A possible answer came with the announcement of the 2018 TG Halloween Ball, which took place on November 3 at Studio 338 in north Greenwich.
But this itself raised other questions: would kinksters leave familiar central London for an SE10 mega-club? And would that venue be a comfortable new home for the biggest spectacle on the London fetish calendar?
The first question was undeniably answered by a very early sellout and high demand for standby tickets. The second answer seemed to be a strong “yes” — as long as some start-up glitches get smoothed out for future engagements.
Studio 338 doesn’t publicise its exact capacity but it’s somewhere in the Coronet’s 2,000-3,000 range. This said, Torture Garden Halloween 2018 continued TG’s policy of admitting significantly fewer guests than the legal capacity in order to minimise crowding and allow space for playful activities.
It seemed to have hit a sweet spot as the venue certainly felt full and lively without undesirable waits at the bars or toilets.
Once past the multiple security checks, the separate cloakrooms for coats only (inside) and coats with bags (a tent outside), and a final dresscode check, partygoers could access the main dance space.
This room is reminiscent of The Coronet in terms of the scale of its main stage and dancefloor. But since the venue was rebuilt within the last few years, it has a much more contemporary ‘clean’ feel with a glass roof and ultramodern sound and lighting system.
In fact, ‘a more modern Coronet’ is a fitting way to describe the club’s layout, from the outdoor passageway to the secondary cloakroom and dungeon, the second dancefloor one level up, and the socialising bar at the back of the main floor.
With the standard rotation of DJs, the animated Benjamin Louche at the microphone as chef de cérémonie and the sea of familiar faces in the crowd, there’s no question you were at Torture Garden event, even without the Coronet’s well-worn treads.
The onstage performances too were standard fare for TG, ie top-notch in both production and wow-factor.
The Ball’s headliner, British latex designer Dayne Henderson, has made a name for himself with identity-altering catsuit-and-hood combinations that look as if they could only exist on a faraway planet with a highly advanced civilization. And his fashion show tonight lived up to every expectation.
The big stage and high ceilings were perfect for the aerial trio Raven Kindness, who previously left me breathless when I first saw them at their TG New York performance this summer. And the messy shenanigans of Chrisalys Circus and the aerial feats of Katharine Arnold kept the crowd spinning.
My impression was that the large crowd had fewer of the ‘tourist’ types than some other recent TG events and that guests upped their game as to outfits, staying away from cheap Halloween costumes and instead going with fetish finery or Mad Max nihilism as themes.
One significant departure from standard TG offerings was the lack of a couples’ room play space. But that did little to inhibit this crowd, as the wide balcony with its plentiful comfortable seating areas became an uninhibited show of flesh and action.
But as always with a new space there were bumps in the road.
The staggered entry-time ticket system TG has developed for its larger events has been very successful at spreading out the inevitable crush of midnight arrivals.
But the process of ID scanning at the venue’s ATM-like kiosks led to uncomfortable queues out in the cold, though the waiting times didn’t seem any worse than at Coronet events even on a good night.
The heaters in the tented dungeon area were unable to keep the space warm enough against chilly outside temperatures that were only a few degrees above freezing. And the lighting in the dungeon put some players undesirably in direct spotlights.
But these problems should be easily addressable in the future.
Fetish parties are unique in the extreme volume of bags — and large pieces of luggage in particular — that typical dance parties don’t see. And with the scale of TG, the demands on cloakrooms are unparalleled.
Cloakrooms can thus often be the weakest link in the operation, and unfortunately this was the case with Torture Garden Halloween 2018 at Studio 338, leading to a TG apology on social media in the days after the event.
TG management declared themselves “gutted” and “absolutely devastated” by the conditions customers had been forced to endure — which for many involved queuing outside for up to an hour in near-freezing temperatures, then having to search for their own possessions among enormous piles of bags and coats.
It appeared that despite Torture Garden’s best advance efforts, the venue, having never hosted a fetish event before, was just not prepared for the situation it was faced with on the night.
After the party ended there was a huge demand for app-based rides. This created a bit of a traffic crush on the dark, narrow approach road, but it seems people were generally able to find their rides.
In the name of research I made the 10-minute hike to the North Greenwich tube station, and after a very brief wait was whisked away on the 24-hour Jubilee line service. I got back to my Trafalgar Square area hotel about 45 minutes after I left the club.
There was a strong opinion that, aside from the cloakoom meltdown, the 2018 TG Halloween Ball was a very enjoyable event. Studio 338 is potentially a worthwhile venue replacement for the largest Torture Garden events, particularly given the ever more limited options in London
So hopefully the venue management will be willing and able to work with the Torture Garden team to smooth over the bumps in the road and be better prepared for the demands of future fetish events in that space.
Meanwhile, check out the companion Fetishistas article (link below) to this one for details of all Torture Garden 2019 dates that were either confirmed or pending confirmation at publication time (January 31).
BELOW: For Hyder Images’ fab Halloween pix, click a preview then click thumbnail to start slideshow
Published January 31, 2019