Introduction: Play On by Samia Rahman

I could feel the sweat trickling down the back of my neck. The air was rarefied, and as I breathed in it seemed inexplicably cold. I was wearing an above-the-knee strappy dress with opaque tights. It was too hot to wear tights but I hadn’t been out in public with bare legs since I was eleven years old and I was not about to start now. Plumes of dry ice periodically wafted over the crowd, reducing all vision so I could barely see my hand in front of my face. In those moments I could have been anywhere, set adrift by the hypnotic, rhythmic beats of the tracks as they pounded from the makeshift sound system with Josh Wink’s Higher. State. Of. Consciousness. Agitated by an enthusiastic smoke machine, I asked someone whether the fog was toxic. Apparently not. It was just vaporised carbon dioxide, or was it liquid nitrogen. What certainly was toxic, however, was the sea of lit cigarettes lighting up the cavernous room like fireflies. Also lit up were everyone’s eyes. Wide.

I had been to a club before, with school friends to celebrate finishing our A levels. The type of place which would refuse you entry if you were wearing trainers. Where the music was cheesy but dance-able. Where everyone was dressed smart/casual and would get drunk and obnoxious, and the atmosphere was heavy with aggression and misogyny. Resolutely sober I felt awkward and a bit revolted. It was not my kind of place at all. This, however, was an entirely different experience. We had trekked through a faceless industrial estate in London’s Docklands, functional and un-pretty buildings forming our landscape deep in urbanity but far from all things residential. We only knew we were getting close to our destination as the heavy thump of the bass, suddenly discernible, became gradually louder and eventually deafening.

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