Welcome to Carnalval! The year is 2035, and severe financial decline and cost of living crises have brought about the mass closure of independently-owned queer bars and clubs. With no space of their own to gather, the queer folx of London took matters into their own hands.
Cue the foundation of RetroQueer: a community-based collective of queers formed in 2029 to carve out spaces within the abundance of abandoned real estate using the time-honored historical practice of "cruising:" soliciting sex anonymously in public spaces through a system of coded verbal and physical signals or objects.
In the hyper-digitalized world of 2035, face-to-face socialization has become such a rarity that without bars and nightclubs as spatial social aides to encourage it, most queers feel comfortable socializing only through the interface of an app. This loss of in-person socialization practices, combined with the absence of queer spaces to encourage gathering, has led to a profound sense of isolation for LGBTQIA+ people.
RetroQueer's use of the historical practice of cruising to reclaim spaces within London serves the dual purpose of reactivating these vacant spaces and re-introducing ways of practicing intimacy in-person, without any digital barrier. It asks: is it possible to use analysis of previous examples of “cruising spaces” to produce a new iteration of queer space(s) created outside a capitalistic framework?
The crown jewel in RetroQueer's network of reclaimed spaces is undisputedly Carnalval, a fun-fair style cruising festival housed within the old Billingsgate Fish Market. RetroQueer selected this location both for it's spatial parallels to the west-side piers in Manhattan, a once-popular cruising locale, and for it's adjacency to the entirely abandoned neighborhood of Canary Wharf.
Free for prying eyes of neighbors or law enforcement, RetroQueer's volunteer-based team of builders were able to reuse market materials (steel box channels, plastic crates, walk-in freezers, corrugated steel, plastic crates, etc.) to create an exuberant, celebratory space which both memorializes and celebrates the practice of cruising while simultaneously creating a space for the queers of London to safely gather, create, and cruise.