Royal Vauxhall Tavern
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|Royal Vauxhall Tavern|
The Royal Vauxhall Tavern in 2008
|Listed Building – Grade II|
The RVT was built between 1860 and 1862 at Spring Gardens, Kennington Lane, on land which was originally part of the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens. Although sometimes reported to have started life as a music hall, the venue was in fact constructed as a public house and has always served that function. After the Second World War, returning servicemen and local gay men were reportedly attracted to the venue, which held shows by female impersonators (drag shows).
By 1975, the Royal Vauxhall Tavern had two bars around a kidney-shaped bar which doubled as a stage for the drag artists to dance along in their stilettos from the tiny apron stage at one end. Prior to the cabaret starting the bar would be cleared of glasses and drinks and the staff would clean the bar ready for the drag to dance along it in their heels. The public bar attracted local workers and had a dart board whilst the lounge attracted the local gay community. Notable acts from this era include "Carla", famous for her Barbra Streisand impersonation and "The Great Lee Paris" on a Saturday night with Land of Hope and Glory, and There'll always be an England.
The RVT survived local redevelopment throughout the 1970s and 1980s and maintained its independence as a gay venue. Many of London's top drag artists performed there, including Hinge and Bracket and Regina Fong. Diana Dors also appeared there. Lily Savage, the drag persona of Paul O'Grady, was a regular performer for eight years, with shows four times per week.
According to Cleo Rocos in her memoir The Power of Positive Drinking, Diana, Princess of Wales, visited the RVT in the late 1980s, disguised as a man and accompanied by Rocos, Freddie Mercury and Kenny Everett. Rocos stated that revelers did not notice Diana because their attention was focused on Mercury, Everett and Rocos. Mercury’s close friend and personal assistant, Peter Freestone, has stated that Mercury was not involved in this outing and actually never met the Princess.
In 2005, the Royal Vauxhall Tavern was taken over by gay businessmen Paul Oxley and James Lindsay. With a new lighting and sound system the venue opened seven nights a week and maintained its popularity. In November 2014 the RVT was sold to property developers in a multimillion pound commercial deal. Lindsay was retained and appointed by the new business owners. The community campaign group RVT Future was formed soon afterwards to defend the venue's continued use as a site of LGBTQ community and culture.
Following an application by RVT Future, the RVT was made a Grade II listed building on 8 September 2015 – the UK's first building to be listed in recognition of its importance to LGBTQ community history. The campaign was supported by the then Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, and the actors and entertainers Ian McKellen and Paul O'Grady, among many others.
Bar Wotever is a weekly cabaret and performance night every Tuesday at The RVT, it features a different and diverse line up of performers each week and has championed performers of colour, drag kings, female, trans and non binary performers of all kinds.
Sunday Social is a Sunday afternoon event which combines drag performers and top name DJs. Sunday social acts perform in rotation including residents Myra DuBois, Charlie Hides and Mary Mac with regular guests Lola Lasagne, Karla Bear, Poppycock, Drag with No Name and more. Jonathan Hellyer's Dame Edna Experience was the resident act for 14 years, but he now only performs on special occasions. The event is supported by resident DJs Simon Le Vans, Phil Marriott Chris Brogan, David Robson and Sean Sirrs plus regular special guests who play a mixture of dance anthems and commercial house.
Duckie is an avant garde club night, hosted by Amy Lamé, that has run every Saturday night at the RVT since the mid 1990s. According to the venue, Duckie provides "queer heritage, performance art and honky-tonk". The event's disc jockeys, known as "The Readers Wifes" [sic], play Britpop, disco, hi-NRG, easy listening, glam rock, rock, contemporary pop, new romantics and punk.
Beefmince is a twice monthly Friday night club night created and hosted by Argyris Georgopoulos (DJ Silverhook) and Dan Prance, the music is pumping funky house and although the club appeals to the bear community everyone of every gender is welcome.
Anthem is an in-house bi-monthly Friday night club night featuring uplifting trance and euro tracks and mixes, the night is run by Andy Wetson who also DJs as Andy Almighty.
Push The ButtonEdit
Push The Button is a club night hosted on the last Friday of every month, playing pop music from 1990 to present day.
Other regular nights include Butch, Please! Pop Horror, Kings of Clubs, The Cocoa Butter Club, Solve-A-longa Murder She Wrote, The Art of Drag, Bitten Peach, Me and Herr, Frankie Goes To Vauxhall, The Quizzarding World, Haus of Royalz, Para Pride, Disabled Here and Queer, WOOF, LADS and more including the annual RVT Panto.
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