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@ Imperial Gardens
Closing party held in December 2002.
Probably will re-emerge in 2003 elsewhere, under a new name.
When people go to a club their experience of it is a product of both their surroundings (the venue, the other people there etc.) and what they bring with them to it (their attitudes and willingness to be involved). This review reflects as much my own attitudes and involvement as it does the club, and is probably out of step with the feelings of most of the people who go there many of whom adore the place. Please bear this in mid when reading the following.
It's two days later and I'm still trying to get my head around my reaction to going to London's notorious gay sex club, Fist. I went for many reasons: it was the closing party, I'd heard about it and this would be my last chance to see the place, a friend was playing there, some people I knew were going... all good reasons I suppose. I'm glad I went as it was an experience, though not one I'd choose to repeat. Where to start? At the beginning I suppose...

I went down with Chris G. and we found the place on Clerkenwell New Road, under railway arches. Yes, yet another club in railway arches. Railtrack (or whatever it's called now), must be making a fortune renting out property for clubbing.

Whoever thought up the name of this dump had a vivid imagination; with it's corrugated roof dripping drops of cold condensed sweat there's nothing Imperial about it and it's about as far from a garden as you can get. Even the sound system was dire - but I get ahead of myself.

The entry was via a long narrow alleyway where we queued in the drizzle, feeling like an enema hose being inserted into an unwilling anus. Entry was ten quid, a quid for the cloakroom and three quid for a Red Bull, so pretty standard for London on a Saturday night.

We were all told as we came in that there was to be no sex tonight, as the club had had trouble with the authorities - a complaint had been registered by a health worker to the effect that people were (shock! horror!) having sex at the club, and the police were clamping down. This in fact was the ostensible reason for the club's closure, (I've heard another but let's stick with the official patter for now anyway as it's more relevant to my impressions of the place).

Things progressed pretty standardly, for a while - I saw my friends, we explored the venue which didn't take long, Chris went off to the smaller dance room where they were playing funky/tribal stuff and I stayed in the main room. The place filled up to being packed fairly quickly and first shirts, then everything, came off as the temperature started to rise.

I wasn't the only person there with his shirt on throughout the night, but there weren't many of us, and there were plenty wearing nothing but trainers and a hard-on - well, not the naked, flabby tattooed woman of course, who didn't have a hard-on, well I don't suppose she did anyway; I tried not to look.

As Chris said to me later, some people have never heard that less is more. OK if you've got it, flaunt it, but if it's sagging, wrinkled and spotty, I don't want to see it thanks very much. Don't get me wrong there were some nice-looking people there, both male and female, though the vast majority of people in the club were men, and they were mostly in their thirties/forties. There were some interesting costumes, one guy in a full body rubber gimp outfit, others doing some interesting things with rubber and leather, but this was no fashion show. Guys were there for shagging, and they were determined to have it - for those into fisting one might even say 'ave it large!

There was some chat from some people about there being a strange atmosphere 'cos there was supposed to be no sex: usually, I was told, there's a marquee put up where people do their sex thing and it wasn't there and it seemed like the third room was closed too. Well, the marquee didn't appear but the third room was open, showing full-on videos, while guys sucked, wanked and fucked on the balcony. The fisting I saw didn't take place there but was done in the main dance room behind some banners hanging along one of the walls - all very discreet, no honestly, you could hardly see it if you were on the dance floor.

I'm making no value-judgement about this, it's just that it's not my scene; I've never been that hot on casual sex, and this seemed about as casual as it gets. The weirdness for me, in my expereince of this club was my sense of alienation from the environment I was in; not something that happens to me often, perhaps because, like other people, I go to places where I don't expect to feel alienated. With no interest in shagging, Matt, a cute guy I had chatted to having a boyfriend, (who was off at a free-party rave somewhere), and there being almost nowhere to sit down, I began to get ... well.... erm... bored! Not surprising really - as my old granny used to say: don't go to a sex club if you don't want to have (or watch) sex.

So, the bottom line, (oh god this review is riddled with puns and innuendo, can't help it, sorry), is that if you like hanging out with near-naked middle-aged men and want a shag this is a great place to go, but though people were dancing to some good music (played through a muffled sound system) that ain't the reason most were there.

Afterwards we went to Twist, a new after-hours club at The Viaduct in Vauxhall which hopes to replace Trade and Beyond.


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