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Party Mom Society: Making parties fun, safe and accessible

Hosting accessible workshops and the wildest of parties, Party Mom Society provide a safe space for anyone to come together, cut shapes and let their hair down. Meg Firth talks to co-founder Emma about how the collective are recalibrating the party and arts scene here in Leeds and their goals for the future.

Image: Emma Bentley Fox

Step inside the loving nest of Party Mom Society and you’ll never want to leave. Hosting a roost of inclusive and accessible events, the Party Moms are the mother hens who want you to have the best time possible. From drag nights to valuable skills workshops, the Party Moms are creating a space where anyone can come and learn, party and make friends for life.

It all started at a family party at co-founder Caitlin’s home in Stockport: “She’s got this tiny little house and it was just crammed full of all her family. We were the youngest people there, it was all older people - real party moms.” After spending the day drinking home-brewed cocktails and dancing to Madonna, the idea for Party Moms blossomed: “It was just this really wholesome family party vibe and we were just thinking that this is what nights should be like; people not worried about looking cool and just really getting into it, feeling like they can be really silly and have no judgement whatsoever.”

It’s this atmosphere of no judgement that influences everything the Party Moms do. Taking a stand against the ‘too-cool-to-really-dance’ vibe of most nights out, Emma, Lily, Caitlin and Courtney provide a space where people from all walks of life can come and really let their hair - and wigs - down. Having already hosted an anti-pageant called Mr Glam Monaco Supreme - Mr Glam for short - the four were inspired to throw more fun and inclusive parties.

Inclusivity and accessibility are at the front of the Party Mom’s minds: “Lily and I both have chronic pain, so in terms of accessibility it’s something we think about. We want to be mums and look after people.” The Party Moms are your mums-away-from home, taking you under their wing and ensuring you are looked after well. They have a safe space policy that ensures that the warm family atmosphere of their events is always upheld: “It’s all about being supportive and listening and being non-judgemental, kind of what a mum should be. Just being empathetic and understanding that everyone has these different experiences,” Emma explains. “We want to create a space where people can experiment as well. I think people are just experimenting with their gender and sexuality, so creating a space where people feel safe and comfortable to try out different things and conform to certain binaries. There’s no right way to be queer, there’s no right way to be a guy or a girl. There are no labels.”

Image: co-founder Courtney Dobbs by Emma Bentley Fox

Party Moms not only create a space for everyone, but also a platform for first-time performers, artists and musicians to build confidence. Emma explains that this important element isn’t necessarily intentional, but “comes with that supportive environment where people who have never performed before and creating a space where they can do that.”

Attracting a crowd of beautiful characters and creatives, the Party Moms showcase the plethora of talent and nice people in Leeds: “Everyone we work with is so nice. It’s such a community and I love everyone we work with. Emma is quick to mention Mark McDiva (@markmcdiva), former-associate-editor-at-The Gryphon-turned-party-host: “He does a lot at Wharf Chambers now. He started DJing with us and now he’s doing lots of his own events which is so nice to see.” Similarly, with the queens and performers who explode onto the stage at their events, Emma also mentions Victoria Boyden (@veedagger): “We met her maybe two years ago, and she had just moved to Leeds from Taiwan so didn’t really know anyone. As soon as we met I just knew she was cool. She’s grown so much since we met her, and our last event where she performed. She did the most amazing performance - she dressed up as a fallen angel, and she had glitter that she was throwing up in these shimmering clouds. It was at a working men’s club and it was just really special.”

Image: co-founder Lily Lovarato by Emma Bentley Fox

Image: co-founder Emma Bentley Fox

Their recent event at Hyde Park Book Club - a barn dance-inspired drag night called ‘The Summer Hoe-down Extravaganza’ - encapsulated everything that the Party Moms are about. Descending on the Hyde Park cafe-bar in assless chaps, stetsons and mid-wash jeans, the party folk of Leeds enjoyed a sensational night of Wild West debauchery. Eavesdropping on conversations in the smoking area, you’d hear the most loving and empowering conversations while complete strangers built each other up: “That’s one of the things I love; everyone just has such nice things to say. Sometimes you go out on nights out and everyone’s in the smoking area in their own groups, and what is nice about Party Mom events is that you can go out and people are just chatting to people they’ve never met before. I think that’s important because it’s bringing people together who’ve had different experiences, and providing a space for them to feel comfortable chatting with each other and sharing and then building relationships.”

Image: co-founder Caitlin Gale by Emma Bentley Fox

The Party Moms have been relatively quiet over Summer, but they haven’t hung up their party hats just yet. The Summer has been an opportunity for the three of them to reflect on what they’ve achieved so far and what they want to evolve into in the future. “I want to start working more with people who wouldn’t go on nights and getting them to the place where they would feel comfortable going to one,” Emma explains. “We had an email after the last event we put on, and this person was like ‘I’m a fat, non-binary person and I’ve never been on a queer night out before, but I went to yours and it was the best night of my life’”. 

With ambitions to host a range of creative skills tutorials and open decks workshops, the Party Moms want to branch out into creating a space where people can come and learn and refine their skills. Emma mentions street art workshops: “As a scene that’s quite male-dominated, so taking stuff like that which isn’t maybe isn’t as accessible to trans and non-binary people.”

“We also want to do sessions where people bring work - like some poetry or a book or a costume or a persona that they’re developing - and creating a space where people can get feedback in an environment that is positive, offering people encouragement and saying ‘what you’re doing is important and it is valid, it is art, keep doing it.’ Lots of people are doing side-hustles and sometimes people just need a bit of encouragement to continue doing it.”

People like the Party Moms are important for a future of a diverse, inclusive and accessible creative scene, where everyone and anyone can grow into and be their best selves. In a world that is becoming increasingly hostile, the Party Moms are loving arms where anyone is welcome. 

Meg Firth

Photography by Emma Bentley Fox (@emmabfox)

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