I have to admit it, I’m probably one of the most obnoxious Anglophiles that you’ll ever encounter. Having visited my favorite city dozens of times over the past 25 years, it was simply inconceivable for me not to come and experience the London Fetish Weekend this year.
Who could resist a vibrant fetish weekend in a cosmopolitan and diverse city, coming from a much slower and less diverse Scandinavian city? Not me, so it was with lots of happy anticipation that I booked my travel and hotel for what promised to be an all-round super-break from my more limited surroundings.
These days I most enjoy travelling to London with friends from the scene who are well-rounded enough not to make fetish their sole focus of the trip. My Copenhagen friend, the artist Rubber Girl, is always an excellent choice, as it’s as much fun experiencing the London fetish milieu through someone else’s eyes as it is discovering London neighbourhoods afterward, and gorging at London eateries with an equally appreciative gourmand in my company.
I was also looking forward to this year in particular, as it had been four years since I last attended Subversion, and I wanted to experience it again, and see how it had evolved in the ensuing years since being held at Vox, way back in 2004 during the Skin Two Rubber Ball weekend.
This was technically my second London Fetish Weekend. I went in 2008, but missed all the big events including Subversion and TG, so I was determined not to make the same mistake this time!
As the first night of the LFW, Subversion at Club Colosseum on Friday set the bar extremely high for the rest of the weekend. The mood when we entered the club was upbeat and friendly, and continued throughout the evening until we left in search of night buses. I got a real sense of welcome from all the folks involved!
The suggested dress theme was uniforms — worn by probably a good half to two-thirds of the crowd. Overall, I’d say the fetish dresscode was followed more closely at Subversion than at Saturday’s main TG event. While fewer Subversion guests were dressed as outrageously as at TG, there were also fewer Leg Avenue fancy dress sets and underwear boys, and a higher calibre of latex at the Subversion evening.
The main area of Colosseum was probably the spacious dungeon area, which attracted lots of happy observers and players.
BDSM has never captured my imagination, so I didn’t spend very much time in the room except to randomly observe the play. As usual, it involved players of almost every physical description, from gorgeous couples to leather vest-encrusted middle-aged men with ponytails, stout gals and SS-hatted heavy-rubber-clad twins.
What I saw seemed both entertaining and well-executed, and very much enjoyed by the participants and observers.
But I was soon off to the intimate cabaret room, which boasted its own cookie stand with amusing French maids, and live entertainment from a very capable Swing band — Esther Flatters And The Sugar Daddies. And most important of all, there were bright and witty friends among the audience members!
The bar and open area right at the top of the entrance stairway also attracted a lively crowd of fetishists, many of whom may never have ventured further into the club and gone home feeling just as entertained as people who went deeper into the venue.
I suppose if I were looking for a three-word description of the entire night, I’d go with “bright and witty”, since much of the night involved conversations with new and old friends from RubberPal and FetLife. In all, a very energising night!
I suppose if I were looking for a three-word description of the entire Subversion night, I’d go with ‘bright and witty’
Making a brief visit to Saturday’s LAM (London Alternative Market) to check out who was exhibiting, we ran into our old friends from Latex 101 and Rubber55, and made new friends at Rubberluv’s booth.
The fair itself attracted the normal crowd that nearly every small scale fetish/BDSM fair we’ve ever visited tends to attract — a fair sampling of pastel-hair-coloured gamers, middle-aged crossdressers, dominant men and their partners, and curious visitors drawn to shiny things.
I managed to miss any fashion shows that day, but happened to catch a rather entertaining bullwhip demo by Alex of Cobra Whips which captivated the audience.
I miss the days of the Expo/Xpo which attracted vendors and buyers from around the world, where you could literally shop until dropping, and I hope that another large expo can once again manage to find its way into one of the major London fetish weekends.
As things were, though, it was certainly possible to leave the LAM outfitted for the evening ahead, and I’m sure many of the visitors did just that.
A night at Torture Garden’s London Fetish Ball was next, and it started rather dismally, with heavy downpours and unexpected Underground closures, but things quickly improved when we found a very reasonable taxi to Mass.
We arrived shortly after midnight, but after a very easy time picking up our tickets at the door, things deteriorated when we attempted to check our coats. Frankly, this is the main reason my heart sinks when I hear Mass is hosting a TG event, because during any of my visits to this location, use of the cloakroom has been marred by huge queues and maddening 30-45 minute waits!
This year I’d hoped to be luckier, having learnt the famous dungeon cloakroom was also open. However, the queues were just as long as those which snake up the spiral stairs, and equally claustrophobic, since the line is forced to follow a narrow bar corridor which serves both as the cloakroom waiting area and a passageway to and from the bar and other areas.
In all honesty, I can only hack the line once a night, and as a result I always insist we leave two to three hours earlier than we really want to, simply to avoid the claustrophobic conditions.
Obviously the event organisers are not stupid, but rather, world-renowned club promoters. So there’s clearly some sort of major logistical problem preventing the cloakroom from being moved near the entrance or to another more centrally located room. But I’m at a loss to figure out just what it is that’s preventing a more efficient experience.
TG events I’ve attended tend to attract polar extremes in guests and how they dress for the night, ranging from the aforementioned Leg Avenue lingerie sets and men in bad dresses, cotton undies or plain buck naked to some of the most sublime and creative outfits I’ve ever witnessed at any fetish event.
This night was no exception, with a group of Swedes who really stood out among the most creative and attractive. You can definitely tell you're not in Copenhagen when you stand and watch the parade of creativity on display here!
In the past, I've wondered if there's a Universal Fetish Law which requires the presence of RubberDoll, Kumi, Midori, Kip or Suka Off during any fetish weekend, and this truism remained, um, true, with the presence of Suka Off, whom I unfortunately managed to miss, much to my regret. I’ve always come away impressed with their performances, so I was disappointed that I blanked the entire show.
I lucked out on the Kip law, however, as he was MC-ing the evening with the usual infectious goodwill and friendliness Europeans seem to expect from American visitors.
There was such a relaxed and happy vibe going on in the basement that I just barely managed to catch the very end of anything on stage upstairs, including the fashion shows. Luckily though, all three brands took a bow at the end, so I was able to gape at the impressively clad models and impressively crafted clothing presented by Jane Doe, Lady Lucie and Lacing Lilith.
I also seem to have stumbled in on maybe the last half of a bizarre flopping mattress act — although given my dislike of male genitalia on stage or in clubs, I was told it was rather fortunate that I missed most of the show. Several friends who managed to take in the entire act walked away perplexed, for sure.
While I did see several friends at Mass, more seemed to stay away this time in order to save up their energy for Festival of Sins the following weekend. The impressive number of people present definitely made the most of the evening and event in spite of the heaving crowds. All in all, I'd deem it a success!
I'll definitely be back for next year's LFW, given my intense love affair with London, but I'd love to know the weekend will boast an expo worthy of the rest of the event, and a smoother experience behind the scenes at the coat check.
The cloakroom snafus won't keep me from returning, but eliminating them would raise the experience to the higher level one expects from a weekend of this calibre.
Hope to see you there!
CLOAKROOM QUEUES: TORTURE GARDEN’S RESPONSE
Says Charlotte TG: “There’s a reason we don't move the cloakroom closer to the entrance. The size of the queue would be no less — it would simply end up reaching the front door.
“This would become a health and safety issue and mean that we couldn't actually let anyone get into the club at all until the cloakroom queue had lessened.
“We bring in a whole extra team of cloakroom staff for our parties but alas, due to the nature of the events, the majority of people bring coats and bags, and with 1,300 attendees, this is an awful lot of traffic passing through the two cloakrooms.
“My suggestion is always to arrive early to avoid the peak arrival time. I wish we could eradicate the queue problem completely, but with the volume of people coming to our events, that just isn't going to happen.”
‘There was such a relaxed and happy vibe in the basement that I just barely managed to catch the end of anything onstage upstairs’