Torture Garden’s annual review reveals its own evaluation of the previous partying year. Tony Mitchell weighs its conclusions, notes especially the rise of Torture Garden Productions, and considers how earlier TG plans for 2014 are shaping up in practice
Earlier this year, in a look back at its previous 12 months of clubbing activities, Torture Garden declared that its best event of 2013 was “without any doubt” the Saturday Halloween Ball at London’s Coronet Theatre.
Attracting what the organisers considered “an amazing dressed-up crowd”, and featuring spectacular shows and themed decor, it was, reckons TG, “a near perfect party”.
So perfect, in fact, that TG has decided for 2014 to stage its double bill of Halloween parties on consecutive Saturdays rather than Friday and Saturday as previously.
This way, the club hopes, both events should have “equal atmosphere and energy”, rather than repeating the experience of last year’s Friday party whose crowd “arrived later and lacked a bit of excitement”.
In terms of annual rankings of its events, the 2013 Valentines Ball, also at the Coronet, was rated “a close spectacular second” by TG. And by the club’s reckoning, its Christmas Ball at Colosseum, New Year’s Eve Eve party at Ministry of Sound and TG at Electrowerkz event in September also produced “great parties”.
These thoughts on TG’s 2103 offerings are among those shared in its traditional year-end review, in which it looks back on its past 12 months of partying with a candour that does it credit.
Fetish promoters have a tendency to draw a veil over their less successful efforts, and even though TG might not choose to do all its dirty washing in public, it does at least have the cojones to admit when things sometimes fall below expectations.
It confesses, for example, that is was “disappointed” in the May Birthday Ball. It would be safe to say TG was not alone in this reaction. I, for example, was disappointed even before it happened, because inexplicably (I felt), there was no fashion show in the evening’s entertainment schedule.
Anyone who has ever attended a TG Birthday Ball, especially since these events moved to the Coronet, knows that TG Birthday fashion shows are not just the spectacle around which the rest of the evening revolves, but also generally a highlight of the whole TG year.
For the organisers not to stage one last May (because, a TG insider told me, they “couldn’t find anyone to do it”) looked, in the great universe of excuses, to be inexcusably lame.
It was an omission that led me to decide not to cover a TG Birthday Ball for the first time in a decade. For me, ‘no show’ translated into ‘no go’.
But later the same month, bumping into the always affable Allen TG at the German Fetish Ball in Berlin, I apologised for not turning up at what had always been his most prestigious event of the year.
“I wouldn’t worry about it,” he said drolly. “It wasn’t one of our best.” While I appreciated his honesty (especially as he would have known he might be quoted), it did make me wonder why Torture Garden, of all fetish clubs, was unable to find a suitable fashion show for such an important event.
After all, it’s hardly a secret that for countless fetish designers from around the world, doing a show at Torture Garden is the Holy Grail. And I know of quite a few who’ve been bewildered by their inability to get a foot in the door after offering to stage one.
But since designers are expected to take most of the responsibility for the production of their TG shows, TG argues that it needs to be confident beforehand that labels are capable of doing so to the club’s high standards.
Fulfilling that criterion by favouring only designers who already have a track record of competent show production can, however, lead to rather too many repeat opportunities for a small circle of trusted labels.
Giving more opportunities to lesser-known names might involve more risk, but some risk is surely worth taking in order to keep things fresh and justify TG’s self-image as ‘still cutting-edge after all these years’.
The appearance of Dayne Henderson’s latex designs on the Halloween 2013 stage was definitely a step in the right direction, and it would be nice to think that the club will be more committed to showcasing new designers in 2014.
In its review, TG promised it was “working on an extra special line-up” to “make up for” the below-par 2013 Birthday. “For those new to TG,” it said, “please note that our Birthday Ball is our big showcase event of the year with an unmissable international line-up.”
At the time of writing, the extra-special Birthday line-up features US favourite Masuimi Max, Spanish corsetry specialists Bibian Blue, Polish performance group Suka-Off and aerialists Hugo Desmaris and Katherine Arnold, all on the main theatre stage.
Featured on the ballroom stage meanwhile are Le Pustra, Infamous Boom Boom and Marnie Scarlet, plus a second show from Masuimi. That adds up to quite a lot of old favourites and few new names — though you can’t argue with the crowd-pleasing content!
Having aired its feelings about several of its biggest events of last year, TG’s annual review goes on to mourn the imminent closure, at the end of this month (April), of yet another fetish-friendly London venue — Club Colosseum.
Although this venue has been more closely associated in recent years with TG’s sort-of-rival AntiChrist, Torture Garden’s observation that “it now means we’ve lost another regular venue following Mass and SeOne in recent years, and it’s a yet another worrying sign of the decline of London’s large scale clubland” is no less pertinent.
Fortunately the improved Electrowerkz has provided what TG considers “an equal replacement for medium scale TGs for the foreseeable future”. The next Electrowerkz night this coming Friday (April 11) features fashion by Dead Lotus Couture and Ritual London plus a variety of performances on the main and cabaret stages.
Martin Pelzer is an accomplished Berlin-based freelance photographer and videographer who has photographed many of the international fetish scene’s top-flight models and is also well-known for his Fetish Guerilla parties in the capital city.
His best known event is the extremely popular FetishGuerilla Revolution party which traditionally takes place at Berlin’s KitKatClub on the Saturday night of German Fetish Ball Weekend, as an officially sanctioned addition/ alternative to the GFB’s own Saturday night gatherings.
Martin enjoys visiting London whenever he can, and tries his best to fit in at least one full English breakfast on any visit. For his sins, he was also The Fetishistas’ original webmaster, responsible for building the site as it still appeared until November 2014.
Even though Torture Garden is a London clubbing brand, it is not just a London brand. Its forays into foreign territory (which it tags ‘Torture Garden on tour’) have been growing in popularity and 2013 was no exception.
Torture Garden Madrid was the big new International TG Tour destination of 2013 with our first ever event in Spain attracting a “fantastic and sexy dressed-up’ crowd of 500-plus, even if only “a one-room experience” was on offer at the venue.
“We can’t wait to return with a first event scheduled around March 2014 at a new venue,” said TG in its overview. Sadly, local Madrid promoter Miguel Vagalume is still trying to find a suitable venue so there is as yet no firm date for TG’s second outing in the Spanish capital.
Local promoters like Miguel are key to the way Torture Garden sets up its ‘tours’ (and this applies in the UK outside London too). It’s all about franchising. Local promoters actually organise the events, with Torture Garden licensing its name and providing personnel such as performers and DJs as part of a package.
TG’s well-established franchised nights in Toronto and Rome were also, notes the club, “great fun in 2013”, while closer to home, TG Edinburgh is described as being “as good as London” with its “amazing Caves venue” and “great diverse crowd”. Next Edinburgh date is its fifth Birthday Party on June 14.
In 2013 TG also returned to Manchester with “two good initial events” — despite the first venue burning down!
But Torture Garden’s big new club project of 2013 was Belle Epoque, where it teamed up with Bourne & Hollingsworth to co-produce the Dark Circus Party. The club explains:
“While we had created a Dark Kabaret event and also Circus themed TGs in the mid ’90’s, Belle Epoque has felt surprisingly fresh and new by combining TG shows and production with a more mainstream vintage crowd and at the glamorous Bloomsbury Ballroom.”
Adding that it looks forward to “seeing where the circus takes us in 2014”, TG has scheduled its next Belle Epoque for May 31 at the same venue.
A side of TG that is probably less familiar to the fetish-clubbing public, TG Productions, which produces events for a variety of clients, has been steadily growing to the point that it is now rumoured to generate more revenue than TG’s own-brand club nights do.
Equipped with new lock-up, van, staff and lots of equipment, TG Productions now produces events for companies such as Wyndstock Festival, Erotica, Last Tuesday Society, Blitz Party, Prohibition and Bloomsbury Ballroom venue.
This is in addition to creating shows and providing performers for a variety of cluba, corporate parties and events in the UK and around the world, including Erotica where it provided the shows for all three stages last year.
Look out for more from this branch of the organisation in 2014 — including a possible Erotica event in Las Vegas!
In the meantime, I’m pleased to say that The Fetishistas’ man in Berlin, Martin Pelzer (of Fetish Guerilla fame), became our man in Elephant and Castle last Halloween and provided us with the two great galleries of pictures from that event that you can see above.
His people pictures clearly illustrate the sartorial achievements of the audience, and his show pictures affirm the talents of latex designer Dayne Henderson, aerialist/fire artist Yusura Entertainer and others.
Martin is due to host his own big event in Berlin on June 7 as part of the German Fetish Ball Weekend, when Fetish Guerilla once again holds Saturday night court at the legendary KitKatClub. Catch it if you can!
Wednesday, 9 April 2014