There can't be a gay man in the UK who hasn't already been to, or will probably end up spending
at least one night at, Heaven. It's arguably the world's most famous gay club and
it's been a fixture under the Arches at Charing Cross for 25 years. On the 27th November, Heaven celebrates it's
birthday with a massive night marking a quarter of a century of gay clubbing.
Heaven opened in 1979, the same year Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister, Sony
Walkmans appeared in the shops and best-selling single of the year was
YMCA by The Village People.
David Inches has been General Manager of the club since it opened, and he's
now co-owner and creative director. He's been talking to OutUK's Adrian Gillan
about Heaven's history and what's to come....|
OutUK: So do you think many of your original customers been coming to Heaven, like you, for the last 25 years?
David: I doubt it, although one of my ideas for our 25th Birthday is to get five of the
original 1979 bartenders to go behind the bar for half an hour! Most young people
only have about 2-3 years of "proper clubbing" and then they either get bored or
settled, or discover more sexual or druggier clubs. So Heaven is usually a bit of
a stepping stone in someone's life.
That said, many older clubbers are actually
returning - because they're fed up of doing weekend "drug fucks" that need the
rest of the week for recovery.
OutUK: Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson owned Heaven from 1980 until 2002, almost from the
start. What impact did he have?
David: He stood behind us. We were an important part of his life, in
relation to where he was going personally. He stuck with us through all of it, through
all our ups and downs - even when British Airways were hassling Heaven as a way of trying
to get at Virgin.
OutUK: Why did Richard Branson decide to step back from Heaven two
years ago and let you buy it?
David: Richard buys and sells businesses all the time. To be honest,
I was surprised he stuck with us as long as he did, what with all his other big
projects. There were initially dozens of investors eager to buy of him but many
pulled out after 9/11. And Virgin seemed keen - if we could raise the money ourselves -
to have this management buy-out, maybe to keep a club they'd spent so much time
with in good hands!
OutUK: Is it making you any money yet?
David: Not when weighed against our initial investment! We've got 4-5
more years yet - having laid our lives on the line, mortgaged to the hilt - before
we'll hopefully make some clear money. It'll be tough. And we want to make money,
not just for ourselves, but to plough back into the club.
THE FIRST NIGHT
OutUK: What can you remember about that first night in 1979?
David: We had three first nights actually. Lots of hype: "Heaven is
coming!" All three were packed. Amazing.
OutUK: When Heaven first started, was there much competition?
David: A little. The first big gay night in London - predating Heaven
by a few years - was Bang, on Mondays at what is now LA2 on Charing Cross Road. And
then there were the smaller clubs that were very popular: I was weaned on things like
Yours or Mine at High Street Kensington and others around Earls Court.
OutUK: Have you been able to keep Heaven fresh over the last quarter century?
David: Not always. There are periods when you just don't know what
to do, when nothing new is happening. But for many years we were well ahead of the
Because I'm from North America we modelled ourselves very much on the music
and ideal of clubbing and of being gay that was coming out of the US at that time -
way in advance of the UK. Also pre-AIDS.