Fibbers on a Friday night. Rockers of all ages. Language students from schools that hide in the old Georgian buildings of the north inner-city. Regulars moving pint glasses from the green-felted edge of the pool table to carry on their game.
Turn back, walk 10 metres down the road to the door under the red neon “niteclub” sign. A bouncer stamps the wrists of a student in an Ellesse tracksuit and Nike Air Maxes, and a drag queen in a black sequin dress. Both shiver from the October cold as they enter the building.
It’s a world away from the night upstairs – or any other currently in Dublin. Its founders had christened the night Club Comfort a year before they even started the party, says Jack Colley, one of the founders.
It was born as an escape from dull dance music in other clubs and a safe space for queer and trans people, says Colley. “We had all these ideas and we knew exactly what we wanted it to be,” he says.
He is sitting at a table upstairs in the Central Hotel’s Library Bar, a couple of days after Friday’s party. To his left are Club Comfort’s other two founders, Roo Honeychild and Cian Murphy. The three of them still on a high after the success of Friday, and their guest Manra’s rambunctious set.
Colley works in 147 Deli and lives and breathes music. Honeychild is a student in her final year in Trinity College Dublin. Murphy is a few years older than the other two, and has been organising parties for about a decade.
“We knew exactly what kind of people we wanted to be there, but we didn’t have the space in mind for it. Because we really didn’t think there was a space for it in its most pure and unadulterated way,” says Colley.
The trio found the space for Club Comfort last November after looking for nearly a year, and have been running the night since then.
Their main mission was to create somewhere that everybody felt comfortable. It wasn’t so much to put on a queer night, as to put on a night where attendees could express themselves, and where the music would be challenging.
Other club nights in the city don’t feel safe for some, says Colley. “Because the security staff were not trained to deal with issues of safety or they would be the ones doing the harassment.”
“It’s kind of a running theme basically with all of my friends,” says Honeychild, who identifies as a trans woman.
Experiences within the clubs can be intimidating too, says Honeychild. Finding overtly masculine, tops-off crowds in lots of the other dance-music venues in the city made her reluctant to go clubbing.
“You don’t feel that sort of fear there,” says Rory Reilly, a Club Comfort regular. “For me as a trans woman going out in town or to any other clubs, you expect a number of things like annoying conversations that you expect to have every single time.”
That doesn’t happen at Club Comfort, she said. “There’s just a general attitude of respect.”
Honeychild puts that down to the night’s inherently political edge. “That’s what politics is about for me, giving people what they need and people needed a place where they felt okay and where it worked for them.”
For Reilly, music is at the heart of the night. The stuff “that you would hear there is not like anything else you’d hear in Dublin”, she said.
The night attracts clubbers, ravers and music heads of all ages who seek different tunes to the house and techno that dominate other club nights.
“They were playing a mash-up of American black club music with big dancehall, r’n’b, pop and hip-hop influences and a smattering of footwork, all unified over bass,” says Kate Butler, a DJ and stalwart of Dublin’s clubbing scene.
“They totally got down to the music and seemed utterly self-possessed. When Sugababes’ Overload was played, they knew every word and all sang along – it was a swoon moment for me.”
“That’s something we embrace as DJs, finding dissonant sounds,” says Colley, and bringing them to a room of pumped-up revellers.
All of the organisers have either put on club nights or DJed in Dublin, some for more years than others.
But Murphy says Club Comfort excites him because of “the idea of a more communal DJ hemisphere”, he says – connecting different groups.
Last February, an anti-trans group from the United Kingdom had plans to visit Dublin as part of a series of talks. None of the Club Comfort team had organised a protest before. They decided to throw a party instead.
They raised money for the group Mermaids, which advocates for the rights of transgender people, the Alliance for Choice in Northern Ireland and Repeal, says Honeychild.
The protest night was a “huge all-women line up”, says Colley. It had ELLLL, Gadget and the Cloud, and Cathy Flynn.
They were folks who “wouldn’t have fit our brief before”, says Colley. It was a step towards connecting with a broader circle of musicians, producers and DJs.
“I made so many friends from doing it,” says Honeychild.
As Club Comfort gets more popular, might that change its dynamic? If people come for the music, and don’t respect the visible queerness of the night?
Colley says not. “It’s kind of getting to the stage now where it’s self-policing,” he says. “We’ve had a core group of people who come every month, of people who get it and they’re invested in the vision as well.” They set the tone.