Queer Croydon meets… Ben Nizan

Queer Croydon have the pleasure of featuring an article by Ben Nizan, a Croydon-based DJ, game designer, and soon-to-be host of Driving Drums on Croydon FM!

Hi, my name’s Ben Nizan. I’m a bisexual Drum & Bass DJ and game designer, living in Croydon with my husband Dave. Here’s a little story about me and how I got here.

I grew up in Newport Pagnell. It has the country’s oldest still-in-use iron bridge, and its last vellum factory. Most notably, it has a motorway service station. A gateway for northern ravers commuting to the free parties in and around the M25 in the 80s and 90s. I was still a kid then. The closest I got to the scene was Wipeout on the Playstation with its rave-fuelled soundtrack featuring Orbital and The Chemical Brothers.

Anyway, it was a nice, quiet, place to grow up. Coming out wasn’t easy, but I was fortunate to have accepting friends and family. That said, I had few queer peers. The only LGBT+ venue was on the other side of Milton Keynes, and 18+ only. But by 18, I was already bound for London to study game design.

At Uni I discovered you could be gay and a nerd (which is laughably obvious now). I met more queer people just in my class than I ever had. The university cliche; I was finding myself. But I still hadn’t found dance music. It’s for the best, I might not have graduated otherwise.

Through mutual gay-nerd friends, during my first games job, I met my now husband and through him: I found proper raving. It turns out, I’d been listening to Drum & Bass all along – tracks picked out from gaming radio. I just didn’t know that’s what it was called. And then suddenly it was all there: DnB, Hard House, Psytrance, Techno and everything in between across club nights and festivals as far afield as Portugal and Hungary. Dave and I have even been running our own events since 2016, with an annual microfestival that’s run every year except for 2020.

It was in 2020 I turned 30, and we bought a flat in Croydon. Then it became illegal to leave your house. We couldn’t even buy a sofa (though we did, eventually, from Reeves!) Things got stranger. The game I worked on, Fall Guys, became a global phenomenon – played by tens of millions of people and going viral on social media. Suddenly I was doing TV and radio interviews, we were nominated for a BAFTA and… all from our flat. Success at last, but only through Zoom.

We really cherished being in Croydon at that time. Everything we needed nearby. No need to risk travel into the city. And in the other direction – nothing but green spaces and countryside.

During that weirdness though, I learnt how to mix tunes. When it was safe to party again, we did so. Our festival came back, and I played my first ever live gig there. Since then, I’ve played at various small events; including for Unorthodox – the UK’s leading Queer Drum & Bass movement.

The other thing Dave and I discovered after lockdown was one of Croydon’s jewels: The Oval Tavern and there: Their Majesties. We couldn’t believe it. After a decade each in London we’d found our holy grail: a proper old pub, stumbling distance from home, that sells a proper pint of ale, and that has an LGBT+ night?! That’s why after we got married at Croydon Town Hall, we had our reception there – where else!

More than just an LGBT+ night though, I’ve really found a sense of community at Their Majesties unlike anywhere I’ve lived before. Supportive, local, chaotic. Just what I’ve needed. It was an honour to DJ as part of the show in September and I’ll be doing so again on April 13th! 

Very much feeling the community spirit in Croydon, I’ve recently joined Croydon FM and soon you’ll be able to tune in to my show online or at 97.8FM every Wednesday, 4-6 for a dose of drivetime DnB! I hope to use this as a way to connect with the wider music scene in Croydon – so whether you’re queer, a raver, or both – reach out and say Hi!

My next gig will be at The Castle in Aldgate on March 9th, info here.

Ben Nizan’s show on Croydon FM is on every Wednesday, 4-6pm, available online and on 97.8FM.