When the world shut down earlier this year, one group of Toronto queers opened the first — and largest — virtual queer rave on Zoom. Club Quarantine was co-founded by Brad, Mingus, Ceréna and Casey, and quickly became a nightly escape for the LGBTQ community to still dance, dress up and meet likeminded people while alone in lockdown. Apart from their own programming, which prioritized booking queer DJs and drag performers put out of work, Club Q went on to throw weekly parties with PAPER, featuring lineups with artists like Lady Gaga, Kim Petras, Pabllo Vittar, Big Freedia and more.
A new documentary, premiering today, looks back on Club Q's rise and impact through the perspective of Director Angie Bird, who was a regular at the party. "When COVID first hit, my industry completely shut down and so did all international flights," Bird tells PAPER. "I felt really overwhelmed because I didn't know when I'd work again and I also didn't know when I'd be able to get home to my family in Australia. Club Q was an amazing distraction and it showed me just how important community is. It helped me and many others feel safe and connected during these unprecedented times."
Realizing she had stumbled upon something special with Club Q, Bird set out to make a doc "that celebrated the ingenuity and relentless optimism of the LGBTQ+ community." But the parameters of this project were new for Bird, who says she'd never made a doc in real time. "I usually tell stories about moments after they have happened, so this was a new way of working for me," she says. "I started the doc in the first few weeks of the club, and it just kept evolving and getting bigger and better."
As the world changed under quarantine, so did Club Q's mission, as they refocused their parties and social platforms to elevate Black voices while raising money for the most at-risk members of the LGBTQ community, namely Black trans women. "As Club Q evolved, so did the documentary," Bird says, adding that she loved "watching the founders evolve their parties into a platform where they could help raise money for the trans community, for the Black community and for other vulnerable people in our community."
Ultimately, Bird's film on Club Q underscores the power of community, even during a pandemic. She says Thursday Arlyn, a featured club-goer from her doc, sums this up best: "Community can be found anywhere, community can be made anywhere." And this is exactly what Bird intended for viewers to take away from the project. "I hope when people watch the film they know they are not alone," she says. "There's a lot of people out there who want to embrace them and celebrate them, and if you need a little pick me up, come and hang out with us all at Club Q. Everyone's welcome."
Watch the PAPER premiere of Club Quarantine by Angie Bird, below.