people that are out there in the international community and the one right here at home.
Listen, watch or read our chat below!
Emma is originally from Milton Keynes but in 2007 came to Manchester to study Interactive Art.
“Milton Keynes actually had an amazing alternative/DIY scene, heralded by Fortissimo Records and I went to a lot of shows, helped out loads of people at that time, so when I moved to Manchester I brought it all with me. I started Fat Out mainly just to put my friends on and bring Milton Keynes to Manchester.
The first ever show was at the Sake club at the bottom of The Curry Mile, we carried on putting on shows for the next few years all over the city until we found our home at Islington Mill. Around 2009-2010 we put on our first show here, Master Musicians of Bukkake played! Shortly after we had our own stage at Sounds From The Other City, so this community really started to grow and I was lucky enough to be in it.
The Mill was so paramount to Fat Out’s success, the way the community works helped me grow curatorially and the great work done by Sounds From The Other City really showed me how to relinquish all curatorial power to the people involved in this work. That hugely inspired me, this is how we now work within Fat Out Fest, making it for the people, by the people really giving spectrum to the event and to people's ideas.”
Emma truly brought all of this alternative community together and within that really gave them a home at The Mill. I have so many memories of meeting people in the courtyard whilst having a cig, or crossing paths with someone you had met once at a nightclub that was now in this exhibition space in-between seeing bands that Fat Out had put on. Emma having that space and curating it with insane cultural precision really helped people come together and experience something great. But they didn’t just stop at music.
“In 2014 we opened up Fat Out festival to other promoters, Video Jam had a stage where they showed great local editorial films and got musicians to do the musical score behind. I think going to so many festivals that are more than just music really opened me up to those ideas, there was a tent at Supernormal where you could DJ yourself, all those little happenings are what I always really remember from festivals.
This all encompassing idea with strange, weird musical and queer experience was really important. Fat Out did start off more straight, but The Mill has really introduced us to loads of new people and changed what Fat Out can be. We had a hardcore band from Glasgow play, Take A Worm For A Walk Week and I asked them what song do you want to walk on to, they wanted a Boyzone song and it was so fucking funny. That alone solidified my programming, why shouldn’t we do what we want? Fucking with people is why I get out of bed baby!”
As I said, over the years I have been to a lot of shows put on by Fat Out including Space Lady, Bo Ningen, Cocaine Piss, Peter Brüttzman, David Birchall, Spring King, Good, Loean, Laura Cannell, Mr Scruff, Yusseff Kamaal, and loads of more musical acts, but I have a particular favourite which was seeing Lydia Lunch play a sexy Halloween party in 2015 with ILL, PINS, WATER and a DJ set from Maxine Peake.
It was a night to remember, but what are Emmas faves?
“There was Gross Fucking Indecency where we collaborated with Bollox and Body Horror and we did a 12 hour show, queer electronic, techno sets, 90’s RnB set and then floor fillers, it was an insane journey. Then In The Burrow, which was our penultimate show at The Mill we had Saul WIlliams play and he got his daughter on stage to do backing vocals, which is super rare. She only does it when she feels super comfortable, which was a real privilege. Then the final Burrow Party, we had loads of people in the hall for a big dinner, which felt like my own wedding day haha.
When we graduated The Islington Mill Academy, we had bands back to back in the gallery, it was just amazing. One of my proudest moments of curation was when we had Daq Sabbath doing Sabbath covers, then High Hoops curated the after party. There was full mosh pit going and we were stood at the side wondering if a hardcore show would work if we then put on Disney tunes, and it did!”
2020 has been a real struggle for everyone with Fat Out Fest moving online for the first time ever.
“The digital festival was really our core for the year, making sure that people could still work in some format. My dream was to get people back into a space and doing social distance events, but then Tier 3 happened. Doing the digital show was insane, I programmed it in the same way as normal. It was great for people to get the work together, but it’s not the same. We couldn’t see the audiences faces and it hit me hard.
This time has been really good for the small independents because people can work from one project to the next and people don’t get burnt out like they normally do. It’s definitely changed how we work and that has been challenging, it's really affected people's mental health and that needs to be addressed as much as everything else. It’s really fucking challenged me.
It’s been hard but having the time to step back has been good.“
Their residency at Islington Mill came to a conclusion in 2017 and since has been moving around the city, the space has now become a screen printers.
"When we are 20 I really hope to go back and have a whole month of us putting on stuff. We are planning stuff for 2021 and we will be using the space behind The Mill, so we are still in there in some capacity. I am happy to not be stuck to one place at the minute, I put my whole life into it for a long time. It was amazing running a 24 hour club, but it took it out of me, so I’ve been quite happy to have a break.”
As we do with all our guests, we always ask for 3 recommendations for other people in the city.
“Firstly, I am part of a new collective called Club Clam, it started in 2020 in my living room. It has really progressed into a collective for women, non-binary people where we provide vibes for parties. We did the Optimo after party where we provided Go-Go dancers! We have got life drawing classes coming up where we want to try and employ queer artists, we describe it as under the sea erotica hahaah!
Then Creatures Of Catharsis, which is a queer cabaret night, we commissioned them to make a film as part of Fat Out fest and it blew my head off. It was 2 hours of queer skits, cabaret and everything amazing.
My third is Niamos in Hulme, such a beautiful space and genuine communities that cross community art. Ku’umba are a collective studio inside Niamos that are releasing their back catalogue as we speak. They fed the homeless over the Christmas period and its a real place of comfort across this pandemic.”
The Mill has truly been such a big part of the Fat Out journey, I’ve seen so many people come through and it's really shaped me as a person and it's amazing to see. Now it’s getting an upgrade it will be here for years to see and for so many people in the future.”
A story to that really shows the importance of this community within the city.
Head to their Instagram or website to find out what's going on right now!
Then you can go back and listen to the mix '15 Years Of Music At Islington Mill' that features so many bands that Emma has put on and really given a spotlight to.