Heaven is a gay superclub in Charing Cross, London, England. It has played a central role and had a major influence in the development of London's LGBT scene for over 40 years and is home to long-running gay night G-A-Y. The club is known for Paul Oakenfold's acid house events in the 1980s, the underground nightclub festival Megatripolis, and for being the birthplace of ambient house.

The entrance to Heaven Nightclub
LocationCharing Cross, London, England
Coordinates51°30′29″N 0°07′26″W / 51.50808°N 0.12400°W / 51.50808; -0.12400
OwnerJeremy Joseph
TypeNight club
Heaven Night Club Official Website

Soundshaft also hosted Future, a regular night on Thursdays run by Paul Oakenfold. At the end of the night, both crowds would come together when the doors connecting Heaven and Future opened for the last couple of songs.

History edit

Beginnings edit

Heaven was opened in December 1979[1] by Jeremy Norman in a former night club called Global Village, which was housed in the arches beneath Charing Cross railway station,[1] once part of Adelphi Arches, a large wine-cellar for the hotel above. Norman was also chairman of Burke's Peerage, the publishers. The original hi-tech interior was designed by his partner, Derek Frost. Norman, an entrepreneur, had started an earlier club, The Embassy, in Old Bond Street in 1978. The Embassy proved to be successful and attracted a fashionable clientele; it is generally seen as the London equivalent of New York's Studio 54.[1] Norman used his knowledge and experience of establishing and running a nightclub to create an entirely new kind of gay club on a larger scale. Heaven quickly established itself as the centre of the (then understated) gay London nightlife. Until it opened, most gay clubs were small hidden cellar-bars or pub discos. Heaven brought gay clubbing into the UK mainstream and gave London a club to rival New York's gay super club at the time, The Saint.

Heaven's first resident DJ was Ian Levine,[1] who has been credited with being one of the first DJs in the UK of the now customary style of "beatmixing".[2] His mix of Disco and Hi-NRG became what is known as the Original Heaven Sound.

Under the direction of the club's original manager David Inches and independent promotions Manager Kevin Millins, Heaven sought DJs who would become exclusive to the club and were groundbreaking in terms of their music selection and style. Many Heaven DJs would go on to find greater acclaim in both the gay and mainstream music industry. Original Heaven DJs include: Tony De Vit, Colin Holsgrove, Marc Andrews, Marc Monroe, George Mitchell, Ian D, Tallulah, Jon Dennis, Rich B, Wayne G, and Steve Whyte.[1] Heaven also attracted legendary names from the United States such as House music pioneer Frankie Knuckles,[3] who played at the Thursday night Delirium!.[4]

1980s/1990s edit

In 1980, London Weekend Television ran a weekly documentary series titled Gay Life,[5] in which Heaven nightclub and various other London gay clubs and bars were featured.

In 1982, Heaven was acquired from Norman by Richard Branson's Virgin Group. Branson was one of the first to identify the burgeoning 'pink pound' and saw the club as an investment opportunity, Branson reported in his autobiography that the £500,000 used to purchase Heaven were financed by the brewery supplying drinks to the venue.

Kevin Millins' club night Asylum (on Thursdays) started on 14 April 1983, with resident DJs Colin Faver and Mark Moore (S'Express). By 1985 this had become Pyramid (shifted to Wednesdays) and was one of the first clubs in the country to play emerging House music from Chicago.[6][7]

As one of the first gay clubs in London, and one of the first openly so in the world, Heaven courted controversy, frequently appearing in the tabloid press, especially in The Sun headlines about ecstasy use in the nightclub in 1989.[8]

In the late 1980s, Heaven would host two what would become legendary nights during the height of Acid House, Techno, and Breakbeat Hardcore rave culture. The first was Spectrum promoted by Paul Oakenfold[1] and Ian St Paul, which ran on Monday nights between April 1988 and 1990,[9] and the other was Kevin Millins' Rage, a Thursday night running between October 1988 and 1993 which included DJs Fabio & Grooverider, Colin Faver, and Trevor Fung.[1][10] Oakenfold brought in Jimmy Cauty and Alex Paterson (The Orb)[11] as ambient DJs for his "The Land of Oz" nights at Heaven,[12][13] club nights which Dom Phillips in Mixmag called "seminal".[14] These chillout sessions in "The White Room", also involving Youth,[15] heralded the birth of ambient house.[11] Cauty's other band, The KLF, made their premier live performance at the Land of Oz in July 1989.[16]

Replacing Rage on Thursday from October 1993 until 1996 was Megatripolis, with Mixmaster Morris and regular guests such as Mr. C and Alex Paterson.

In the mid-1990s, Wednesday night was Fruit Machine, hosted by Miss Kimberly[17] with a strong Drag theme. Fridays were Garage playing Techno and Hardbag with DJs Blu Peter and Mrs Wood. Saturday nights were 'Heaven is Saturday – Saturday is Heaven' which hosted a variety of parties and weekly changing themes.

Soundshaft edit

Soundshaft was a small club attached to Heaven, which had a separate entrance on Hungerford Lane, behind Craven Street, although it was also accessible from the main club. Between 1988 and 1990, this hosted the seminal Troll night and which launched the career of DJs Daz Saund and Luke Slater.[18] It is now called The Stage Bar.[19]

1998 relaunch edit

In 1998, the club was refurbished and relaunched as a more mainstream venue to challenge increasingly popular clubs such as Trade and The Fridge. As part of this broadening appeal, a new Monday Indie night called Room Two started alongside its more trademark night of Popcorn which started on a Monday (and replaced Fridays Popstarz).[1] To ensure the club stayed relevant, it also hosted nights from popular promoters such as Gatecrasher and Bedrock (on a Thursday night until 2005, with resident DJ John Digweed.

2000s edit

At the beginning of the 2000s, Heaven adopted a more mainstream Tribal house and Disco-influenced sound, employing DJs that had been resident at other major gay London nightclubs such as Trade and Salvation, such as Billy Gonzalez.

In 2003, Virgin sold the club to a consortium which comprised Paul Savory, David Inches, and Jeremy Millins (Pure Group).[1]

Towards the mid-2000s, the music policy of its main room became more underground-oriented, with Progressive, Tech, and Deep House on a Saturday night from resident DJs Pagano and Nick Tcherniak.

In 2017, the building was chosen as one of the Great Gay Buildings according the BBC channel 4.[20]

G-A-Y edit

On 22 September 2008, Heaven was purchased by the MAMA Group through its jointly owned subsidiary company G-A-Y Ltd.[21] G-A-Y was a popular and long-running gay night hosted for many years at the London Astoria, and on Friday 3 October 2008, MAMA Group moved G-A-Y to Heaven. Little over a year later, MAMA Group itself was bought by music retailer HMV[22]

When HMV went into administration in 2013, Jeremy Joseph founder of G-A-Y acquired the outstanding shares in G-A-Y Ltd, and with it Heaven.[1][23]

Asset of Community Value edit

Heaven was granted Asset of community value status in January 2020[24]

Coronavirus pandemic edit

Nightclubs across England, including Heaven, were closed for much of the coronavirus pandemic. When it was announced on 14 July 2021 by Prime Minister Boris Johnson that all remaining coronavirus restrictions would be lifted on July 19, Heaven launched a digital clock counting down the hours until nightclubs could reopen.[25] Footage of revellers queuing for Heaven and dancing inside the nightclub to celebrate the final lifting of restrictions in England gained worldwide media attention.[25][26][27]

On Sunday 8 August, Heaven opened up between midday and 9pm as a vaccination drop-in centre, offering first doses of Pfizer vaccines and second doses of AstraZeneca vaccines without appointment.[28]

Capacity increase and accessibility improvements edit

Alongside the shock announcement of the permanent closure of sister venue G-A-Y Late by owner Jeremy Joseph in November 2023, it was announced that Heaven was to undergo interior works.[29]

Mr Joseph announced that Heaven would be opening on Wednesday nights to host the new 'Mood' events, and it would be operating under an increased capacity of 1,725 with a promise of wheelchair accessibility after approval by Westminster City Council.

Joseph announced his intention to continue and recreate an "updated version" of the G-A-Y Late atmosphere at Heaven, intending to open some rooms in the club on further nights to do so.[30]

Today edit

Heaven Nightclub on a Saturday in 2023, taken from the main stage.

Monday edit

Monday continues to play host to Popcorn,[1] a largely student night which plays pop and funky house music. It is a predominantly gay event and frequently hosts drag performances by local resident drag queens.

Wednesday edit

Mood nights on Wednesday are to consist of RnB, Hip Hop, Bashment Soca, Afrobeat, and UKG music from January 3, 2024, announced by Jeremy Joseph after the closure of G-A-Y Late. Heaven is to be open from 11pm until 4am and will host Guest DJs.

Thursday edit

Thursday plays host to Porn Idol, a strip competition for men and women previously held at the Astoria, with a cash prize offered to the winner each week. The club's two resident drag queen judges are accompanied by a guest judge, who usually performs on the following Saturday.

Winning contestants have been offered the chance to 'gamble' their cash for a higher prize, dependant on the ability of the guest judge to complete a challenge. The competition previously consisted of several rounds, with £1,000 awarded to the 'season winner'. It is preceded and followed by one room of pop music.

Friday edit

Friday plays host to Camp Attack, a long-running night from the days at the London Astoria.[1]

Saturday edit

Saturday night events continue to mostly feature a live performance from a prominent member of the international drag community, frequently a contestant from RuPaul's Drag Race.

Past performers edit

Heaven often features live performances by notable artists. These have included, but are not limited to (in alphabetical order):

Heaven Worldwide edit

The Heaven name has been franchised over the years to ventures in Gran Canaria[33] and Ibiza.[34]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Thorpe, Vanessa (30 November 2019). "Forty years of sheer Heaven at the London superclub". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 30 November 2019. Retrieved 3 January 2024.
  2. ^ Brewster, Bill (2014). Last Night a DJ Saved My Life: The History of the Disc Jockey. Grove Press. p. 212. ISBN 9780802146106.
  3. ^ "Frankie Knuckles". Faith Fanzine. 19 April 2011. Archived from the original on 9 January 2017. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  4. ^ "Interview / Noel Watson / Part 3 / Post-Delirium!". Test Pressing. Archived from the original on 26 August 2018. Retrieved 25 August 2018.
  5. ^ "Watch Heaven (Gay Life)". BFI Player. Retrieved 24 April 2023.
  6. ^ Bill Brewster (12 January 2018). "S'Express Mastermind Mark Moore on Unsung Heroes of the UK's Early House Scene". RBMA Daily. Archived from the original on 4 April 2019. Retrieved 3 October 2018.
  7. ^ "You're too Young to Remember the Eighties – Dancing in a Different Time". Datacide. 8 April 2009.
  8. ^ Sam Richards (17 April 2013). "The Great British Freak-Out". MixMag.
  9. ^ "Spectrum (London)". Original House. 16 March 2017.
  10. ^ Laurant Fintoni (21 July 2015). "Nightclubbing: Fabio and Grooverider's Rage". RBMA Daily. Archived from the original on 4 April 2019.
  11. ^ a b Bush, John. The Orb at AllMusic. Retrieved 5 March 2020.
  12. ^ Boyd, Brian (23 October 1998). "Unidentified Flying Orb". The Irish Times. p. 12.
  13. ^ Prendergast, Mark (2003). The Ambient Century: From Mahler to Moby-The Evolution of Sound in the Electronic Age. Bloomsbury Publishing PLC. p. 408. ISBN 1-58234-323-3.
  14. ^ Phillips, Dom (1 March 1996). "50 greatest dance albums – No. 5, Chill Out – The KLF". Mixmag. Archived (via the Library of Mu) on 16 September 2016.Wikipedia:WikiProject The KLF/LibraryOfMu/478
  15. ^ Simpson, Dave (7 June 2016). "How we made the Orb's Little Fluffy Clouds". The Guardian (Interview with Youth and Alex Paterson). Retrieved 7 March 2020.
  16. ^ Cauty, Cressida (August 1989). "KLF Info Sheet 6". KLF Communications. Archived (via the Library of Mu) on 16 September 2016.Wikipedia:WikiProject The KLF/LibraryOfMu/506
  17. ^ "Powder Room: Were Coming Out – Spunkflakes – Uptown Punk Rock N Roll with a B-Movie Twist". Spunkflakes.com. 13 April 1994.
  18. ^ "Mote Evolver - Luke Slater". Mote-evolver.com.
  19. ^ Stuart Brumfitt (16 October 2015). "The visual legacy of 90s gay club trade". Vice (ID).
  20. ^ Jeremy Norman (25 June 2017). ""Heaven Club chosen as one of the Great Gay Buildings on Ch 4..."". X. Retrieved 3 January 2024.
  21. ^ "MAMA Group "delighted" at acquisition of Heaven". PinkNews.co.uk. 25 September 2008.
  22. ^ "HMV buys MAMA Group in live music takeover deal". BBC News. 23 December 2009.
  23. ^ "Jeremy Joseph buys G-A-Y from HMV administrators". PinkNews. 24 January 2013.
  24. ^ "FANTASTIC NEWS: The 40th Anniversary of Heaven Nightclub in London achieves Asset of the Community status through NTIA". Night Time Industries Association.
  25. ^ a b Butterworth, Benjamin (19 July 2021). "Nightclubs open: Emotional scenes as revellers return to dancefloors across England as clocks strike midnight". The Independent. Retrieved 6 August 2021.
  26. ^ Milton, Josh (19 July 2021). "Clubbers finally dance to Chromatica as restrictions lift despite soaring COVID cases". PinkNews. Retrieved 6 August 2021.
  27. ^ Shah, Karina; Douglas, Jason (19 July 2021). "Nightclubs Reopen as England Ditches Most Covid-19 Curbs Amid Delta Surge". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 6 August 2021.
  28. ^ O'Neill, Laura (6 August 2021). "Nightclub will offer Covid-19 jabs". Social Care Today. Retrieved 6 August 2021.
  29. ^ Kelly, Liv (27 November 2023). "G-A-Y is closing its iconic club for good next month". Time Out London. Retrieved 12 December 2023.
  30. ^ Barrie, Josh (27 November 2023). "Legendary Soho club G-A-Y Late will close in December". Evening Standard. Retrieved 12 December 2023.
  31. ^ Big Bang perform in concert at Heaven with their Arabic Circus Tour, Evening Standard, Sept. 20, 1989, (retrieved Dec. 30, 2022)
  32. ^ "Bronski Beat Setlist at September in the Pink 1983". Setlist.fm. Retrieved 24 April 2023.
  33. ^ "Heaven Gran Canaria - The most famous gay nightclub in the world". 4 December 2003. Archived from the original on 4 December 2003. Retrieved 24 April 2023.
  34. ^ "Heaven Ibiza". 25 December 2009. Archived from the original on 25 December 2009. Retrieved 24 April 2023.

External links edit