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London's LGBTQ clubs, bars & cabaret

Published October 13th, 2015

London is one of the world’s most welcoming cities when it comes to LGBTQ visitors. From cosy gay pubs to mind-boggling drag shows, there is enough LGBTQ culture to keep you occupied day and night.

East Bloc in Old Street, London, is party central.

Despite being 'cleaned up' by developers in recent years, Soho remains London’s gay nucleus. Its main drag, Brewer Street to Old Compton Street, still boasts a few sex shops, such as Prowler, and bars like the iconic G-A-Y, not to mention several cafes that double as cruising grounds. Soho is quaint, if only in the sense that Molly Moggs is one of the few places you’ll see a drag queen get totally ignored, but it is also thrilling, with gay saunas such as Sweatbox just a stone’s throw from more upmarket spots like the Oscar Wilde-themed bar, the Green Carnation.

Amy Grimehouse night at Sutton House. Photograph: Ki Price

London has seen gay clubbing events spread out from the centre over the past decade. Hackney, for example, is taking on increasing importance as a new kind of gaybourhood: where LGBT establishments aren’t ghettoised but dispersed among other businesses.

In the basement of one of Hackney’s trendiest hotels (Ace Hotel, Shoreditch) is the club night Hard Cock Life – a mostly-male hip-hop night. Also in Hackney, the National Trust property Sutton House is the venue for an immersive, LGBT-friendly cinema event Amy Grimehouse, and just down the road, dingy club Vogue Fabrics hosts both straight and gay club nights throughout the week.

Admittedly, London’s gay bars have been facing difficult times of late. Beloved LGBT venues such as The Joiners Arms in Shoreditch and the Black Cap in Camden have closed due to soaring rents (both were in prime real estate locations) and stringent changes in local council policies. Yet, as new ventures and activities for LGBT communities pop up each month, often in what are traditionally heteronormative venues, it is becoming clear that there’s more to be enjoyed in gay London than ever before.

Drag and cabaret

By drag performer Oozing Gloop, co-editor of Serious Fun and founder of the Yeast London Cabaret

John Sizzle, co-founder of The Glory, Haggerston, east London.

A glittering jewel has finally been placed atop the rusted crown of east London: gay pub The Glory, which was recently opened by two of the founding members of Gay Bingo, legendary drag queens Jonny Woo and John Sizzle. Here you can find entertainment on almost every night of the week.

Faggy-Okay is its Thursday night karaoke phenomenon, hosted by the divine Ginger Johnson. Freaky Fridays is when it opens up, or rather permits thee to descend … to the HOLE: a black basement of undiluted comic queer terrorism and dancing with no holds barred!

Drag night at Bloc Bar.

If you have an insatiable appetite for stimulation, an addiction to entertainment, a void deep inside that can only be filled with sequins, glitter, fake hair and heels, but the weekend is just too far away, then try Absolutely Fagulous in the new Kentish Town boozer Bloc Bar on a Monday. On Tuesday nights, Bar Wotever is your port of call, taking place at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern. After almost closing its doors recently, one of the UK’s oldest gay venues has now been Grade II listed and is back up and running with a full Technicolor range of attractions, including Duckie, a Saturday night cabaret show that has been running for more than 10 years.

Sink the Pink is a showstopper.

If you want a drag blow out, there’s only one place to go: Sink the Pink, about to celebrate its sixth birthday. There are few drag nights operating on this scale (and scales would make a rather appropriate outfit, one feels) – think catwalks and dance shows galore, every third Saturday of the month. Afterwards, we all go to Metropolis, a pole-dancing club – over three floors – subject to a transvestite takeover until 5am.


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Pubs and bars

By Holly Falconer, photographer and co-editor of The Most Cake, a London-based website for queer women

Party in the Dalston Superstore club. Photograph: Alamy

I maintain that London’s LGBT scene is as vibrant as ever. The after-hours counterpart to G-A-Y (G-A-Y Late) has quickly replaced the Joiners Arms as London’s trashy gay bar of choice, where everyone is invited. Plus, the drinks at G-A-Y are particularly cheap from Sunday to Thursday.

I have a long-term soft spot for the bar, cafe and club Dalston Superstore in east London, which has always set a high benchmark for good DJs and live music – from Berlin’s Planning to Rock to Texas drag export Christeene. It has served as a truly welcoming queer space for gay people, straight people, trans people and just about everyone else since it opened in 2009. You can even dance on the bar.

Adam All and Apple Derrieres, at Boi Box. Photograph: Paul Grace

When it comes to spaces for queer girls, Pitch Slap! is a current favourite. Dalston Superstore’s 'weekly lez off' Clam Jam is excellent for meeting people, and Holla! at the Hoxton pub the Macbeth is also worth a punt. However, hidden Soho gem Boi Box is my top tip, with its small family of drag kings putting on riotous monthly performances at She Bar.

If you’re looking for a cute gay pub to have a quiet drink, there are a few nice, old-fashioned spots outside the city centre. The George and Dragon in Greenwich is a stereotypically English pub with a big gay cabaret twist. The Richmond Arms in Richmond is friendly, and the King William IV in Hampstead – one of the oldest gay bars in the city – attracts regulars and tourists, with a really delicious creperie next door if you’re feeling hungry.

Clubbing

By Dan Glass, cabaret performer, human rights activist and organising member of Act Up London

Party at Fire, Vauxhall.

Vauxhall has, for some time now, been a destination for gay clubbing that goes on and on … and on. A venue called Fire is just about the closest London clubbing gets to Berlin. It has always been a favourite spot for guys who prefer to wear their T-shirt tucked into their waistband than on their actual person.

Just around the corner, longstanding club night Horse Meat Disco never fails to play anything short of brilliant disco and house music. And, if you feel like venturing even further south, Bootylicious at the Electric in Brixton is a great feelgood night where people of all backgrounds can express themselves.

Club Kali at the Dome, Kentish Town.

Off the grid a bit, are Club Kali at the Dome in Kentish Town and Resistance Gallery in Bethnal Green. The former is really popular among London’s LGBTQ Asian community. The latter is an arts space that is also an unruly party venue – check out the night Transisters, which describes itself as 'trans queer sexually diverse hot pot for the polygendered liberated party people club night'.

I’m sold on that. Also at Resistance Gallery is the club night Debbie, which has only one rule: no music plays that doesn’t have a female vocal.

Finally, no clubbing guide would be complete without a mention of East Bloc, near Old Street tube station, with its pounding music, dark corners and doors open until daylight – this is where all good nights go to end.


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This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk

This article was written by Amelia Abraham from The Guardian and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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