Meet the Welfare Babes of Superstore
Meet the Welfare Babes of Superstore
Please join us in welcoming Dani, Maya, and Sterling to the Superstore fam!
Edited by Wanda Whatever
If you’ve been to Superstore, you know that starting around 9pm Friday through Sunday, you can find yourself immersed in the joyful mish mash of queer mayhem spreading across its two floors that have forged essential, developmental memories and relationships necessary for London’s queer communities to thrive. However, there has been rising awareness in the scene for the need of welfare in nightlife spaces – a necessary force specifically committed to aiding personal wellbeing of partygoers, conflict management, and/or serve as counsel for other issues that may arise on the dance floor.
In the last several months, Superstore has sought to address some of these concerns by creating the Welfare Team: three absolutely stunning individuals you’ll see around the venue in pink high-vis crop tops from now until – well, eternity hopefully? It is the Mothership, after all, and there is no time in space.
In case you don’t already feel very taken care of basking in the beauty of these pictures by Henri T, we’ve asked them some questions to get to know them a little better!
Pictured from left to right: Maya, Dani, and Sterling by Henri T
Hey! What’s up? Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you’ve been up to!
STERLING: Hey guuurls, my name is Sterling. I’m a DJ and music producer on the London queer techno circuit. Queer nightlife has given me the most beautiful thing that seemed out of reach for so long – community.
DANI: Hi hi, I’m Dani Dinger! I’m pretty… eclectic I think is the word! You can find me heading up the new queer nightlife agency Safe Only Ltd. I’m so into nightlife wellbeing, wowww. I’ve just qualified as a security guard, so I hope soon you’ll see me on the door at Superstore giving you the welcome you deserve! I also work on the welfare team at FOLD, for the techno inclined amongst you.
Outside of welfare and nightlife (is there another life???) I’m in the tranny trash mega girl group The Trashettes, often found screeching in the basement at the Glory – I’m learning the drums like every good riot grrrrrrrl. I work with The Love Tank/Team PrEPster, oversharing graciously in the name of sexual health, and I also run two community archive events with the Bishopsgate Institute, and the London Metropolitan Archive! Oh, and I’m a tourguide with Queer Tours of London! So I guess I’ve been up to…. All of that!
MAYA: Hi! I’m Maya, the QTIPOC welfare officer at Superstore, and the latest addition to the team! In my spare time I run the QPOCPROJECT, which is an organisation I set up a while ago centring queer people of colour in the UK. Most of the activism I partake in platforms and elevates the voices, experiences, joy, and talent of queer people of colour.
‘Welfare’ in itself can be a pretty broad term. How do you think it most actively applies to queer nightlife spaces?
D: I think queer nightlife spaces are really make or break, in terms of welfare. They’re either going to give you hardjoy, validation, community, elation, memories, dance magic, or they can be a real nightmare when you go in expecting or hoping to find all those things and you’re met with the total opposite: spaces that alienate, practice non-care, and are exploitative. Welfare is about celebrating the reasons we need these spaces, and incorporating that celebration into how the space is managed. Queers bring their whole selves for a night out – we can’t switch off those parts of ourselves that are trickier, or gel less with the #goodvibesonly, and we shouldn’t have to. And that means welfare practitioners and nightlife organisers need to provide for each complete person. We need to be trauma informed, have a stake in the enjoyment of the community we’re working with, and be able to bring relatability to the work.
M: I think Welfare in the context of a night out extends beyond just the physical act of care. Yes, we do look out for those who have perhaps had too much to drink but we also want to create this feeling of safety where our customers know that we are going to be looking out for them tonight, tomorrow, and whenever they plan their next trip to Superstore. There are so many weird and wonderful situations we end up in as welfare workers. Each is more interesting and wholesome than the next: from cleaning up sick, to reassuring someone in the smoking area that this space is created for them. No matter what their queer journey looks like, we want to provide that ultimate level of authentic, long term care.
S: To me, queer nightlife and hedonism is about completely ignoring the patriarchal and capitalist moral superstructure imposed on us by the cistem. However, as queer people, we learn that killing the cop in our head and deciding our own system of right and wrong means we will make mistakes and upset people on occasion, especially when we are intoxicated. Therefore, the welfare role is primarily about guiding this process and intervening where you think someone might have lost sight of somebody else’s feelings.
Why do you think Welfare positions are important?
M: I think it is absolutely insane that the welfare role rarely exists within nightlife culture. Welfare is hugely important in the context of night life! Superstore has a great sense of community attached to it which in turn already creates an atmosphere of safety within our space, however, even within Superstore where we are very mindful of our customers, we still need to jump into action mode when we can see that someone could be in a potentially dangerous or unsafe situation. Now, in the context of any other night club, particularly a non-community centred/queer/larger space, the level of care is most likely going to be dramatically lower and the risk of dangerous situations arising (whether that be drug related, sexual assault, spiking, etc.) goes up.
Welfare is like a fresh set of eyes which are there to make sure that everybody gets home safe, healthy and well.
S: I just have so many examples. I have reunited unconscious people left on the street with their friend groups. It is much easier for people to confide the issues they are having in the club to me that they would feel embarrassed to go to security with. I am able to notice things even if the people involved in a situation don’t, and check up on them. I have definitely prevented harassment and instances of assault.
I have been a therapist for many people in the Superstore toilets, and they have told me I have genuinely helped.
D: I know they’re important! So many reasons… Thinking back to all the moments I was not having the best time on a night out, and I didn’t know who to speak to or what to do. I get anxious, I get overwhelmed, I get too [!!!!!!], like everybody! I’ve been harassed, assaulted, lost (physically or otherwise), and sometimes I don’t feel able to talk to the people I’m with about what’s going on, or I don’t want to, or I want the security of an intervention that’s structured and well prepared. For all those times, welfare positions are important! I take a calling in approach, rather than a pushing out, and people are usually so receptive to that, even when we’re having a sensitive or complex interaction.
Often, though, it’s about having someone to share your excitement with – it’s not all doom and gloom! If you’re just feeling triumphant and having the most wonderful night, you want to tell the whole room! So having a cute and highly interested welfare worker is a good place to start ?
What brought you to be interested in applying to be a part of the Welfare team?
M: I couldn’t resist applying for the QTIPOC welfare role. The experiences of QTIPOC in nightlife culture are often not positive because we are almost made to mould ourselves to our surroundings, even if it is queer. Recently, I have thought of the QTIPOC community as ‘shapeshifters’ when it comes to nightlife. My flatmate (who is non-binary) and I do our makeup, our nails, and wear our most extravagant, loud, daring outfits to brave our way into the world. Within the four walls of our house, we are the proudest and most liberated versions of ourselves. But as soon as we leave the front door – the walk to the underground, the security checks before the club and even on the dancefloor – we are forced to shapeshift into a more diluted and often repressed version of ourselves. Admittedly, at Dalston Superstore this is something most of us do not feel we are forced to do. It is a space we feel welcomed to be our most authentic selves. However, I wanted so badly to make the experiences of queer people of colour better in any way I can, I wanted to feel safe and simultaneously provide safety. There is also a tremendous sensation of wanting to give something I never had. My QTIPOC family and I have often not felt safety, or what it is like to be celebrated on a night out. This is something that Superstore can give to us all.
S: I can only motivate myself to do work I care about – I will just skive off otherwise. I also knew it would be a ticket to so many cute moments and a chance to get to know East London even better. Even though I’m sober in this role, I’m able to joke with people and I enjoy it so much!
D: I’ve worked in nightlife and support/welfare based roles for a really long time now, in lots of different situations. My background is in addiction recovery, care work, and homelessness support, whilst simultaneously in performing arts, event management, and nightlife. So, welfare is a real coming together of all those different practices, and I just fucking love it basically. Like all good East London queers, I adore Superstore with all my being. The mothership is a beating heart, and I get a real kick out of working on each party.
Do you have any advice or tips for folks to consider when thinking about their own welfare?
S: Make as many friends in the space as you can (including me!) and watch out for each other.
D: Two words: Harm reduction. This applies to alcohol and drugs, but also to any situation where there’s the potential to cause harm. Go in prepared, especially if you’re doing, or plan to do, something new (a new venue, new drug, new people). Manage your expectations and have some idea of what to do if things don’t go to plan, and share that with your friends in advance.
Curiosity did NOT kill the cat, but it did help her figure out how to have the most wonderful night out! Be curious about yourself, your feelings, your emotions, your experiences, and apply that curiosity to how you regard others.
Remember that the welfare worker is there for YOU! Use them, they are trained to be able to manage situations that might have you feeling out of your depth, or unfamiliar. They will always listen to you, believe you, and have your back.
M: It’s hard to say. I think the biggest thing I’ve learnt on the job in terms of welfare, is about who you are visiting Superstore with. I think as an act of self-care and care for others, it is important that you trust those around you and that they have your best interests at heart.
Do you have any advice or tips for folks to consider when thinking about the welfare of others?
D: Your presence has a direct impact on others’ experiences, just as their presence affects you. You don’t need intimate knowledge of a person to be able to tell if they’re inching away from you on the dance floor because they want that little bit of space, or to try and gauge if they want to be speaking to you or perhaps they’d like to be doing something else – just a maintained level of awareness. Celebrate a ‘no thanks’ as much as a ‘yes please’ – welcoming clear consent or non-consent (which is anything that isn’t clear consent!) goes a long way towards everyone having the experience they want, which is the dream, right? We all put our foot in it at times, we all say the wrong thing… be receptive if it becomes clear that you’ve messed up – apologize, check in that everything is okay, and move on. Trust others to trust you!
If you’re struggling to be receptive to others’ signals and boundaries, that’s a good moment to consider whether it’s time for you to stop and rest for a bit, or perhaps to go home, or back to a space where there’s more familiarity. There’s no shame attached making that decision ?
M: Care for your friends whenever you are able. For us, once we know that the individual we are looking after is supported by somebody else in the venue or outside of the venue, it is a huge relief for us. This isn’t to say that you should be rocking up with your best friends in the whole wide world or with anyone for that matter. It just means that it is important to feel supported in more ways than just us on the Welfare Team, aftercare is so incredibly important, we can provide after care for sure but we also want to make sure you are mentally, physically and emotionally ok when you get home.
S: Accept that most issues you will face are the result of simple miscommunications – this can help you process things that might upset you. Don’t relish the opportunity to make a scene because this will probably just end up triggering more people around you. If you sense a problem, move vulnerable people away and then discuss how to proceed or come straight to me or any staff.
Okay, so like, we’ve been talking lots of welfare-y things, but tell us more about you. What’s an obsession you’ve had lately?
D: An obsession… other than welfare?! I have to say my new record player that my friend found on the street that turned out to be in perfect working order (people of Haggerston are wild about throwing things away!). I’ve been having a ball building up my record collection. I now know that every single charity shop has at least one Des O’Connor record. What a treat! I’m always obsessed with tattoos. About 30% of the conversations I have with people in the Superstore toilets are about tattoos! I’m just full of juicy juicy love for all the trans tattoo artists out there, especially Billy Slicks and Jamie Boy King, who have decorated me so beautifully.
M: Hmm, obsession… that’s a tricky one. I am a bit obsessed with Jack Harlow’s new tune, First Class. Give that a listen if you can. I am also a bit obsessed with literally everyone who works at Superstore and all the customers. Everyone is just so nice and welcoming, it was such a shock to see because often there is a feeling of hostility in the nightlife scene, but at Superstore it’s always very chill.
S: Recently, I have been very obsessed with bimbofication and becoming a real slag, basically. I went through a rather wholesome era where I was obsessed with turning these interesting and very intricate draggy looks to the club, and it’s been fun to just strip down, show skin, and shake my ass. Safe to say, it has provided me with many highly pleasurable benefits.
What are some of your favorite community spaces, parties, and resources available to queer folks now?
+ Transvisions: every Wednesday night at Superstore
S: A really nice way to keep in touch with your community during the long hard weekdays. Sometimes there is a real issue with queer people only seeing their support network whilst intoxicated at the weekend.
+ QPOCPROJECT: organisation for queer people of colour
M: Not to sound too biased, but the QPOCPROJECT nights (which are welcome to everybody, QTIPOC or not) are extremely fun. I would really recommend coming to our next night out called the “Where Are You FROM From?” event. We also have a QTIPOC gig on monday the 18th of April which we would recommend.
+ CliniQ and 56T at Dean Street: wellbeing and sexual health services for trans and nonbinary individuals
D: Like so many trans people, I owe my life to CliniQ and 56T at Dean Street, which still runs every Wednesday whatever the weather: providing life affirming sexual and holistic healthcare for trans people when the rest of the healthcare system has totally abandoned us.
+ Fussy: bi-monthly party at Superstore
D: My heart will forever belong to Fussy Party.
+ Contrapoints: on Youtube
S: Contrapoints will forever be one of my top recommendations for people who want to understand a bit more about queer philosophy and theory, and is very applicable to nightlife and your everyday life.
+ Fèmmme Fraîche: bi-monthly party at Superstore
D: I love love love Femmme Fraiche so hard!
+ FOLD: artist-led, community-driven nightclub and arts space
D: whatever the night is, it’s just such a gritty juicy firepit of love, I’ve had some of my most transportive clubbing moments there.
+ Glasshouse London: multidisciplinary LGBTQIA+ venue
M: Very, very welcoming and accepting of QTIPOC and hold allyship to the highest degree.
+ Transmissions: Monday nights at VFD
+ PxssyPalace: club night that celebrates and centres queer women, trans, non-binary, and intesex BIPOC
+ Urban World :QTIPOC party promoters
What would you say is the best way for folks to seek out support or say hello to you while you are working?
D: You can’t miss me, I’m the hairy hotty looking pleased as punch in my adorable bright pink cropped T and matching cap, both with the Superstore Logo splashed across them! I’m usually based in the toilets (queers hanging about in the toilets?! Who knew!), just doing the good work trying to make that fifteen year queue that little bit more engaging. Honestly, I live for whatever you want to say to me, so please don’t be shy. If you can’t find me there, just ask anyone at the bar and they can radio for me. It’s a slick operation alright!
S: I am usually in the toilets, which really is the beating heart of superstore as you will know if you have visited before. I always turn a look, even though I’m at “work”, so keep an eye out for my pink crop top and some blingy accessories. Otherwise just talk to any Superstore staff you see walking around they can help you or can radio me.
M: Well, I am normally standing in the toilets downstairs with a smiley face. I have a pink crop top on and a cap. I am always happy to have any kind of conversation even if it just starts with ‘hello’. I don’t want anyone to feel as though they can only come and talk to us if there is something wrong. We are there to chat to you any time and to make you feel comfortable, so please do not hesitate to say hello.
Anything else you’d like us to know? Where can we follow you and your work?
STERLING: Come and see me DJ if you fancy and follow me on Instagram if I’m your type: @poundsterl1ng.
DANI: Ohhhh well if you really want to know more, I guess you’ll just have to come and chat to me at Superstore, won’t you! But, you can follow my band and my nightlife agency on Instagram at @thetrashettesldn, and @safeonlyltd. But really, the best place to follow me is into the club ?
MAYA: Please give the @QPOCPROJECT a follow if you can on instagram. Let your friends know and support us in any way you can pretty please, alternatively send us an email to email@example.com, or visit the website. My own personal Instagram is @_taco.uk (I am half mexican so the name felt fitting, haha).
We told you they were stunning! Now you know everything there is to possibly know about Dani, Maya, and Sterling – there couldn’t possibly be more, surely! But maybe next time you see them around Superstore on a weekend, you should say hey to them to find out if we’re wrong. Who knows; maybe there are entire unexplored galaxies in each and every one of them, just waiting for you to reach out and learn more.
Got any more questions or feedback for us? We’re always interested in hearing from you and learning how we can do better. Shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll look forward to chatting with you soon!
Meet the Welfare Babes of Superstore