Ahead of their stage at the world famous Secret Garden Party, HE.SHE.THEY talk their recent Ibiza season, otherworldly surprises and future party plans.

With an ethos entrenched in inclusion, HE.SHE.THEY are the collective spreading positive vibes on dancefloors across the globe. There’s only one rule at their parties: love everyone and leave your prejudices at the door. Resetting nightlife and its focus became founders Steven Braines and Sophia Kearney’s mission when they realised there was an absence of places reflecting the diversity that defined house and techno music’s origins. Ever since, they’ve become an authentic part of the queer clubbing community at a time when many of these spaces are struggling to survive. 


Celebrating five years of dancefloor innovation, HE.SHE.THEY are currently embarking on a worldwide tour, which has seen them play iconic venues such as Amnesia in Ibiza. Their next stop? Secret Garden Party: the pioneering boutique event that really gives a shit about music, art and unhinged hedonism. Returning this year at the all-new Circus Maximus arena, the collective have curated a genre-spanning lineup of selectors at the top of their game. Balearic legend DJ Paulette, footwork revivalist SHERELLE and NYC polymath TYGAPAW are just a handful of highlights among the schedule’s countless names.


Promising a weekend like none other, SGP is back for its second year after a short hiatus. HE.SHE.THEY have become an important part of the festival’s family, and with their international pedigree growing at a rapid rate, the Circus Maximus stage will bring all the iconic moments you need from four days of straight revelling. 


Just remember, for HE.SHE.THEY, inclusivity is the mantra. Continually working with spaces behind the scenes to address imbalances in dance music, the collective has a busy summer ahead. Before they shutdown SGP, founders Steven and Sophia talk their recent Ibiza season, otherworldly surprises and future party plans.

Congratulations on five years of HE.SHE.THEY! To celebrate, you’ve been on tour around the US and Europe. How’s it been so far?

Steven: It’s been fun and exhausting, but more fun. It’s really nice to connect with the HE.SHE.THEY. family around the world, and it gives me so much hope that in so many different countries and cities there is so much community built on diversity and inclusion.

Has there been a favourite city or venue that you’ve played in?

Sophia: It’s so hard to pick! Ibiza and our Amnesia residency had really special moments. I think we brought something new to one of our favourite places. SGP last year was the first weekend festival I did with my brother, which was so fun and he got to see what I do for the first time. He said it was one of the best weekends of his life so that really moved me. He’s a drum and bass DJ so this year he has a couple of sets around the site, which I’m looking forward to supporting.

This month, you’ll be back on home soil for Secret Garden Party, which you’ve been involved with for many years. Can you give some insight into your relationship with the festival?

Steven: I first worked for SGP 15 years ago as an artist Liaison but, as a renowned chatterbox, I made friends with everyone, including the owner Freddie. I successfully pestered him to do a Little Horrors residency for Maya Jane Coles, which was fabulous and now we’re here for the second year with our mammoth HE.SHE.THEY. stage. I think it’s the second biggest on-site.

How have preparations been for the HE.SHE.THEY stage? Do you have a clear idea of what you want it to look like visually? 

Sophia: SGP really cares about their production. We are open to collaborating based on themes and what’s achievable as we know how crazy event production costs are. Our main goal is that the artists and the dancers are comfortable in their performance and connect with the crowd easily. Expect some out-of-this-world surprises at our stage this year! We are beyond excited and have a weatherproof stage, which settles my nerves no end haha.

You’ve curated an amazing lineup for the stage this year. What do you look for when booking artists? 

Steven: Thank you! We just look for people we’d like to rave to at a festival. It’s as simple as that. I’ve cajoled Heidi into doing a b2b with my drag alias Sandra Spitz, which should be worth the whole ticket price in itself! We have people from our label playing too, like Emily Nash, Wax Wings, SYREETA, Sister Bliss as Faithless, Blue Print, RYUSSI, Lili Chan, which is important for us too. We try to change it up each year.

Who are you excited to see this year that isn’t on your stage?

Sophia: Róisín Murphy, we are huge fans, Peaches is also a firm family favourite as she guested at our 5th birthday in London; it was such a moment. Fabio & Grooverider & The Outlook Orchestra will be outstanding also.

SGP is known for its wacky outfits. The theme this year is ‘Episode XVII: A New Hope’, have you got your outfits sorted yet?

Steven: I have lightsabers at home, because I’m a geek. I have a Darth Vader full suit but I’ve eaten one kebab too many in Ibiza so now I’m going to do Sandra Spiitz as Princess/General Leia… if Leia was Northern and owned a bed and breakfast in Blackpool. It won’t be as classy as it sounds but this is the joy of being the world’s messiest drag queen.

As someone heading to SGP this year, what’s something I should know about the festival I may haven’t been told already?

Sophia: That it’s very silly in the best way! Bring all your weirdest, most wonderful looks and your silliest attitude. Be kind to all you meet. Don’t miss the fireworks, find the secret speakeasies and check out all the games and smaller stages. Visit the sunflower fields early in the festival, if you can find them that is! Make sure to walk the site and don’t miss a swinging chairs session!

More broadly, what are your British festival do’s and don’ts?

Steven: Don’t leave your tent or any litter in the fields and take responsibility for yourself. Also, look out for one another. If you see someone in distress, ask them if they are okay. You might be saving someone’s life.

Many festivals and club spaces are struggling due to the cost-of-living crisis,  Brexit and other issues. What more can be done to support these spaces and ensure their long-term safety? 

Sophia: Honestly attendance is the key thing. The issues you mentioned above are so real, also the cost of infrastructure, staging and pyro has gone up at least 30% since the pandemic, making things really tough for festivals and clubs that have a narrow margin to exist as it is. Supporting independent festivals like SGP is crucial to their survival and please know the increased ticket prices for independent festivals really don’t come from people lining their pockets, it’s about survival for creativity and culture. Supporting grassroots club events really helps as, if only the events with big DJs sell tickets, this means less artists can break through, so find new artists to love!

SGP announced earlier this year that it’s become the UK’s largest festival to launch as a social enterprise. 65% of its profits are now donated to music-based charities. Why is it important for well-established organisations to invest back in the music industry? 

Steven: Quite simply, we won’t have grassroots music. There are lots of barriers to entering the music industry; the more anyone can do to ameliorate them the better. Freddie, who runs SGP, is a big soft shit and he’s been trying to help people and do the right thing for years, especially when compared to so many other festivals. We really welcomed the social enterprise element.

You’ve just been in Ibiza for your ‘inclusive party for all’ residency at Amnesia Club. What’s it like to take your party to such an iconic venue? 

Sophia: Martin, the owner of Amnesia, offered us a full residency at the club in 2017 before we had even thrown an event. For us, doing a full season in Ibiza, Amesia was the only club we really wanted to exist in. It’s our favourite event space on the island and still feels gritty, cool and underground. You can get sweaty and still have space to dance. Having 50/50 gender splits across our season bookings as well as wider intersectional representation of race, sexuality, background and body type means a lot to us. Having performers of all ages and sizes is not something Ibiza is known for in recent years at the major clubs, bringing this back means everything to us. We are still a work in progress and you cannot guarantee safe spaces, but ones that feel safer give us space to grow and learn, which we do with every party.

Since starting HE.SHE.THEY, have you noticed the wider clubbing scene becoming more inclusive? It’s a shame that many club spaces have veered away from the parity that was once so essential… 

Steven: Everything comes in waves. Dance music was a really anti-authority movement and now it’s very mainstream. There are various subcultures that exist within it, which are more political and more community-focused, like hard techno. It’s bizarre but I think lineups are more diverse and people in the crowd are more diverse in general, I just wish there wasn’t this hideous wave of transphobia happening. It’s been gays or various people of colour blamed for society’s ills previously. We just need to keep calling all forms of bigotry out.

As well as an event series, you’re also a label and fashion brand. How have you found building a multifaceted platform? Is there an overriding mantra you live by that these separate entities feed into? 

Sophia: if you need one word to describe it, it would be exhausting. But it’s so worth it. Honestly, it’s about our morals and being consistent with each project that we do. Clothing needs to be as environmentally friendly as possible. The label excludes no one and no genre; we sign whatever we like as we have a super eclectic taste while making sure that there’s a balance of representation.

What’s next for HE.SHE.THEY? Beyond festival season, and your current tour, are you looking to celebrate the 15 years in any other way? 

Steven: We have more records coming on the label, we have a huge ADE in Amsterdam planned with Dax J, Ellen Allien and Maya Jane Coles playing for us across events. We’re going to do Asia and Australasia for the first time next year. I really want to do South America and Africa too. There’s not a place in the world where the message of diversity and inclusion isn’t needed.

Get tickets to this year’s Secret Garden Party here

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