Cosmic Dancers, Cosmetic Shells: Exploring the Queer Potential of London’s Blitz in the Early Thatcher Era


  • Chloë Edwards University of Exeter



music, Margaret Thatcher, queerness


This paper concentrates on the ways in which masculinity and male (homo)sexuality were challenged, depicted, and expressed within the New Romantic subculture of Margaret Thatcher’s first term (1979-1983). Centring on the subculture’s nucleus, the Blitz nightclub in London’s Covent Garden, which served as  a safe space in which its clientele could explore their identities away from the prevailing Conservative ideology of the time, I examine the work of prominent figures who prompted reflections on attitudes towards mainstream gay visibility and the shift in representations of queerness within popular culture in Thatcher’s Britain. Considering the legacy of punk’s contradictory attitudes towards non-heterosexual identities and its ‘do-it-yourself’ ethos with questions of  class, this paper questions the intersections of and tensions between identity and consumption under Thatcher. Tracking the rise of the young, arts-oriented  demographic of the Blitz and those who facilitated the subculture’s move from outside, to inside of the mainstream popular music scene, namely Steve Strange of Visage and Boy George, I offer a queer reading of their output that illustrates the subversive subculture’s ability to bring non-heterosexual masculinities into mainstream popular music in early 1980s Britain, concurrently demonstrating that assessments of the subculture as being only  aesthetically-oriented are too reductive.