Stand Up

BBZ or "Babes" is Building Spaces for Marginalized People

How would you react if someone told you they'd started a collective (or a movement, if you want) for the need of deeper and more expansive friendships? Enthralled, am I right? That's exactly how I felt when Tia Simon-Campbell, co-founder of South East London-based BBZ, told me that exact thing. She, alongside Naeem Davis, started the organization to help build intentional spaces for queer, trans and non-binary people of color. Currently, the members consist of spoken word poets, writers, casting directors, DJs, dancers and more from across all of London. Now, 3 years after the inauguration, more than ever the group feels like they are able to inhabit and participate in spaces all over the British capital. But the mission doesn't stop there. We met up with Tia during The Standard, London's celebratory dinner for BBZ alternative graduate show...

What is the BBZ?

We are an ever-evolving curatorial & creative production collective born, raised and based in South East London with roots in nightlife and clubbing culture. Prioritizing the experiences of queer womxn, trans folk and non-binary people of color in all aspects of our work, we provide physical and online platforms for this specific community. We work to democratize access to public institutions and challenge institutionalized behaviors to diversify. We explore experiential practices with interactive installations, sound, poetry, archive, celebratory communion, photography, group shows, film and more. Organized by a stand out collective of seven queer black artists and headed by co-founders Tia Simon-Campbell and Naeem Davis.

What does BBZ stand for?

Bold Brazen Zami or "Babes".

Where does BBZ usually exist and what do you do?

We are based primarily in South East London creating and holding intentional space for queer, trans and non-binary people of color.

"It started from a need for full and expansive friendships."

Is there a core group of members or is it more of a community?

There's a core squad consisting of co-founders Naeem Davis & Tia Simon-Campbell.

BERNICE is a photographer & archivist who’s work centers QTIPOC communities and the Black British experience.

SHY ONE is a DJ & Producer who’s eclectic musical output is heavily influenced by their upbringing and identity. 

YOYO is a dancer, arts programmer and event producer passionate about creative exchange and widening access within the arts. 

KAI is a spoken word poet, writer, model and trans visibility activist whose work uses mother tongue and slang heavy narration to provide a voice to those who are silenced. 

RHEA is a casting agent, photographer & filmmaker whose work consistently explores the issues of diversity within society, womxn’s empowerment and queer culture. 

KHLOE is an events coordinator, BBZ MC and founder of OKHA book club.

How did the BBZ start? 

We started out as a club night with an exhibition in a small bar in Deptford. I think that Naeem and I just wanted a space where we could feel like ourselves completely and many of our friends felt the same way. It started from a need for full and expansive friendships.

Tell us about the night at The Standard, London; what happened? Any particularly noteworthy moments/artists?

We had the best night at The Standard, London ahead of our alternative graduate show! A really important part of our process is that we take a moment for appreciating and communicating with each other. We take stock of just how valuable, talented and important each of us are from the artists to the contributors. So, having this very intimate dinner with the 10 selected artists and matriarchs from our community was invaluable. Having trailblazers like Liz Johnson Artur, Rachel Noel, Zezi Ifore and Ain Bailey enjoying the most delicious feast with the next generation of black creatives is such an iconic and impactful moment. We then invited the extended BBZ Fam for post dinner drinks, with Shy One and Sippin’ T on the decks. The room was filled with so much joy and we couldn’t have asked for a better Sunday evening.

"When we first started BBZ 3 years ago there were nowhere near as many nights and spaces catering specifically to queer, trans and non-binary people of color and our intersections."

What has been the height of running BBZ so far?

I think that the alternative graduate show is one of our biggest achievements and I can’t be more proud of the whole BBZ team for pulling it together but I must say the best part is the community and friendships that we’ve been able to build and this has all stemmed from nightlife

Have you managed to register any specific change due to your work?

When we first started BBZ 3 years ago there were nowhere near as many nights and spaces catering specifically to queer, trans and non-binary people of color and our intersections. It’s wonderful to be existing in this moment and to finally have options myself and community can inhabit. However as impactful and important nightlife has been, we’ve taken a step back to focus on events that are not centering it, to give ourselves and community freedom to engage with each other away from the stereotypical spaces queer folk have been pushed into. Some really important spaces in London are Queer Bruk, Misery, Pxssy Palace, AZ-Hub, Hungama, Batty Mama, 

What does the BBZ have planned for the future?

We want to continue building relationships, sharing skills and bettering ourselves in our creative practice and emotional development. We are committed to nurturing and empowering our community to the best of our ability whether that be through our monthly club nights, workshops or the alternative graduate show.


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