Pilly Willy - Gender expression shouldn’t be confined to gay bars

We met with Dylan Kerr, who at 20 is sick of the mundanity of the Dublin pub and club scene. And who can blame him? But rather than sit around and complain about it, he took matters into his own hands. He created a night where art, sexuality, music and general weirdness blend into one haze of colour.

Pilly Willy took place over seven days in November with people coming and going, as they pleased, from the old abandoned college building that housed it. Blocking out sunlight with magenta car tinting film, they created a Lightbox room. This room showcased works of art by new young artists, who specialised in the weird, the different, and the obscure.

Pilly Willy sprung from Pussys: a collective that challenges where the lines of art and life blur. Pussys as a collective is a celebration. “Not just of weird people, but people who don’t fit the mould of everyday stuff. It’s a celebration of music, art, gender, sexuality, parties, clothes, and that kinda stuff.” Pussys noticed that there was a very one sided view of Dublin nightlife. They wanted something more, something that would combine art, sexuality, music and a throwback to the days of great raves. Tongue in cheek and always ready to stand out, Pilly Willy was born. “It’s basically a space for weirdos”. Mixing art, parties and queer culture, Pilly Willy takes influence from, “rave flyers from the 1970s. Sean worked closely with Tonie Walsh who was a DJ at these events and compiled all these flyers in an archive… so we did an exhibition of these flyers and some new works that were based around the flyers.”

The reaction was incredible, though the last night didn’t exactly go off without a hitch. “There was a guy who got really aggressive so we had to lock the doors so he couldn’t get back in. Then the police came, and they were trying to get in, but nobody noticed because we had the windows blocked out….When I realised, I strolled over in my tiny swimsuit, fishnet tights and knee high boots, and said “Sorry officer, is there a problem?” And he was like ‘Yeah! This whole thing is illegal.’ The night itself isn’t. But, locking the doors and blacking out windows while blaring music is probably a fire hazard you don’t really want to deal with.

Pilly Willy is a great experience. It’s a place where you can dress how you like, be who you like, and kiss who you like. There is no judgement and that is really refreshing. The crowd ranges from Club Kids, Art Kids, to “cool streetwear school boys decked out in Supreme.” A strange mix, but one that welcomes everyone and anyone to come along and see the art or bring in a nagin and rave. It was more about celebrating oddity than judging what people wore. As Dylan puts it “Well if there’s room for this here, there’s probably room for me and my buzz.” That’s really is all anyone can aspire to on a night out; having room for their buzz.

Because, although Ireland voted "Yes", there are still people who don’t understand what that "Yes"vote actually meant. “I’ve had very negative experiences with Dublin nightlife and bouncers, with dress codes and things like that...I find that I always get hassled about what I’m wearing and not getting in because of that.”

“I’ve had Facebook wars with clubs over it. One club during the summer wouldn’t let me in because I was wearing a dress, so I messaged them on Facebook and they were like ‘oh sorry, we will get back to you.’ They didn’t so I messaged every week asking for an update and it was always seen and not replied to.”

“So I posted on their page and all my friends shared it and gave reviews on the pub. They then posted saying, ‘the gentleman in question was too drunk to get in.’ So my friends gave more negative reviews and they went down to 2.4 in a week. So they removed their review option and blocked me.”

There is a real issue of places not practising what they preach in Dublin. That club that Dylan got denied entry to went on to create an event for Pride. The theme was David Bowie, a man who wore several dresses, and embodied self expression.

“But they only have those events for the lip service, when it comes to practising it they don’t. I don’t get upset about it anymore, but, like, it’s embarrassing when I go out with my friends and I get stopped. I shouldn’t have to feel that way.”

That’s why Pilly Willy is all inclusive. It’s also a general kind of “fuck you” to the Dublin nightlife scene. Their main influence being the flyers from the 70s, they try to recreate that rave scene. They are planning on more parties, but are struggling to find a space. “That’s Sean’s job. His background and his family have been in nightlife and clubs for years so he will be able to find something.”

It’s not just about finding a space to have a rave, it’s about finding a space that can be curated to facilitate both a rave and an art exhibition. They feature artists from all over that capture sex and weird perfectly.

“My favourite artist who had work in Pilly Willy is that amazing artist called Jennifer Mehigan. Her stuff is insane, it’s really tacky and I love all the glitches and stuff. What she had in Pilly Willy was female bodybuilders and wrestlers with insects and barbed wire and glitches.”

On artists that they will work with next, they aren’t sure, but they are on the lookout. They found Jennifer on Instagram, so they come from everywhere. To distill Pilly Willy down to one key point would be hard to do. But Dylan gave it a go: “Somewhere that can draw a loose circle around a bunch of very different heads, who might have nothing in common besides a bit of outsider energy.” It’s a nice summary of a very eclectic event. We are looking forward to the next one, which is sure to bring just as much energy and excitement as the last.

Imagery courtesy of Pilly Willy.

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