Minka: Hi everybody, and welcome back to Minka Guides. This month we have a very special conversation, as I’m here with one of my fellow co-founders of ENM Fam London, which is potentially London’s largest non-monogamy event.
So I’ve got here Jax Griffith. How are you doing today, Jax?
Jax (she/they): I’m fine. Hello! I’m in the garden, taking some time out and relaxing.
Minka: Lovely. How perfect. It’s such a beautiful day, isn’t it?
Jax: Yeah, indeed.
Minka: So, Jax is a queer polyamorous person in their fifties, and they are the founder of Blackfluent Polyamory Hub, which is a digital community for people of colour who are polyamorous in the UK.
She is also the co-founder of Serotonin, which is a very new but very exciting regular meetup for people of global majority who are either kinky or ethically non-monogamous.
And then she is also the co-founder of ENM Fam London, which coming up this month is going to be a year since we ran our first event. Hence where we’re having this conversation.
How do you feel about the last year?
Jax: It’s been a total surprise. Didn’t know it was going to go the way it was. You’re great at telling the story. It started off with a few of us around the table at a pub, thinking, “These apps are really boring, and we got no friends, and we just come out Covid.”
So, where we are now, I couldn’t have imagined, and if someone said to me where we are now, I would have probably thought, “Oh my goodness! You do something else.” It takes up a lot of time, but it’s the best thing that has happened for years really is. It’s humbling.
Minka: Yeah, exactly. I think that’s a really important place to start.
If we cast our minds back to pre-pandemic and think about what the non-monogamy scene looked like in London. Do you have any kind of particular reference points or thoughts about any of that?
Jax: I think with London… I mean, I became mindfully polyamorous about 14 years ago, and even then, I felt incredibly isolated, and the Covid’s magnified that. By that point, it wasn’t about finding partners, but it was about finding friendships. I was also seeing that a lot of monogamous people, couples, had actually really unpicked their relationship through the pandemic and lots of places, people and “What we do now?” One thing was the isolation and loneliness and learning how to be social again.
I do recall the first non-monogamy drinks, and everyone was rather nervous. “What do we do? How do we interact again?”
Minka: How do we talk to each other?
Jax: Oh yeah, how do we talk? And what do we wear?
So, we were in it together. It’s just the shutdown, the isolation. It’s been a few bad years.
Minka: But even going back to pre-pandemic, I remember trying to find community, a polyamorous or a non-monogamous community in London. I’d been to say some drinks at a Wetherspoons on a Tuesday night they were like fine.
Minka: But a bit awkward. There was about 20 of us around the table, and it was all right, but there was no sense of community building really happening there.
Then I’d been to some play parties, but you know, obviously, the remit of those are not necessarily about forming community or building or even sharing. You can’t share resources at a play party! Well, you can, but that’s not the remit of those kinds of groups.
I think also in that year leading up until the pandemic, I really suddenly started to be like, “Oh, I need a support network. I need people who understand what I’m going through even more than I need good apps to find partners.”
So, I think coming out of the pandemic that was solidifying how you and I were both feeling when we met.
Jax: Yes, yes, all of that.
Minka: But I want to jump back first to the Blackfluent Polyamory Hub. Was the reason that you started that to begin with, was to try and build community?
Jax: Yes. Well, many years ago, I often will say in London, when I first started my journey, I did feel like the only Black in a village. So I was like, “Where are these people?”
I did go to the similar munches and gatherings that you speak of, but there was no one there that looked like me. There are different layers for the POC community in terms of returning back to non-monogamy, and that’s a whole different show and podcast.
I came across many years ago an American organization called Black and Poly, run by Ron and Lisa Young. It’s very big, and I expressed my isolation, and they said to me, “Why won’t you become a UK coordinator?” I was doing that for about three years, and that’s where I really learned what the experiences were.
I decided to start my own, Blackfluent and take what I’ve learned and my personal experiences and create it. It was a very slow burner. A very slow burn. It’s very different now, and because people are much more comfortable. In that group, we’ve got places to chat and talk about any issue from a black/POC-centered view. It’s amazing.
Then I started trickling into the point of “What happens about kink and sex for people who are POC?” You know I’m demisexual, and I didn’t feel there was a place for me until I met everyone at the ethical non-monogamy drinks. I was speaking to people of different colours, and they wanted a kink space, and I was learning. So, that’s how Serotonin happened.
I like to think of it as hubs that are created organically and by people. I’m at the point now when people have an idea, I was like, “You do it. You create it. You create this community, but we’ll give you the tools. We’ll give you the know-how, and you do it.” People are starting to do that. I’ll just see myself as an enabler and coordinator, that is all.
Minka: Yeah, absolutely
The way that you and I first connected was… so we were both featured on an episode of Woman’s Hour that happened in May 2021. So, May last year.
I just remember you and me being on that call together and seeing our energy and just like kind of clocking each other as team, even though we were separately talking about our own experiences on that radio feature.
So it wasn’t long after that that you and I met up for a drink at the Fox and Firkin, which has since become the home of the ENM Fam London, in Lewisham in London. We sat in that beer garden, and it just felt like there was such synchronicity between us in terms of like “Where is the community?”
Minka: Like “Where is it?” and talking through our experiences. Like you trying to run events through Blackfluent Polyamory Hub and your experiences with that and me being like, “I really feel like people should learn to find the community before they find partners to build that support network.” That should be the priority. So, how do we make that happen?
At the time, it felt like such a pie-in-the-sky conversation, didn’t it?
Jax: Yes, it was. It was quite impulsive.
I remember you saying, “Yeah, where is the pub manager?” It was instant. Before we knew it and then I’m like this, like, “Ok, just go with the flow.” You know, Woman’s Hour was very fun too. That was great.
Minka: Yes, exactly, and it brought us together. But I think there was an energy of understanding between us. We’re probably both dreamers and entrepreneurs. We really like to think big and make things happen, so that’s what we did.
But do you remember back to that conversation in terms of what we thought we would get from that first event? Like kind of the turnout?
Jax: Yes, for me, the actual first turnout was a surprise. That you know, we hadn’t the idea. We ordered a few tables and thought we’d have a few people around, and you got everything out there on social media. It’s all so clever.
There was was well over 100 people who turned up that first time, didn’t they?
Minka: Yeah, we got close to 150 almost.
Jax: Yeah. It was a few weeks after, and I thought, “Right! We’ve got to think about this, and it’s not only us two. We’ve got Erin, and we got Aida and their own special amazing talents. Smart. Most of the time, I’m just going, “Yeah, that’s a good idea. That’s a good idea.”
Erin especially is reminding me all the time, “It’s about community.” Very ethical. We created the Code of Conduct, and we are always about community. You know, lots of people have been coming up to us saying, “You know, you could make money do this do that”, and it’s “No, it’s all about community, and it’s all about family.”
And the more that people step towards us. You know we like spread it all over the yeah UK. You know it’s not about just London. If you got an idea, if you don’t see it there, “Family – what should we do?” Come to us, and we help each other out.
It’s about enabling each other out, and it aligns with what I do in my career too. Yeah, as a social worker, it starts with community and giving people the tools to make their own magic happen. It’s humbling.
Minka: Absolutely, and I think you touched upon a really good part of all of this: we know why we do this? Do you know what I mean? I think the why has to be something bigger than we just want to make money. Or we just want to throw sex parties (which, at the moment, that’s not something that we do). The why has to be something that we can really build on, and that’s why it’s so important.
I also think that you touch on something else which I wanted to talk about, what is it we thought we got so right about creating this event?
I think that one of what you were talking about really touches on that specifically, which I think one of the first things we got right was that we realised that it couldn’t just be you and I. We needed another person to run this with, and that other person is Miss.E or Erin, who is one of the other co-founders of ENM Fam London.
I think one of the brilliant things behind that was that we each bought in different communities. So you already had this established community with the Blackfluent Polyamory Hub. Erin’s very active in the kink scene in London, and then I bought in all the queer kids. Doing that meant that we had already had community reach within different parts of the non-monogamy and polyamory community.
Then also, it brought in three different skillsets, which we identified really early. I was good at pre-planning – the marketing, the putting all of that together. You two are excellent at hosting and bringing in the vibes, and making sure things run really well on the night. So, I think that’s something we got really right.
Jax: Absolutely, and I’m learning all the time. All the skills all the time and the skills that I’ve learned from you and my colleagues were able to pass over.
Another thing is I personally have met and made friends and close connections with people from the communities that I had no way of engaging in. Even when you think about kink. I’m on my little explore.
But I’ve developed friends from that community that are friends! That are friends. Different cultures, different genders, different identities. We’re just on it. We’re just connected. People that I wouldn’t have felt in a million years I would get to meet. I don’t think I’m the only one.
I like to think that the environment creates safety really. We always have. We have an amazing team of volunteers that know the brief. We’ve got a Code of Conduct up, and if someone’s not understanding, we will compassionately explain but be very boundaried.
A big thing’s been about getting feedback. After every event, we get feedback. So we’re learning. We can’t do everything that everyone wants, but if we can, we’ll try. The community is not a community unless everyone participates.
Minka: Exactly, and I think that touches on another really good thing that we did really well from the start. We were mindful of the community that we wanted to build, and we wanted it to be inclusive. So, from the language that we use to market the event, as well as the information about the event and the imagery that we used when we were marketing it. We were making sure that visually it said, “This is an event for people who are trans or nonbinary. People of colour. We want you all to be here.”
Sometimes with non-monogamous events, that’s where they fall down because they try and maybe make it look sexy or this or that. We were kind of like, we’re not marketing the event for that straight man, you know? We’re marketing this event for everybody else that we want to come along and make them feel very seen from the start. I think that’s another reason why we were so successful from the get-go because people immediately knew this event was for them.
Jax: Yeah, yes, and also we’ve got to thank the support of a lot of people in the community that are promoting us. There’s Ruby as an example, you know lots of supporters have been sharing, spreading the word, coming in participating, and that’s been absolutely lovely.
On this anniversary, we’ve got amazing organizations that are donating tickets and contributions, so people can win prizes. We do little games, we do Bingo. So, yeah, everyone’s come together as our family should really.
Minka: Amazing. Yeah, really nice.
As you say so, we had influencers like Ruby Rare, and we had big parties such as Crossbreed (2022 update: these events have ended) and other places like that helping us initially by pushing out the message about this new event. So that was another thing I think we got really right. Getting the organisations that were relevant or the influencers that were relevant to spread the word.
I think another thing we got really right was the venue like, even though… (laughs)
Jax: Yeah, absolutely (laughs)
Minka: … even though some people don’t want to come to Lewisham in South London, the Fox and Firkin have been incredible to us.
Jax: They have, and we’ve formed a really great relationship. I mean, for me, it’s a little bit selfish because I’m a South Londoner and everything seems to be in the north for everything, you know?
Jax: But it’s got a lovely garden, and it’s got a lovely vibe, and people do travel. People have come from out of London to come along. It’s a wonderful place, and a really good team they have there. So thank you, Fox and Firkin.
Minka: Yeah, thank you, Fox and Firkin. They really embraced us right from the start and we never needed to hide what this event was, like try and pretend that it was something else. And yeah, they were perfect because of the size of the place as well because now, I think the mailing list for ENM Fam is getting close to a thousand. It’s really grown. The event now has to be ticketed even though the tickets are very, very cheap or free just because we need to cap the numbers for the events.
So do you know what the capacity is for this one-year anniversary?
Jax: Well, I should confirm with Aida, but I mean, potentially, we can have 300-400 people there. She will talk about getting more tickets in because on that day it’s going to be lovely as sunny.
We’ve got a fantastic DJ that you’re making recognized from Pinky Promise for those that go. So, it’s gonna be a party! So yeah, but some more information will come up in a week or two.
Minka: That’s great.
Looking back a year, that’s incredible to think of all of that compared to what we were hoping to get 30 to 50 people to our first event. If we’re being ambitious, maybe 70 and the fact that we probably doubled that number on the night was overwhelming.
To be flashing forward a year to now and to be talking about getting 300-400 people with DJs and stuff happening. That is incredible!
Is there anything that you would do differently if you were starting this again?
Jax: Ah, no. Absolutely no, and I’ll say that because it’s been such a flow, and we’ve all met in interesting circumstances, and how it’s developed over the year has been very, very organic.
We’ve got people in the family that are creating their own little groups. There are so many groups. Check the calendar out. You know there’s so much going.
No, absolutely nothing.
Minka: Yeah, it’s amazing. As you say, off the back of us creating this event and being so popular and growing our mailing list, we quickly realised that we needed to encourage other people to step forward and build their own events. So, now there’s a poker night. There’s a book club. There is all manner of different groups like climbing. All of this kind of stuff.
So off the back of us starting this one event, we’ve actually enabled a full community to spring up and grow out of that, which is really incredible.
I think because you have so much experience in trying to grow community within the polyamorous and non-monogamous communities, do you have any recommendations that you would give to people who are watching this and who are thinking about trying to start their own groups?
Jax: Right. Well, I mean, we do have a wonderful calendar. You can come to me or anyone that’s part of the ENM Fam and just ask. Email us. Give a suggestion.
Set up your own Instagram page. Create your own friendship group. Start up a WhatsApp group. Come to the events and meet people physically. Go to their events.
You know, I may go to a group that’s not really my interest, but it’s just different. So, come out of your comfort zone. If you see a gap, stop complaining about it and create it. There are lots of people that’s got lots of ideas on how to do things.
I’m not great with all this internet social media stuff. I’m learning, I’m learning. There’s always someone in the community. If you don’t know someone will and you can come to us and ask us who could help me with this.
Sometimes we have three different people coming up to us saying, “We got this idea”, and it’s the same idea. You know, just come engage. Network, network, network.
Enjoy yourself, but we’re a resource, and we’ll do as much as we can. You know that’s it, really.
If someone was watching this video and they live in another part of the world, and they’re thinking about starting their own kind of non-monogamy drinks event or something like that, is there any advice that you would give them for how to set something like that up?
Jax: I would say get a team around you if you’re one person. It does help if you got two or three around you with different skill sets. Especially with one that’s good with social media.
If it’s something like a social, be bold and go into that bar/pub/cafe/restaurant. Get those tickets. You know, we’ve got a really good resource with Instagram and Facebook. Reach out to us. Reach out to other organisations. Work in partnership. Support other people with what they’re doing, and you know, start small and just reassess and review.
And ask people, “How do you do this?” But use those tools. Instagram’s great we love it.
Minka: Yeah, absolutely.
I would definitely suggest as well: think about what that event is for. Because I think one of the other things that we got really right with our event was to be really clear from the start that this wasn’t a dating event. That we didn’t want people coming along cruising for partners.
Minka: This event was about building community, sharing resources, and finding support networks. I think that’s also another reason why we were so successful so quickly with what we’ve done. So, I would really encourage people thinking about setting up their own groups to think about what the purpose of that event is. If it’s not about dating, then make that really clear so that everybody who comes along feels very comfortable.
Jax: Yeah, absolutely 100%. See, that’s where you thought of that bit.
Minka: But that’s that’s also the benefits of having a team. All of us have been able to bring perspectives and ideas, all of this to the pot. That has really made ENM Fam as amazing as it is.
I feel enormously grateful that we met and had that conversation in the pub a year ago – or, you know, fifteen months ago – so that we are here now looking back and being like, “Wow, this is incredible!”
Jax: It’s just been a year. It’s just been a year, and you know my personal journey. My influences are people that I’ve met who have had an impact on me personally. It’s just so humbling, and I’m so happy, and so I love our community, like a fam. You know that it’s just so amazing.
Minka: Yeah, exactly and on that note, I can’t wait to be standing in a very warm beer garden having a very cold drink with you very soon. By the time this comes out, it will be in a week.
Jax: I know, Pink Lemonade.
Minka: Yeah, you know me. I may even have a little gin in it this time.
Jax: Yeah, you’re pushy, you’re pushing.
Minka: We’ve got a reason to celebrate.
Jax: We’re going to have a very special cocktail being made up for our party, so look out for it, folks. Yeah, a special one.
Minka: Oh wow! Oh, I’m really looking forward to that. Well, Jax, do we know what date the next event for our one-year anniversary? It’s on Thursday…
Jax: Yeah, gonna say everyone that knows me this is the one, isn’t it? The 18th, isn’t it? I get dates… I’ve got so many things going on, terrible it is.
Minka: I’m terrible, of course, let me just check that so that we’re definitely… Yeah, so Thursday 18th August this year. Very very soon, and I look forward to seeing you there then, Jax.
Jax: Oh man, big hugs.
Minka: Yeah, and thanks for having this chat today.