Dancing on a Sunday

Sunday night was always my favourite day of the week to be on a dance floor. From the start of my London clubbing days in 1986 I noticed there was always an interesting vibe around on a Sunday. Friday was a night of people letting off steam after work, Saturday one of high expectations, intensive preparation and sometimes maximum pretension. But Sunday was the chill night of the week, where the Monday to Friday working crew were less in evidence, the collective rush to get high or wasted was exhausted, and so the real music lovers had room on the dance floor for our uninhibited revelry.

From ’86 I was to be found at the Bell in Kings Cross on a Sunday night, sporting a bleached blond flat top, checked shirt and denim. I was a new romantic / clone crossbreed, there letting myself spin and fly to Soft Cell, Depeche Mode, the Smiths, Siouxsie and the Banshees…. By the late ’80s my weekend nights were often spent in super-club Heaven, where I rode happily on the Garage sounds of Friday but often struggled with the hi-nrg and machismo of Saturday. Sunday at the Bell was always like coming back home.

In the early 1990s the Market Tavern in Vauxhall was my home for a Sunday afternoon, usually lsd-assisted, rave up, probably after tripping through Saturday night at Troll and Heaven. I’d arrive 3pm for the free lunch (by serving food they got round the licensing laws which kept pubs shut between lunch and evening sessions). I was a Market regular for 5 years, visiting several nights a week, getting to experience there the gradual dying out of the ’80s clone scene along with its hi-nrg soundtrack and the shift to house music, smiley face t-shirts, acid, ecstasy and raving.

At the Return to Heaven party Easter 2019

After a 4 hour sociable dance in the Market a line of queers trotted through Vauxhall Cross for evening at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern (and sometimes back to the Market for their late session) where i can recall seeing Adrella and Lily Savage on stage drunk, punk and anarchic, I loved it.

By the mid ’90s the RVT had replaced its Sunday drag show with a hard house rave, that had pilled up lads in trackies bouncing around on the furniture. This was the birth of the ‘Institution’, the legendary, and a lot softer ‘happy house’ Sunday dance sessions, that have been joy filled days of gay dance classics since the early 2000s. It was also the precursor to the much larger dance clubs that came to Vauxhall and the intense Sunday raving, indeed 24 hour parties, that became so popular in the 2000s. Crash. Action. Fire. Area. The disco room out the back at Bar Code used to be one of the craziest, most intense medleys of diverse guys on a variety of substances, pumped up with desire, dreams, testosterone and the wish to see and be seen.

Sunday nights in the late 90s I wasn’t going out , I was on a journey with HIV through the tunnel of AIDS. I took all the inspirations that I remembered from my ecstatic nights on dance floors, and rediscovered that sense of elation through an inner search for spiritual awakening. As I retreated from the scene ecstasy was really hitting the masses. Clubbing was no longer the intimate experience I had known, it was about mass elation, large numbers of people finding a higher level of connecting themselves and to each other. The love was flowing, and I felt I had become a student of love and wisdom in the background, this totally inspired by the visions and feelings I had known while dancing to music i loved and could become One with.

When I dipped back in to the London dance scene around 2000 I arrived at the dying end of the phenomenon that was Turnmills nightclub in Farringdon. I had missed the whole Sunday morning rush that was the groundbreaking club Trade, which so many of my friends still reminisce about, and also the Sunday night Warriors club, where dying men went to dance, because I’d been too sick to go. But I got to The Well (which went on to hold a few wonderfully weird Sunday nights at the Prince of Orange in Rotherhithe) and to Melt, where I fell in love with a beautiful punky Frenchman called Philippe (and we danced together for 4 years, on tropical beaches and in Radical Faerie sanctuaries).

From the mid 2000s to this very day the best Sunday night out for me was to be had at Horse Meat Disco at the Vauxhall Eagle. This pub with its marvellous beer garden and dance floor managed to revive something of the old Market Tavern spirit, and Horse Meat’s goal of invoking the heavenly vibrations of the legendary New York club Paradise Garage works. Disco was the soundtrack of our liberation days, of our innocent days before the ravages of AIDS to come in the 1980s. Sunday at the Eagle brings together all kinds of folks at the end of the weekend, but all share a laidback, positive, openness and generally take a ride into collective elation.

Well not this year. COVID-19 has stopped us dancing.

Most Friday or Saturday nights i’m not too bothered, but sometimes on a Sunday the magical delight of Sunday Gay Abandon arises from my memory and I think, what is not dancing together doing to us?