‘A voice for our emotions’: Poland’s club scene fights for LGBTQ+ rights

As towns declare themselves ‘LGBT-free zones’, Polish DJs and musicians are leading furious opposition to widespread homophobia and police brutality

In August, as a giant bouncy castle was throwing a shadow on Warsaw’s baroque-style Ujazdów castle – home to the Centre for Contemporary Art – a party was under way. It was the last in To Be Real, an events series aimed at maximising the space’s fleeting inclusivity of Poland’s LGBTQ+ community. One of the artists was running late. “I came almost straight out of jail and played probably the most aggressive set in my life,” says DJ and producer Avtomat.

A day earlier, he had been arrested at a protest against the pre-trial detention of an LGBTQ+ rights campaigner known as Margot. Human Rights Watch described the government’s violent crackdown on activists as an attempt to crush dissent against state-sanctioned homophobia: the ruling Law and Justice party has pledged to fight “LGBT ideology” to protect the so-called traditional Polish family unit.

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‘A voice for our emotions’: Poland’s club scene fights for LGBTQ+ rights