Torture Garden’s Valentines Weekend was spread across three days for the first time this year. A warm-up party on Friday February 10 on HMS President was followed by the Valentines’ Ball on Saturday 11 at the Coronet, and an official After Party hosted by the Flying Dutchman that carried on well into Sunday 12.
Given the cloud that has been hanging over attendances at many fetish events of late, TG’s ability to sell out both its own nights in this brand new Valentine’s Weekend format and funnel a decent sized crowd into the after party as well confirms its return to form for 2012.
Anyone who thought that last year’s sell-out Halloween two-nighter — another newly expanded TG format — was just a fluke will now find that position hard to justify.
Overall, one would have to conclude that this bodes rather well for fetish partying in 2012. It would be nice to think that 2011 may after all turn out to have been the year when fear of indulging in too much recreational fetish activity peaked, and that people will be returning to partying with a vengeance this year.
Although I didn’t attend the Valentine weekend’s opening party on HMS President, I heard from reliable sources that it was a cracking little do. But the weekend as a whole was not without problems.
TG weekends of late have displayed something of a talent for coinciding with extremes of weather, and unfortunately, Saturday night’s Ball at the Coronet arrived at the same time as London’s coldest snap of the year.
Quite understandably, the coldness affected the outfit choices of a fair number of people. There were many examples I know of where the latex that might normally have been worn was abandoned in favour of something more appropriate to the icy conditions outside.
However, what no one had planned for were the icy conditions inside. TG did a lot to get the big old drafty cinema building warm, but its efforts turned out to be not enough for a lot of the guests, and there were a lot of complaints about this aspect of the night.
Some seemed immune though. As my gallery on the right illustrates, there were people at the Coronet wearing about as much coverage as they might choose for a day at the beach on Ibiza. Some folks are just more hardy than others, I guess.
Objectively though, there was little to complain about in terms of the entertainment. I didn’t catch all the shows but I made a point of being at the front of the stage for Jane Doe’s fashion show, and I have to say that designer Nina Kate and her team excelled themselves this time.
With hair superstar Robert Masciave providing some extremely out-there head adornments, and many of TG’s favourite models in the show, the big stage offered up an extravaganza of vibrant colours, dramatic imagination and tightly-choreographed moves. Fan dances and balloon shows were all incorporated into the spectacle, making it much more than just a fashion show.
With Masciave’s out-there head adornments, Jane Doe’s show was a mix of vibrant colour, dramatic imagination and tight choreography
Smokers forced into the semi-open alleyway between the main Coronet building and the railway arches at the side probably had the most miserable time (though overhead gas-heaters provided some relief). But there were warm spots within the venue complex if you sought them out.
In the arches, the upstairs dungeon space was toasty all night, but access to it involved knowing about the dark staircase leading up to it from the freezing cold medical room below, and many shivering souls just didn’t explore that far.
Also, by the time I left, the upstairs burlesque/ballroom was heaving with frenetically gyrating bodies whose combined activity had warmed it up to high-summer temperatures. If you were staying, that was definitely the place to be.
But I was heading for the official after party at the Flying Dutchman in Camberwell. The FD, a new venue whose opening last year was documented by The Fetishistas, is only a short drive/cab-rid/night-bus journey from the Coronet, and proved to be the perfect location for carrying on, in so many ways.
It was properly warm, and you could sit down, chill out and socialise in the main groundfloor bar, or play in the big cellar space below. At first it seemed a bit sparsely attended, but as the Coronet disgorged more patrons, the Dutchman gradually filled up, until it was as busy as a beehive.
The Flying Dutchman is a great little venue whose friendly owners Antonio and Svetlana make everyone feel very welcome. And hopefully the TGAP there opened the eyes of a few more fetish folk who had previously presumed Camberwell to be either too far off the beaten path or too risky an area to venture into (it isn’t either of those things).
But can we look to Torture Garden to ensure that the inadequate heating problems encountered at the Coronet are not repeated the next time London experiences temporary Siberian winter conditions?
Well, one of the things I admire about TG is that unlike a lot of fetish event promoters, the TG management tend to issue statements as quickly as possible after any problems arise at their events, and to deal as fully as they can with people’s concerns.
They don’t try to brush people’s complaints under the carpet; they explain how, from their viewpoint, a problematic situation arose, and are (as far as one can tell) honest about any failures on their part that contributed to said situation. How refreshing. How very refreshing. And it clearly works: people respect them for not ducking the issues.
Anyway, because of the volume of complaints TG received about conditions at the Coronet, a statement was duly issued. For those who don’t see TG’s newsletters and are interested in the club’s views on the matter, an edited version is included below.
The Flying Dutchman is a great venue whose owners make everyone feel welcome, and hopefully the after party opened more eyes to this
VALENTINES BALL AT THE CORONET: TG STATEMENT
Many people have posted and commented that TG's Valentines Ball at The Coronet Theatre was a fantastic event, and many others have commented that it was ruined by the excessive cold. The balanced and honest answer is that both are true.
Unfortunately it was an unlucky collision of the coldest night in London that we can remember at minus 7 or 8 degrees, and perhaps one of the most difficult venues to keep warm, made all the more difficult by a council check at 10.30pm where they made us turn off the portable gas heaters we had brought in.
Based on our previous two events at the Coronet, when it was too hot in May and then pretty perfect at Halloween (which we felt was possibly the best TG for around five years), we were not expecting such a problem with the cold. We also weren't expecting it to be –8degC until the day of the party!
Sadly, the dungeon/playroom arches were particularly affected. When we realised we were going to experience temperatures of -8deg during the night, we spoke to the venue. Usually they have a couple of blow heaters on before doors open to take the chill off the room, and then with 2,000 people in the club, the heat generated by the public keeps the place warm.
Unfortunately, the current management have only been in place from last April and were going solely on the winter temperatures we had had this season. With temperatures not getting above freezing during the day and hitting –8deg at night on the date of the party as well as the previous day, this made matters a whole lot worse than expected.
We attended an event on the Friday at the Coronet and realised that what was in place didn't do anything, so on Saturday morning we brought in several more gas blowers and we had them on all day (except for three hours in the afternoon when the venue was victim of a power cut).
We managed to take the chill off the room. Unfortunately, as soon as we opened, all the cold air came rushing in and we ended up fighting a losing battle. We left the gas blowers on as long as possible but during the inspection they told us to move them, which to be fair to the council, we expected.
On Sunday the Coronet had another event for around 2,200 people, and they had no issues with the cold. Why? Because the temperature was +8degC during the day and only went as low as +2degC at night.
It would have been cold in many venues at –8degC, but The Coronet Theatre is a big old building with limited heating. What makes it work for TG as a venue is the new outside courtyard with arches that we can use for the dungeon spaces and extra cloakroom, as well as smoking zone. This was the area that we found so difficult to keep warm, and with open access doors, the coldness spread to the main bulk of the building.
‘We hold our hands up and say we got the courtyard and dungeon arches drastically wrong, and realise we need to change things there’ – TG
We will hold our hands up and say that we did get the courtyard and the dungeon arches drastically wrong, and we have realised that we need to change things there.
So will we do Valentines again at the Coronet? We hope it will never be as cold for a TG event ever again and that this was a one-off. But we can't rely on luck, and if we can't guarantee a comfortable Valentines event, we may not be able to use the Coronet.
We'll do everything that’s possible to make it work, but we have to make sure that this isn't a problem again if we get unlucky with the weather. We met with the Coronet yesterday and they will be installing heaters over all the fire exits to heat up the cold air coming in.
We will now also invest in a marquee to run the whole length of the outside area, which will make it easier to heat and will stop drafts entering the main club via side doors. This would also mean that people using the outside cloakroom will now be inside. We will also be working on other solutions.
In 20-plus years of TG events, we haven't made many mistakes of judgement. We usually foresee issues and get things right, but we didn't see this problem coming to such an extent, and with hindsight we could have done more to improve the situation. Therefore we'd like to apologise to everyone that found it unbearable and were disappointed.
Although some of you don't like the Coronet, many of you love the venue as we do, and it is a simple fact that it is the only 2000-plus capacity multi-room venue that is viable for the three big TG events of the year. Torture Garden is a unique event with unique requirements and expectations — it can't just happen at any venue.
Because of the cold, the two Dungeon arches and the Medical Hunting Lodge didn't work and were mostly empty for most of the night, so again a big apology to those who normally enjoy those rooms.
However, once we had a full crowd inside, the internal rooms did warm up enough to still make it a fantastic party. There was a great atmosphere in the Main Arena, Ballroom, Harem Playroom and top floor of the Medical Arch which all warmed up and stayed busy till the end.
It would have been nicer if it had been warmer, but if you adapted, there were plenty of places and ways to warm up.
TG may be a business for us, but it is still our favourite club to go to each month, and our friends’ favourite club, and our biggest priority is to enjoy our own party even if we’re working. We aren’t just organisers, we are part of the crowd and the party as well. When there’s a problem we feel it too; when it’s great we feel it too.
So on a positive note what was good about it?
The crowd was amazing, the shows were amazing, the decor was amazing, the music was amazing, and the atmosphere was amazing! It was a spectacular party despite the cold. But yes, hopefully it'll be perfect next time!
Thank you to everyone that attended and persevered to make it fun despite the elements and to everyone that performed or worked on the event, and again sorry to those who found it too much of an issue to enjoy. We did our best, but we’ll be better next time.
It would be nice to think 2011 may after all turn out to have been the year when fear of indulging in too much fetish recreational activity peaked