The Cavalcade Club – queer circus fever dream!

words Anna Marsden & photography Jessica Lippa

In life there are places in which we frequent, places in which we find our people – people who help curate and support our interests, passions and morals. There are places of community that foster creativity, inclusivity and make it easy for us to be ourselves. We need these places for our sanity, for our safety and mainly, for our happiness.

The Cavalcade Club drag

Sociologist Oldenburg called one such place “The Third Place”. This is somewhere which is not home (The First Place) or work (The Second Place), it is our “Third Place”; a community of safety where we can be ourselves among others who share our values, providing us with support and fun. For any queer persons out there, may I suggest the fantastical circus of an event: The Cavalcade Club. This devilish club night in Manchester is a cauldron overflowing with dazzling cabaret and “circus carnage”. It is the ultimate anti-fairy tale, one where the dragons, demons and devils rule…all donned in leather.

Society is certainly not the kindest sometimes to that which is not understood, leaving those in underground subcultures excluded and judged in places such as home and work, therefore making the so called “third place” all the more vital. This is where the fantastical Cavalcade Club comes in, an anchor to people’s true selves and a magnet to a community of other queer cavaliers. A truly unique night, The Cavalcade Club is providing not only inclusion and ridiculous fun but also acceptance for all who walk through its doors. It is a “third place” that perfectly matches the needs of those who have searched and found the “miraculous melee of prodigious performers, delightful horrors and societal remonstrance!”.

Cavalcade Club

The club’s fire breathing pioneer and owner Ronnie Stone brought The Cavalcade Club to Manchester in 2023, launching his showstopping circus on Friday 13th October. Four months later, on Friday 23rd February 2024, there I was, queuing outside The Bread Shed, not realising just yet that this would be one of those nights in life that reveal to us parts of ourselves we didn’t quite know were there.

In my head was the club’s commonly used ethos: “Join the secret. #IWontTell”, and as I slipped in and joined in with the festivities, I suddenly became a part of that very secret.

It was ridiculously thrilling to be a part of the Cavalcade, a part of the circus and a part of the secret. At the time I didn’t quite know what the secret was. Now? I believe it is the event’s ability to allow one to be completely, brazenly, candidly, flagrantly, beautiful and fully themselves. In a world exhausting with constant judgement, it is incredible what a night without undermining, prejudiced opinions will do to your self-confidence. Every passing gaze was attached to a smile or a kind word. I felt welcomed, empowered and overwhelmed by the atmosphere of people being fiercely themselves.

The Cavalcade Club manchester

Hosted by the fabulous circus master and international Drag Queen Missie Jay Cockshort, the night was a treasure chest bursting with drag demons, hair hanging aerialists, burlesque fire performances and even an intense strip tease on a bed of nails. The line-up was jaw dropping to say the least, working the crowd up to a frenzy soundtracked by Hole, Grimes and Paramore anthems long into the night. Zehra Fire had all eyes on her as she played with fire, hammer and nails – a completely mesmerising performance. Jalien Muse-ick then took to the stage complete with incredible armpit hair extensions to showcase their wonderful demon drag act which was a testament to the fluidity of identity and gender. The evening also boasted some incredible Aerialist acts that made the event so much more than just a queer club night or circus; it was a showstopping celebration of talent and skill in all its forms. Alénee Aisha’s hair hanging spectacle was not only astonishing, but was teeming with feminine strength, hard work and resilience. Craig Mark’s circus act was similarly fantastic, he was a creative and talented aerialist, another performance that night which elevated Ronnie Stone’s club night to a whole other calibre of queer events.

On such a unique and eccentric night, it was impossible for everyone not to find solace surrounded by the queer talent and love that was on display. For those have found a safe haven in The Cavalcade Club, you could feel the unadulterated empowerment and pride in the air. It was electric with the disruption of societal judgement as the allure of DJ Olly Waldren’s mix of pop-punk drew people from the bar to the debauchery of the dance floor again and again to express themselves freely.

In the world we currently inhabit, a world that seems to be obsessed with labels, reasons and the customary, it was so stimulating to enter a smoky, dark room where the conventional has taken the day off. The norm was playing truant and, in its place, I got to explore an evening of pure sordid depravity at its finest. We were lost in an illicit speakeasy, disorientated in a dream-like cabaret of brilliant perversion and debauchery, consigned to an oblivion of this queer rock circus of “sideshow weirdos”. Faces were warping…it was as if I had fallen down the rabbit hole, the dancefloor was akin to the Bowie ball scene in the 1986 film Labyrinth… I was in a fantastic dream/nightmare that I really did not want to wake up from.

But we all must wake eventually and, as I drifted back out into chilly February night, I was warm in my blanket of all the joy I had just witnessed. Yet, I felt moved and unsettled on my journey home as I thought of all the magnificent cavaliers I got to meet and how they would all go back to their “first places” that night, their homes. I hoped that they had found solace that evening if they were returning to a reality of first and second places that lacked acceptance. I hoped that if they did not already, they now had a “third place”, an identity, a community, a place that provides an intermission from this planet without being removed from it. In a time where many would class the online world as their “third place”, it is vital that we have somewhere physical to explore our interests and ourselves.

At The Cavalcade Club, you will discover a piece of yourself that you never really knew existed; you are now a cavalier, and the club welcomes you, its doors open for those who need it. Whether introverted or extroverted, this queer night is for those lost souls searching for their “third place”. The Cavalcade Club is for open minded people whose values are rooted in the daring, a desire for the warped, a thirst for debauchery and in need of a hideaway to escape to every now and then.

Buy your tickets now for their next event on 24th May to not miss out on another night of their queer circus fever dream!

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