By Rob Holley
Life isn’t always the easiest for members of Lambeth’s LGBTQ+ community, but one thing we can be thankful for is the number of events and venues we’re able to enjoy. With big, thriving scenes in Vauxhall and Clapham, UK Black Pride taking place later this year south of the river and multiple social groups – from board-gamers to knitting circles – there’s a lot to be proud of. Here’s a snapshot of what’s going on in March…
At the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, at 150 years young the UK’s oldest gay pub, they’re celebrating the birthday of come-and- have-a- go cabaret Bar Wotever, which turns 13 on Tuesday 27 March. Host Rhys’ Pieces is joined by Velvet Jones, Katy Jalili and others.
I asked Ingo, the tour de force behind the collective, why the night is so important. ‘Bar Wotever is an inclusive space for like-minded people to meet’ he tells me. ‘It can be tough when you’re new to a city, or coming out one way or another, and so it’s really important to have a space, a platform and a stage. Sometimes it’s all too easy to forget that queer stories are rarely shared or seen, and the Tavern gives us the space tostart.’
Heading into the bank holiday weekend, on Thursday 29 March the Tavern invites lesbians and their friends of all genders and sexualities to Butch, Please! It’s a party for butch muthers and baby dykes alike to bring love, respect and power to Lambeth. This event is open to all members of the LGBTQ+ community. The only rules are: 1) Be nice; 2) Have a good time.
‘Butch, Please! is a celebration of all things butch,’ promoter Tabs tells us. ‘It is dyke- centred and is a big part of the revitalised and growing lesbian scene in London.’ Friday 30 March sees the return to the Tavern of London’s premiere pop party Push The Button (I must declare an interest: I happen to be one of the event’s promoters), kicking off the weekend with a celebration of Carly Rae Jepsen and all things Canadian. Think like a Mountie and watch out for bears, as we turn the snow machines up to blizzard and celebrate all things north of the border. Hey Trudeau, call us maybe?
Then there’s the jewel in the crown: Duckie. There isn’t a club night more cherished, entertaining or downright funky as this institution of more than twenty years’ standing. Hosted by London’s Night Czar Amy Lamé, its manifesto states: “We believe that art and performance can be used as tools to bring about community solidarity, to make ordinary people happy and even for personal development and recovery for the most vulnerable amongst us” – they’re not wrong. If you’ve not experienced Duckie, make it your mission to go this month. Whether you’re gay, straight, bi or none of the above, the experience of watching Lorraine Bowen sing The Crumble Song or Barbara Brownskirt recite poetry about Judi Dench, followed by having a Kronenbourg and a bop to Grace Jones, is at the heart of what it means to be a Londoner. And that’s all for £6.
Across town, it’s a much more high-brow affair at The Two Brewers in Clapham, when they’re joined by Romanian-born pop duo The Cheeky Girls on Thursday 29 March. Gabriela and Monica have been dusted down and instructed to perform Cheeky Song (Touch My Bum), Have a Cheeky Christmas, Hooray Hooray (It’s A Cheeky Holiday) and Cheeky Flamenco but, sadly, not the Cheeky Despacito. Tickets are available from The Two Brewers’ website but we’re pretty sure you’ll be able to rock up and pay on the door.
Fancy a cheeky one without an assault on your ears? Check out The Cock Tavern on Kennington Road – it’s having a bit of a moment. The crew behind cult East London pub The Nelson’s Head have travelled south of the river to take over what used to be South London Pacific.
They’ve kept some of the Tiki paraphernalia and added London’s best jukebox, an incredible DJ line-up and an obscenely large glitter ball: I guarantee this pansexual pub will be your new favourite boozer within minutes. The Cock Tavern’s open after work on weekdays and keeps going until the wee hours on Fridays and Saturdays.
Pro-tip: if post-work drinks here slide into a late one and you haven’t had your tea, phone their neighbours Papa John’s ten minutes before leaving and take advantage of their call and collect prices.
If you prefer your social appointments a little more relaxed, there’s a group dedicated to LGBTQ+ board gamers that meets upstairs at the Vauxhall Griffin once a month, with the next event scheduled for Sunday 8 April. There are house games but they also operate a bring-you- own policy to spice things up a bit (well, there’s only so many times you can argue over who gets to be Miss Scarlet). Play nicely.
Finally, if you fancy a spot of shopping, check out Fetch next to Clapham High Street Overground, London’s newest queer lifestyle superstore, catering for all your homosexual fashion needs. One thing though: we’re still unsure whether the name is a reference to Mean Girls or the unexplained dog bowls full of tennis balls in one corner of the store. Or possibly it’s both.
Photos by Corinne Cumming