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Swing and Chill around Vauxhall Station

by Peter van Delft in Travel and weekendtrips , 26 april 2004


When you mention “London” everybody immediately starts to shout: “Too expensive! All the gay places are miles away from each other.” That used to be truth, but looking at the current prices in Amsterdam’s bars; considering the cheap flights (if you book in advance); and after a weekend around Vauxhall Station, I concluded: London exceeds one’s expectations and it’s still alive!

The West-End

In the last years (especially during the winter months) the Amsterdam gay scene isn’t that busy anymore; except for a few monthly parties it’s kind of sad. That’s why I decided to pay a weekend visit to our neighbors at the other side of the North Sea. I found myself for the small amount of seventy euros a flight to London Gatwick, from Gatwick it costed me around ten pounds to hop on the Gatwick Express, which took me in a nonstop half an hour journey to London Victoria at the West-End.


Of course as a tourist in London you would like to explore the West-End: Trafalgar Square, the Houses of Parliament, St Pauls Cathedral, Soho, the well-known shopping streets and the theaters. After I had ticked off most of the touristic spots in my guide, I was getting kind of curious about London’s gay scene. One of my friends had told me about the scene around Vauxhall Station in South London; you can spend a whole weekend in that neighborhood without getting bored. Curiously I left behind me the “Queen's Walk” leading around the river Thames and decided to check out the scene.

Pubs and Clubs

My first stop was at Dukes (Dukes of Cambridge) at Kennington Lane. This is quite a big pub, in the back you’ll find pool tables and the entrance to the garden which during the summer is used as a Beer-garden. A very cosy place to be, the male audience varies in age. After some pints of lager one of my friends decided it was time for shot of Tequila, which only costed £ 1.70 (which converts into 2.50 Euros; and for that amount you won’t get it in Amsterdam). In London a lot of bars have happy hours/evenings, or they’ll sell special doubles. A double Whiskey, Vodka or Gin will only cost you £ 3.00 (4.42 Euros).
My spirits rose, and I was ready to visit a club.


For the leather guy there is Hoist in Railway Arch 47b at South Lambeth Road. They have a dress-code, without leather you won’t get in. It’s not a really swinging club but more a cruising place.
I wanted to dance so we decided to go to Club Crash at 66 Goding Street. This club opened its doors in 1999 under one of the railway arches. Two dance floors are separated by a bar with a chill-out space above; here you can take some time to relax from all this dancing. By London standards this is a rather small club with its four bars, two dance floors and its capacity to host a thousand visitors. Tonight was called Crash Classic Night, and I danced until 3.00 a.m. on the beats of the so called Urban Underground House; by that time it was time for my beauty sleep. Every week there is another theme at Crash: sometimes Sleaze and sometimes Straight (mixed gay and straight).


Besides Crash you can also visit Club Fire where they start of the evening with Growl house, very popular with bears and bear lovers. Fire is very near to Hoist at South Lambeth Road. At 3.00 a.m. they shut the place and make you leave. Just around the corner you can enter the same club to dance on the same dance floor again, only now it’s called AM. Unfortunately you’ll have to pay an entrance fee again. Would you like to dance on somewhere else, Crash has also after parties which last until noon.
Regularly there are Orange parties organized. Orange is always organized at a different location. Saturday 31 January an Orange masked ball was organized nearby Vauxhall at the Colosseum at 1 Nine Elms Lane. There’s a lot of partying going on in this neighborhood.

QX-Magazine

To find out what’s going on in the London gay scene, you’ll better get yourself a free copy of "QX-Magazine". To be found at almost every gay bar. QX is the night-out guide for the gay and lesbian scene in London. The latest copy you can download at: http://www.qxmagazine.com/

The Dame Edna Experience

On a Sunday afternoon around 15.00 p.m. you will find a queue outside the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, a pub with a small stage. One is waiting to get in for the so called “S.L.A.G.S. Chill-out on Sunday”. The entrance fee is six pounds and instead of a ticket, you’ll get a wristband, which allows you to walk in and out the pub. The DJ spins the tables, which causes a stir among the audience. The pub is quickly filled, with its room for maybe some two hundred guests.

The highlight of the afternoon is the performance of Jonathan as “Dame Edna Experience”. I’ve seen many drag shows, but I have to admit this show is a top performance!

That Sunday afternoon, after I asked him if it was ok to shoot some pictures for "Gay News" and handed over some of the latest issues, she started the show using "Gay News" as a link to Amsterdam, making the audience laugh for at least fifteen minutes.

A guess who was the victim of her jokes..., yes it was this guy. The conferences are alternate with live singing.

Amazing, but it sounds like Karen Carpenter is actually singing here, even Whitney Houston’s “I will always love you” she perfectly imitates.

About five years ago she started her shows; last year she was performing at Brighton Pride. Once she told not to be interested in TV shows (too much directing) or big audiences, the Vauxhall Tavern is her livingroom; this becomes quite clear when she takes off her wig and sometimes even the dress during an encore. The show starts between 17.00 and 18.00 hrs. and takes about forty-five minutes to an hour. (As long as it suits Edna).


After the show there’s a lot of dancing again; until 22.00 hrs. the place is packed with swinging men, who eventually in nude torsos are dancing the weekend away.
And it goes on and on for many more hours in London, only not for me; I had to go to bed. The next morning I had an early flight to catch back to quiet Amsterdam.



 







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