As a fashion designer whose couture has been worn by Beyonce and Lady Gaga, Lyall Hakaraia’s stylistic creativity has livened the world of events and nightlife. As a proponent of cultural propulsion, however, the VFD nightclub founder rails against stale event formats and experiences that fail to evolve. And the Pride movement is by no means immune from criticism.
How did you transfer from fashion into events?
I studied art, and have spent much of my life working all over the world, making bespoke clothing for performers. In pursuing this, I slowly got involved in the wider show – the stage management, and eventually managing the events. At a lot of events the sound is often not great, and the lighting not so fabulous. I started to take into account the whole creative direction, and set about learning how it’s all run, taking time to study about every element, down to how to programme the sound system.
What are your views on Pride?
It’s become a hideous commercial beast with sponsors I don’t quite believe in. I went to it 20 years ago when it was much smaller, and based in Clapham, but then it became different, and something I couldn’t relate to. It is too big and commercial now which isn’t in the original spirit.
There’s still transphobia and misogyny within the community itself that needs to be spoken about, so all this patting yourself on the back is not a great thing. Being gay doesn’t mean you’re not very right-wing or prejudiced. That’s not to say lots of people don’t go to Pride with open hearts and a loving spirit. But as a venture, it’s there for people to make money, and I’ve nothing against that, but there’s too much emphasis on the corporate, and not enough on community. It’s also outrageous, for example, that the West End committee asked queer and gay venues to pay them to be open during Pride.
I’m more involved in Black Pride on the Sunday, which is more mellow, intimate and accessible. Pride has become more about people getting off their head while council pays to police it. Being smaller in scale is more important.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
With running a venue, there’s lots passing through here continually, and there’s lots of really great inclusive spaces that are inspirational to me. I get inspired by the people I see: performers, art, community builders, music, art, great parties. It’s not just from one source.
David Hoyle and Christeene (video above) have inspired me recently. I love how they interact in such a personal way. I love going to parties like LOVERBOY by Charles Jeffrey (pictured below), or Nice Mover, who do amazing things that are very inclusive. I also love art and films with a clear inclusive message.
How has the LGBT+ scene evolved?
I enjoyed party nights like Smashing in the 90s, then Gay Bingo in Shoreditch, and The Eagle, and seeing acts like Horse Meat Disco. However, some organisers and acts don’t move with the times and get stuck in a loop. The past is great, but when nostalgia kicks in it can be dangerous. Five years on, and some event designers are still doing the same thing, they can live in a bubble.
What tips would you give budding event organisers?
Get in there, get involved and learn, because all that knowledge is power. It’s great to delegate, but if you’re a really good producer you should know how the systems work. Sound engineers need to share knowledge though! So often an event could be a lot better if they let you in on what they are doing. Also, don’t leave the rehearsals to someone else, really talk to people, go in and see what the possibilities are.