- Words Josephine Amstad
- Photographer Vic Lentaigne
After helming one of the most influential LGBTQ+ club nights, Sink the Pink, for fourteen years, Glyn Fussell tries his hand as a wordsmith with his Manifesto for Misfits - a rebel’s anti-rulebook about leaping headfirst into your wildest fears.
Glyn Fussell is someone you could call a modern-day renaissance man. Having dipped his fingers in many different pies from podcasts to fashion shoots to radio shows and, of course, nightlife, the next step on his path was sitting down and collating all his expertise into a book.
However, before promoting his next big project, Glyn knew he had to say goodbye to his baby of fourteen years Sink the Pink. Although it seemed like Sink the Pink was at the height of its success – having toured his STP family all over the world from New York to Singapore – it was instinct that told him it was time to call it quits. From its humble beginnings occupying Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club, Sink the Pink has metamorphosed into a world-renowned LGBTQ+ (and beyond) collective and club night with a focus on taking those from all walks of life under their wing. Creating a safer (and more glittery) space for those to tap into their true self unabashedly, Sink the Pink has been instrumental in elevating the LGBTQ+ community from the underground into the mainstream. In essence, Glyn and his Sink the Pink troupe have made strides in remapping clubland as we know it today, to make it a more inclusive, queer and glorious space.
Throwing a ‘Farewell Ball’ extravaganza at London’s Printworks on the 15th of April, filled to the rafters with a 6000-strong crowd, marked the end of an iconic era. Although emotional, it did feel as though things had come full circle: ‘Everything I wanted it to be when it first started out, it was so true to that on the final night,’ Glyn explains. ‘I wanted it to be this escapist fantasy where everybody was welcome.’
Rewind to lockdown – faced with the luxury of having time on his hands for the first time in years, Glyn finally had a chance to think about what he wanted to do next. Realizing he had become a leader figure within his community, Glyn knew he wanted to distil the spirit of Sink the Pink into a book. And so, Sink the Pink’s Manifesto for Misfits was born. With elements of Glyn’s own story and cameos from a myriad of fellow famous misfits from Lily Allen, to YUNGBLUD to The Spice Girls’ Mel B, the book is about taking risk: ‘Just chuck yourself into the grey area in life – it shouldn’t be called grey area because the whole fucking kaleidoscope is there!’
One thing Glyn doesn’t want his book to be seen as, though, is a lesson in self-help: ‘writing a self-help book is putting yourself first person and saying, “You should do it like this.” I’m not saying that. I’m saying that people hold the power to do it themselves.’ Flamboyant on every page, with chapter headers like “You’ve Got the Power”, “Find Your Tribe” and “Chase Your Joy”, the book is a jubilant explosion of colour and entertainment, but more importantly, in Glyn’s words, it’s ‘a repositioning tool’ to help people feel less alone. It’s a work that very much stays true to the ethos of Sink the Pink and continues Glyn’s mission of uplifting and celebrating the misfits who don’t quite conform into a single box or binary.
To celebrate the release of his book on the 3rd of May, dive into Glyn’s interview with Notion as he discusses Sink the Pink’s legacy, how writing a book was the biggest challenge of his life, and the importance of finding your cheerleaders in life.
Hi Glyn, how are you?
We’ve just come off the final ever Sink the Pink and so my head is still a little bit spinning after that really, but in the best way, it was magnificent!
I wanted to ask you about Sink the Pink, so maybe we can kick off with that. The final event was at Printworks on the 15th of April. How was it?
It sold out in eight minutes! It was so strange for me because it felt like the last and yet, in many ways, it felt like the most frenzied. It felt like it was our most popular. I was thinking about it this week, and I just thought, everything I wanted it to be when it first started out, it was so true to that on the final night.
I wanted it to be this escapist fantasy where everybody was welcome. What was insane is that there were people that were sixteen, people who had just started going out clubbing. I remember looking down at the beginning of the night, because it was packed by nine – we only opened at eight – packed with 6000 people. I looked down from the balcony and the first thing I noticed that everyone was dancing in circles, dancing to each other.
The beauty of Sink the Pink is you go with a group of friends, or you meet a group of friends. And you’re really connected. And I just thought to myself, ‘I feel fucking proud of that.’ I feel that we’ve enhanced club land in such a beautiful way. There’s been a nonstop outpouring of love since. Very overwhelming but it’s been beautiful all the same!
Because Sink the Pink has been so wildly successful, how did you know it was time to say goodbye?
I think instinct really. Due to the success of Sink the Pink and therefore in turn, the success of myself personally and professionally, I’ve learnt to know myself way better. It’s not only given me that, but given everyone that. Sink the Pink has been this wonderful playground and wonderful sort of cultural sponge for people to come together and leave knowing way more about themselves. The one thing it has done for me – other than made me realise that all the craziest parts of my personality are actually my best bits and most successful – more than that, it’s really made me tuned into what gets me off, what makes me tick, what my instinct is telling me to do. It’s really taught me how to trust that. Ever since I started doing that it means I’ve run headfirst into decisions without any deliberation. And I would say that they’re always the right thing.
If you look back in history, 14 years is a long time for any club night to be around. I think Studio 54 was 10 years. Ultimately, you have to remember that when I first started, I was 27 and I’m now 41. So, it just means I’m in a different place and so it starts making you think, well, surely, everyone that’s coming is in a different place. That’s not the case for Sink the Pink. Our crowd has diversified even more, there’s still new people coming whilst the old people still feel very welcome. It just felt like the right time. I was thinking about this the other day, Sink the Pink is the event, but the legacy of Sink the Pink is all the people that are starting club nights in London now that are inspired or informed by Sink the Pink.
Yes, I was going to ask, what legacy do you feel like you’ve left behind with Sink the Pink?
I would say to paint outside the lines. I think that Sink the Pink is – and everything I stand for is – collecting those people that don’t necessarily fit in anywhere. The weirdos, the underdogs, the naughty kids, the punks, the rebels. All of those people I naturally have always gravitated towards. I realised that’s because, ultimately, I am that person. Before, you know, you come out as gay, or anyone that moves to a big city, you come here and you think, ‘Oh, I’m going to instantly find my people.’ Right? And that just does not happen. I think it took me to setting up this place where it could be about difference, rather than everyone looking the same.
The legacy of Sink the Pink it’s given people the freedom and the space to really tune into those things, the things that make them different. The things that make them off or weird, and actually use them as their superpower and strength. It gives them the confidence to do so. And isn’t that more interesting? I think so.
From starting Sink the Pink 14 years ago to now, you must have seen the party landscape transform. What do you feel is a major difference from when you started to now? Both in the event itself, but also the wider party scene in general?
I think the main change in both of those things, is that our community is crossed over from the underground to the mainstream. You know, with things like drag race, and I think that’s nothing but a good thing. That’s something that Sink the Pink has been instrumental in doing. We pushed that agenda. At the beginning, I spent my life banging on doors, to be like ‘We’re amazing! I know we’re not what you know, but we are amazing. Book us!’ We would just be laughed at. I would be laughed at. And that just motivated me to go hard. And then all of a sudden there’s a shift. And that shift was so massive, and so big. And I just feel really proud of that, that we played some part in the mainstream. We know this, the mainstream is always 10 years behind what’s coming *laughs*. And then what they love to do is claim that they were the people that did it. Like, no babes, seriously, we’ve been here a long time asking for you to see us.
So, I would say that’s been the biggest change. It means that the scene has changed. Sink the Pink was very much all about everyone being on the same level. Well, all of a sudden, when someone’s on a TV show, and is thrust into the spotlight, it does change the dynamic, but it doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing, I think that you just have to adapt to that. If there’s one thing that we’ve done as a club night – which is why we have been here 14 years – is we’re very adaptable. I’m a resilient cockroach of a human being. You could stick me anywhere! You could stick me on the North Pole and I’d still get those pink penguins dancing.
I always think that that’s part of my superpower, that I’m very resilient and malleable. There’s a part of me that quite likes the hardship of life. I like it when people don’t expect anything of me and you can prove them wrong. Yeah, there’s something kind of hot about that.
You’ve gone to so many places, like Glasto, New York, São Paulo. You must have so many memories, but do you have a favourite place that you’ve taken your Sink the Pink family to perform?
Yeah. You mentioned it then, I think São Paulo was the moment. You know, the thing that’s further enhanced with all of this is that I’m not going on my own. This all started with a bunch of friends. I would say that the majority, 90% of the people that were there at the beginning are still part of this.
When we went to São Paulo, and I think it was the first place we went when we were going on tour, we just had no expectations because we’d never done anything on that scale before. For us, we had a show, there was five or six of us. We were just excited that we were going on a long haul flight and not just going to Barcelona or somewhere. We were excited about the fact that we were going somewhere that felt like ‘Oh my God, look at us! We’re like the Spice Girls.’
So yeah, it was just really exciting. When we got there we were blown away by Brazil as a place and São Paulo, it’s such a cultural difference. But also, there’s a level of freedom that we take for granted in this country that was, at that point in time, being taken away from all the Brazilian LGBTQ people. And that’s why it felt even more important.
There’s a real chaos and a maverick-ness to the scene in the way that things are done in Brazil and I love that. I’m not a big lover of rules. I like it when people piss all over a rulebook and Brazil is really like that. What was amazing is we performed on what I can only describe as this giant moving truck – four trucks glued together. We went down the main freeway and there were 4 million people and we performed for – I think it was the most attended pride in the world ever. You’re going down, there’s buildings, people hanging out of buildings, you look down and, everyone was, not only in it, but going for it as if their lives depended on, because their lives did.
It was just this amazing exchange of energy. We were on stage for three hours, I think. Because I was so excited, and kind of lost in it, I set light to a flare that I was holding. And obviously you’re supposed to let go, and I didn’t. I held it and I still have the burns all over my hand. But it was worth it. When we got off when we reached the other end, after about two or three hours, a car picked us up. We got in the car, we all looked at each other and just burst into tears. And that was very special.
The best bit about going to all these places, though, is really just having these experiences with people. Back when I was younger, I backpacked around the world and I did it on my own. And I think I think the memories die when you don’t have people to share them with because you don’t keep telling each other. So, the best thing for me is that not only have I had these experiences, but I’ve had them on an amazing professional platform with people that are essentially my chosen family. So that’s the most special bit. And some of the memories for me are stupid things like the after party that we had in the hotel room and nearly got evicted, you know all the naughty bits. They’re all the bits I like.
A lot of your work like Sink the Pink and The Mighty Hoopla is very outward-facing. So how did you navigate Covid when it hit, because I feel like so much of that you do is about connecting with people?
I wrote a book! You know what happened, I had lots of things I wanted to do in the future but the future for me was always passed Sink the Pink, because obviously that took so much of my time. I’d say within the past five years, I’ve really taken my position within this community very seriously, because I recognised it and I realised all of a sudden that I was a leader within the scene. And I realised the power that could have, and I realised that I was very good at helping people manoeuvre and navigate and elevate people that were lost.
When the lockdown happened, once I got over my initial like hiding in bed and screaming for days, I just thought to myself, ‘Okay, well, right now what can I do? What experiences do I have, lived experiences?’ and I also realised that I wanted other people involved in the book. So, you know, other famous misfits, YUNGBLUD, Melanie C, Skin from Skunk Anansie. All these amazing people that I thought normally wouldn’t have the time to talk to me. And the one thing we had is the luxury of time. I just set about thinking about the kind of book that I wanted to write.
I wanted to say congratulations on the book! I really enjoyed it.
Thank you! Well, I didn’t want it to be like an autobiography. I didn’t want it to be the story of Sink the Pink. I wanted it to be a collection of lived experiences. I wanted this book to be a repositioning tool so that anyone that’s going through anything, can pick it up and they can read the whole thing or they can grab sections, from myself or from Melanie C, and say, ‘You know what, I relate to that and I’m going to live my life a little bit differently.’ I think sometimes all it takes is one person to lead you somewhere that you’ve not explored before, in your mind or physically or emotionally, and then push you and you can change the way you live.
I’ll be honest, the book that I ended up writing far surpassed my initial idea. I spent so long kind of really exploring what I wanted. And I think the best thing about the luxury of time was that I ended up writing a book with the reader in mind, rather than just me going, ‘I did this. I did that.’ I wanted to write a book that was reader led, so that anyone could get something from it.
I resonated with the idea of unlearning the self-sabotage and facing your fears. When it came to the book, were you excited to write it and create in this medium? Or did you see this as a challenge that you had to overcome? What challenges arose when writing it?
I love that you ask me that. Because the biggest, biggest challenge of my life was writing the book. I have two GCSE’s. I come from a place where education was not a priority. It took me a lot longer in life to figure out how to get places, because I had to navigate it in a way that was quite unconventional. I spent my whole life having the worst impostor syndrome. And I think that’s something we all relate to. Whether that’s in business, whether that’s within my own community, whether that’s in my family, I’ve always felt like that weird one that doesn’t fit in. The more and more I spoke to people about this book, I realised that we all have that.
You don’t need to be a person of colour or a queer person or trans person to feel Other, you know? You might feel it more in a different way, in a more heightened way in reality, but we all feel at certain points, especially post-pandemic, like, ‘Fuck! Who am I? What the fuck am I doing here? What is the point?’
I really wanted to drum on that. Someone asked me the other day, ‘Oh so you’ve written a self-help book?’ And I was like, ‘No, because I think writing a self-help book is putting yourself first person and saying, “You should do it like this.”’ I’m not saying that. I’m saying that people hold the power to do it themselves. And I just want to kind of leave them there to connect with that. But I found it probably the most challenging thing I’ve ever done, ever.
You’ve done so many things, like podcasts, radio and photoshoots, which is one thing, but I think going introspective and getting words on a page can be so challenging.
I just wanted it to have the impact I intended. You always want your intention and the reality to connect, don’t you? But sometimes that’s not easy. I had to figure it out as I went, and I made a lot of mistakes. It took me a long time and I really took my time with it. I’m glad in a weird way, I can’t believe I’m saying this, I’m glad for the fact that the world stood still with the pandemic. I could really, really take my time and I wasn’t up against all the other stuff in my life.
It had so many fantastic resources and other bits of literature throughout, which is really useful to have in one place.
I just felt that the things that we must do as minorities in life, is we have a responsibility to pass down our stories. We have a responsibility to pass down our line of culture. And I think that mainstream society tries for that not to happen. They try to erase us from history. They tried to shrink us and tell us that we must fit into this line of what it is to be successful, to be seen.
Like I said, I’m at a point in my life where I’m 40 now. There wasn’t that many resources for me to connect other than literature. I remember reading Armistead Maupin novels growing up and it was the first time I could see that there was an option for me to have a different life, a chosen family. And that changed my life. I just thought, well, what can I do? I can be really like smug about what I’ve created and sit on my hands and go, ‘I had a good time but I’m not going to tell you about it.’ Or, I can pass this forward and that is passing the line of my culture forward.
I feel really proud of that in the book. Even if it just informed someone that has just arrived in London, or that’s just having a bit of a shit time, you know, they don’t need to be queer, but just to just to go, ‘Oh right, you’re not alone!’ Because ultimately, we all want to feel connected, especially now as we’re learning to reconnect again, after this terribly bleak time.
In your manifesto you discuss the importance of reclaiming the title of ‘misfit’ and being proud to wear it as a badge. Can you think of figures you had growing up, whether they were in the media or in culture, or people you knew personally, that let you know it was okay to be different?
Yeah. I would say that I was always drawn privately – actually that’s a really key part – privately, to certain people growing up. David Bowie, Bjork, Boy George, all of those people. But I would never tell people I was fans of them. But I would just secretly like pursue and secretly buy magazines that Boy George was in and read about him.
To really claim your misfit title takes running headfirst into your fears and being brave. And it takes courage. And it only takes one small step of courage at first, but it does take courage. And honestly, when I was younger, I was too busy trying to fit in and, and be seen as normal. I didn’t want anyone to understand what was really going on inside, which was maniac! *laughs*
That’s why I always say, visibility is so fucking important. Just by seeing someone that you connect with as a small kid. My niece is Black and she goes to a predominantly white school, and I didn’t realise the impact I had one Christmas when she was younger buying her a Black Barbie. I didn’t realise the impact of that, because she had not seen herself in all of these things that all the other kids saw as the perfect woman. The power of that, is so damaging. Do you know what I mean? it is so toxic. We’re subconsciously told all of this without being told. That’s the problem. I remember, it’s just, it made her feel really great about herself.
Not only do we have to find the things and see and have visibility outwardly, but we need to force ourselves in situations to make ourselves as visible as possible. Because us being repressed and shrunk down and judged, that’s never going to go away. I mean, I’d love to think it will, but it won’t. I think we just have to take that space as our own, which I do. At every given opportunity.
You’ve already mentioned some of the iconic people you’ve collaborated with, like Mel B. Do you have any dream collaborators you’d like to work with?
I’ve collaborated with him a bit, but I just adore him. He’s actually in the book – YUNGBLUD. YUNGBLUD for me, I kind of know him and he’s just so exciting as an artist. He just so genuinely is that person that’s like ‘Fuck you! I’m doing it my way.’ He manages his life. He’s got such unbelievable warmth behind that attitude. I’ve seen him out and about and the way he is with people. He loves people and he connects. I’m always excited by his stardom.
I’m sure people think, ‘Oh, is he gonna say RuPaul?’ No, no interest. I’m always drawn to those rebellious characters that are just doing stuff against the grain. Those people are really exciting. So yeah, I love I love him. I think he’s just phenomenal. So, he’d be a good one.
You also talk about the importance of finding your cheerleaders in life, and your tribe and your chosen family. How has it been working so closely with your best friend Amy Redmond (Amy Zing), and creating something as special as Sink the Pink?
Well, for a start I would not even be sat here without her because she was the first person that really pulled out that inner weirdo in me and pushed me, she literally pushed me on the stage and said, ‘This is who you are, this is what you have to do.’ And she just gave me confidence. And really, that’s what I mean by cheerleader. It takes one person. It takes one person telling you that you’re the greatest.
We’ve known each other for a long time. We’ve known each other for decades. She’s now a mother. She’s gone from having this chosen family to a real family, well not that one’s not real, but biological family I should say. She lives out of London. So, the dynamic changes. But I think that’s life. I’ve talked about being adaptable before. And I think what’s really amazing with us, with the final Sink the Pink that just happened, we were there holding hands at the front of the stage on the first one. And we were there on the final song holding hands at the front on that last one. We just looked at each other and just cried our eyes out, and then laughed so hard that I weed a bit in my pants, which we told each other and then we went and got a taxi and went home.
There are such unique situations in life that just because life changes doesn’t mean that it changes. I think it just further enhances your friendship. It’s been amazing. And it’s been amazing that the dynamic of mine and Amy’s friendship has sort of formed the DNA of how we interact with people at Sink the Pink, which is to cheerlead someone along. When she moved away and started having a family that became my sole role. And I started doing that for people, she does that, you know, she started Margate Pride. We just have that in us. We are those people that just get off on lifting people up. It’s an amazing thing to be able to do for someone, to see someone win, and feel like you’ve played a small part in. It’s magnificent.
And how do you suggest that people find their own cheerleaders?
Do things that scare you. You need to find those risk takers. I was terrified to move to London, but I knew I had to be here. And then I met Amy at an audition for a music video, which I was terrified about. And that was that. I think going to an audition or even – it could be anything! Like, ‘Oh, you know, what I would love to be an amateur wrestler!’ As niche as that is, you might not end up being a wrestler, but you might go and meet someone because they’re going after things they want that you connect with and then your life changes.
You’ve got to step out of the binaries and the boxes that are given to you. And just chuck yourself into the grey area in life – it shouldn’t be called grey area because the whole fucking kaleidoscope is there! That’s when you really start living. I think that’s when you really start exploring different people. I remember when me and Amy, when we discovered East London, it felt so dangerous for us back then, a long time ago. It felt really underground and cool. We were so drawn to it. We just chucked ourselves into it and we met some of the best people we’ve ever met. So, I would say take a risk. And if that feels really scary, just start pretending who that person is that you could be. Fake it till you make it. Go out and you’ll find that you become that person.
In your book you talk about the importance of creating your happy place, which again, could be with your chosen family, or a physical place. Where do you feel most at home?
God, do you know what the wildest thing is? After everything that I’ve created, now I’ve come full circle. I feel the most comfortable when I’m with my family back in Bristol, who I’ve spent my whole life running away from. And when I go home, when I get on the train, the minute I get into Somerset, my shoulders lower, I feel calm. And I think because, I don’t even know why I just, I think we’ve been on a journey together. You know, they’ll be at my book launch next week, they’re so proud of me. I’ve changed their mind about a lot of different things. For instance, my brothers and sisters, we’re all very close in age. My elder brother, there’s two years between us. And he’s married to my best friend, and we grew up hating each other. I mean, we just, we love each other so much. And so, I feel really proud of that. And I think, I love that in life, you know, when you go and you just you unapologetically say ‘fuck off’ to everything and everyone and make and just make yourself the most unashamed version of yourself.
And the irony is that in the end, those people that they were judging you in the first place, go, ‘Oh, my God, I admire that I want to do that’ and you end up giving it to them. And I would say that, you know, my brother’s changed a lot of big things in his life. I’m just gonna say, he’ll kill me for this. But he’s always done what he’s been told. And I think that seeing me step out and go after everything I believe and love. He’s taking bigger risks in life and changed what he sees the world to be or as he was told it should be. I just like being with people I love, really. I’m such a lover in life.
You’ve also discussed how manifestations and affirmations have helped you. So, what are your go-to affirmations? And what are you manifesting for the year ahead?
I would say that I’ve learned to just be my biggest cheerleader in life. I support myself so much in life. And I listen now, and I give myself the luxury of listening to what I need and what I deserve. That’s the key thing there: what I deserve.
And what am I going after? I’m going after everything that the two years of a pandemic robbed away from me. And I’m going to do it in a way that not only lifts me up but lifts other people up. I just feel in an unbelievably positive space in my life where I have a lot of things to share. And I just want to do that with people. I feel very equipped and very excited by that. I’m just going to go after everything in my wildest dreams because the weirdest thing is, those big dreams in life, people always tell you are just out of your reach. And it’s absolute bullshit. Every single thing I’ve ever gone after in life I’ve achieved.
People only tell you you can’t do something because they’re too scared to do it themselves. It’s as simple as that. You know, you’re the only person that can untap these things. And it might not look the way you thought it would look. I try always to go after the feeling and not the detail. So, I always try and chase the way I feel. I chase my joy and I chase going after things that made me feel excited or that just feel positive rather than going, ‘By February I must have achieved that’. I think that’s dangerous because I think that it never it never looks the way you think it’s going to look.
My last question is kind of just an extension of that. With so many amazing things you’ve achieved, what is left on your bucket list?
A holiday. That’s how I felt today. *laughs* I want to write. I just want to tell stories. I feel like I’ve told stories physically for a long time. I just want to make sure the misfits conquer the earth. We’ve been repressed all our life and told that we are wrong, or we are dirty or disgusting, or we’re stupid. We’re actually none of those things. We are everything. And so, that’s what I want to do.
Sink The Pink’s Manifesto For Misfits by Glyn Fussell is out on the 3rd of May (White Lion Publishing, £14.99)