|Beyond is a phenomenon on
the London gay scene, and it wasn't until I went there in June 2003
that I fully understood why Trade had closed
as a weekly event.
From my earliest experiences with gay clubs in London I had always
been surprised at how small they were. We're going back to the 1960s
in terms of my recall, clubs like the A&B which
were still vestiges of the previous era of gay repression and self-suppression,
or the new brash clubs like the Sombrero. They were
usually in basements and often tiny. Heaven redefined
gay clubbing when it opened... at last a proper sized club for gays...
yippee! This trend was followed elsewhere in the country with some
much larger venues being created to cater for the gay scene, (I think
here of La Chic in Nottingham).
Trade and Turnmills were both innovators
in their time, Turnmills had the first 24 hours entertainments license
in the U.K. and though a basement club it expanded to offer quite
a large capacity venue, and Trade was the first after-hours (Sunday
morning) club catering to the gay market. Forgive the pun, as many
of their customers came from there but, this was a match made in heaven,
and it continued very successfully for longer than average. Perhaps
Trade had been experiencing some problems (see the Trade
page for info), including a forced relocation for a short time, and
changes in drugs policy at Turnmills when they returned there. Customers'
habits of going there were disrupted, and some were probably getting
tired of the same old thing, though customer loyalty to Trade was
still strong. Some new gay clubs had opened on Saturday nights, most
notably Crash, and the location of gay clubbing on
Saturdays, and hence prior to Trade, was shifting South to Vauxhall.
The scene was therefore set for the emergence of a giant-killer: Beyond.
The success of Beyond is built on three factors, (leaving aside the
basics which most clubs try to get right and which are requirements,
but don't differentiate one club from another).
These factors are size, location and music, in that order.
For a gay club, or indeed any club which identifies itself and its'
customers on the basis of their sexuality, numbers matter. The gay
scene has always suffered from a fundamental statistical problem:
there's a lot less gay people than straight. If you want to pick up
or socialise with like-minded souls, more is better. More people means
more choice, (it also means more competition of course). If you want
to satisfy your specialist interests either musically or sexually
you can go to one of a number of Saturday night clubs in London, and
if you're still up for it afterwards you can gather at Beyond with
literally thousands of others.
The club is located in Vauxhall, just a few minutes from popular Saturday
night gay clubs like Crash and Action.
Why drive or cab it to Clerkenwell in the middle of the night, when
you can so easily get to a bigger club with more people nearby?
Musically, there has clearly been a shift in the preferences of the
gay scene. Beyond offers three rooms of music, with musical luminaries
like Malcolm Duffy, The Sharp Boys
Steve Pitron playing tribal house in the main room,
a smaller room playing deep house, and a third room with DJs like
Dave Cross playing hard dance.
Of the three, at least on the night I went, the third room was the
emptiest. Now this crowd is the SAME crowd that went to Trade, where
the emphasis was on a build up from tribal house to hard dance music.
Yet these clubbers have the choice to dance in a hard dance room or
dance in a tribal house room. They clearly were choosing the latter,
as shown in the pics above.
As for the venue, well the Colosseum reminded me most of The
Corporation in Sheffield, where its straight after hours
counterpart, Insomniacz, is held and
which is designed in the same leisure corporation dance club mould.
You go UPstairs, and the club is on one floor. Daylight
through the windows, (windows?), is blocked with
blackout curtains. The sound and light systems are fine (not the electrifying
effects of Turnmlls but that doesn't seem to matter) and the staff
So Beyond's entry to the after-hours gay market was well-timed, when
the main after-hours club was having problems and offered greater
convenience, a newer sound, (also probably easier to dance to for
K users, ketamine having become increasingly popular), and, most importantly,
It is perhaps interesting to note that Trade promoter, Lawrence Malice's
new club Egg, which is much smaller than The
Colosseum and Turnmills, has not targeted the gay market. Trade remains
at Turnmills for occasional events, and most of the events at Egg
are run by promoters targeting the straight/mixed dance music market.