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The Poetics of Glitterbomb

TAB TRIES to contemplate the poetry of a gay night


It was on my walk home from what was my first experience of Cambridge clubbing, doing tequila shots properly rather than straight from the bottle, and Glitterbomb itself, that I encountered the below image (I returned to photograph it in appropriate lighting the following day, like the snap-happy aesthete I aspire to be).

Poetry in motion…

For those of you who’d find it unpleasant to look more closely, it is a pair of large underpants, a nearly-finished roll of black electrical tape, and an empty box that must once have held a tube of Canesten, if its label is to be believed. Somehow, these three items struck a chord with me much in the same way that Glitterbomb did: an unlikely trio working in perfect harmony with each other, with neither rhyme nor reason but no need for either. There was something like a Renaissance painting in the perfect balance of the three, an image of supreme triangulation – and I think this perfectly balanced trio summarises my Glitterbomb experience with a poetry that I could not hope to replicate.

This series of columns (depending on how deep into the depths of academia I fall) should be like an introductory lecture circus of experimentation: Tab Tries to do all the truly bizarre things going on in Cambridge (no offence if your society/bop/occult meeting/sex dungeon is featured in this column, I mean it entirely as a compliment) so this column will hopefully be, by comparison, fairly tame.

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One of my possible future columns – John's Beekeeping Society, I'm looking at you

So to Glitterbomb: Freshers on the Runway. This was a clubbing night that will be unique to my Cambridge experience, as my predrinks were at my Matriculation feast, which really does only come around once; it overran, as a formal apparently seems to tend to do, thus my preparation consisted only of the verbal equivalent of a cold shower, and the essential process of titivating my fabulous red dress with glitter (ironically, it worked best with my formal gown over the top). We got lost en route, twice, and at one point had to go back to the Maths Bridge because we hadn’t realized we’d lost two people by the wayside – forgive us our mortal sins of fresher’s incompetence – and then, like a beacon in the darkness of Sidney Street , it appeared. The descent into Avernus is easy – the descent into Vinyl (RIP Life) less so, especially in heels. And yet we survived, and stumbled blinking into the light, bearing gently glowing wristbands, making our entrance into the cavernous void. We were quite early, so there was still space to breathe, but the air was suffused with a lightness of feeling, an ethereal glimmer known only to that brethren of Wilde, the children of Sappho, the hunters of Artemis… the gays. In this strange pulsating grotto, I was at home.

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(Sappho in the corner of GBomb at 3am)

And yet I must acknowledge the sense of loss, of mourning for that which I had never known – indeed gone are the booths of old! Gone the fêted wallslime – the floor is a kaleidoscope of neon, with light-up squares; the music a similar timbre to that of the spheres; the gin and tonics confusingly expensive… But we allow it, we understand and appreciate it, for this is Glitterbomb’s new home; drag queens still roam its halls in platformed heels and ‘straight’ boys commit misdemeanours in the bathroom, and people feel safe on the light-up dance floor. Glitterbomb is a place to be, and a place to feel at home – in all the storm of Fresher’s Week, Glitterbomb was my calm, and I raise a Dark’n’Stormy cocktail in celebration of being welcomed into its sparkling arms.