“Queer as Folk is such an iconic show for so many people, especially those who grew up watching the show in the ’90s, that when it was approaching the 20-year anniversary we felt there was only one way to truly celebrate it,” says Ben Ramsden, Promotions Manager of Cruz 101, the Manchester gay club that on Friday, Feb. 22, threw the ultimate party honoring the beloved series. The club’s One Night in Babylon party painstakingly recreated the most infamous gay dance club in pop culture, and it was truly one for the record books.
“The idea for One Night in Babylon was born in a staff meeting reminiscing over the classic music and lighting that was around at the time the show,” Ramsden says. “We longed to recreate the hedonistic atmosphere of the late ’90s and early ’00s. When watching the series back in the early stages of the concept of the night we all knew we had to bring Babylon back!”
Cruz 101 has an interesting relationship to the UK version of the Queer as Folk series, which premiered in February 1999 (less than a year before the American version of the TV show premiered stateside). The original Babylon, in fact, was Cruz 101, a gay dance club where more than two decades ago, Russell T. Davies, creator of Queer as Folk, had met his husband.
At the time the show was filmed, the “Cruz 101” neon sign was replaced with “Babylon” signage, and as Ramsden tells us, when not filming the Babylon sign was covered up to prevent people from taking photos with it. “This was one of the driving forces behind putting the [Babylon party] on, as Babylon meant so much to so many people and we felt we had to allow people the opportunity to take photos with the sign.”
Turning Cruz 101 into Babylon was quite the undertaking, requiring hours and hours of work from all of the bar’s staff. Ian Madeley, the club’s Duty Manager, recreated the infamous Babylon neon sign outside the club, which reportedly took him three days. General Manager Gerrard Woods spent hours repairing vintage lights for the Babylon party light show and video tribute that took place at 2 a.m. (Watch the Babylon party light show here.)
One of the bar’s original drag queens, Miss Cara (above), appeared at the Babylon party as hostess, mingling with patrons, and Adam Zane, who played Dane on Queer as Folk — and who since last month has been lobbying Cruz 101 to make the Babylon party an annual event — took part in the festivities as well.
“There were definitely some butterflies in my stomach at 11 p.m. when we threw the doors open,” says Ramsden. “Having put six months of time and effort into the night, knowing how hard the whole team had worked on it — even knowing how well ticket sales had gone — you always have that worry of ‘Is anyone going to turn up?’ Come midnight the new worry was ‘How are we going to fit all of these people in?'”
The One Night in Babylon party took place over two nights, and Ramsden considers it a highlight of his career working at Cruz 101. Thousands of people from all over the U.K. stepped into Cruz 101 to relive the magic of one of their all-time favorite queer television series.
Even Russell T. Davies offered feedback to the club. “He made it all feel worthwhile for the team when he messaged us saying, ‘Oh my God, that’s amazing! Absolutely brilliant. Wow, I really appreciate everything that went into that. It’s incredible’ on seeing the video of our light show,” Ramsden says.
For years, gay clubs the world over have lured partygoers to dance floors with similar Babylon parties. But no venue is able to do such justice to Babylon as Cruz 101, the history of which is inexorably tied to one of television’s most pivotal LGBTQ moments.
Check out more images from Cruz 101’s One Night in Babylon party here:
Are you a Queer as Folk fan? What do you think of this One Night in Babylon party?
All photos of One Night in Babylon party © Cruz 101, taken by Johnny Blackburn