But is this because of a growing ‘anti-kink’ agenda, as some scenesters believe? Or is it just an unfortunate side effect of the state of flux London venues are in right now?
As reported last month, Club Subversion, which also hosts London Fetish Weekend, had a narrow escape during this year’s LFW at the beginning of October.
It happened when Fire, the venue in Vauxhall they’d reserved a year in advance for this year’s London Fetish Ball on Friday October 6, allegedly reneged on the booking at the eleventh hour.
The party was scheduled to represent an amalgamation of the club’s three separate events — Club Subversion itself, the more extreme play orientated Subversion Noir, and Subversion Mansion, which normally takes place in Brighton.
Fortunately the night — retitled Subversion’s Big Balls — was able to relocate at short notice to Islington’s Electrowerkz, host of many recent Torture Garden parties and home to the legendary Slimelight club.
Unsurprisingly, Fire is now well and truly off Subversion’s Christmas card list — and any other card list you’d care to mention, we imagine. A Subversion statement says:
“Due to the dreadful treatment by Fire regarding the LFW, we had no choice but to withdraw any further bookings and will never use that venue again.
“Because of the activities that happen at Noir,” the statement continues, “and with a serious lack of affordable London venues left that legally allow sex or nudity, there are no plans for a Noir event any time soon.”
This means the club has had to cancel the Noir party scheduled for November 17. But this is not the full extent of Subversion’s problems with London venues.
It was announced last week that Bloc South, also in Vauxhall and only recently engaged to host Subversion nights, has also declined to honour the club’s two remaining pre-Christmas bookings.
“Bloc South broke their contact with us on the same day Fire cancelled the LFW venue,” claims Subversion. “So both the October 21 and December 15 Subversion dates are cancelled as well. It’s not been a particularly great month to be honest!”
The promoters have confirmed that they initiated the refund process for both events, and Ticketscript should have processed them all be now.
“We made sure that the refunds included booking fees,” they say. “We covered that ourselves so no one is out of pocket, and we are sorry for any inconvenience caused.”
Subversion’s problems come soon after we revealed the extent of Torture Garden’s difficulty finding suitable venues for its biggest events of 2018.
He said that none of the remaining London venues of equivalent capacity were now prepared to accommodate a Torture Garden event “for various personal or licensing reasons”.
As a result, the club has been obliged to split its biggest parties in the first half of 2018 into smaller gatherings that will fit in venues such as Fire and Electrowerkz.
But sad though it is, the loss of the Coronet by TG is not a consequence of any anti-fetish agenda on the part of that venue.
It is ‘merely’ collateral damage caused by the redevelopment of Elephant & Castle — just as TG’s earlier loss of SeOne was a consequence of the redevelopment of London Bridge Station.
There is also a possible explanation for Bloc South’s dumping of Subversion that is rather more prosaic than the anti-kink agenda some have supposed to be behind its actions.
A quick look at the venue’s Facebook page reveals that Bloc South is now proudly proclaiming itself to be the venue for gay club Tribe’s new monthly fetish event.
And the date of the first edition of that Tribe event? Saturday October 21, the date originally reserved for this month’s Subversion.
So it seems likely that the people running Bloc South decided that hosting Tribe would be more valuable than hosting Subversion, and acted accordingly.
That doesn’t excuse the venue if, as Subversion claims, it broke their contract. But it does suggest that profit, rather than any darker agenda, was behind the move.
Of course this will be of little consolation to Subversion fans who find themselves suddenly deprived of what should have been a regular meeting place.
And even if the current squeeze on London venues is not directly down to police or licensing authorities, the end result — a reduction in the spaces where our community can gather — is the same.
However, it is hard to completely disregard the thought that some developers are only too happy to do the moral crusaders’ work for them.
The recent battles in London and elsewhere to retain established LGBT venues threatened with destruction under redevelopment plans have shown that property developers and sexual subcultures are not natural allies.
It’s hard enough getting property firms to provide any affordable housing on London development sites. So perhaps it’s not too surprising that including (or retaining) a gay pub or a fetish venue on such sites comes very low down anybody’s list of priorities.