First Published: November 2002
       This is an OutUK Archive Item and so some of the links and information may be out of date.

London's seminal gay club Queer Nation celebrates its 12th birthday this year and to coincide with the event they're hosting a unique photographic history of gay clubbing which opens on Friday 22 November.

Queer Nation O2 honours the history of gay and lesbian clubbing in post-war Britain with a mixture of still and moving imagery. Queer Nation's promoter Patrick Lilley told OutUK's Mike Gray that it's the first time there's been anything like it.

"The exhibition tracks the fragmented history of gay and lesbian clubbing since the 1940s. The idea that gay people have enjoyed staying up all night talking rubbish and dancing is a new thing isn't true. We found images from 1951 of huge fantastic drag balls in Brighton for example. It was called the Sussex Arts Ball and it was in a period 20 years before the legalisation of homosexual activity in private for men."

"We found images from what we describe probably as the first modern gay club in London. This was a club called Le Deuce on d'Arblay Street not far from Old Compton Street. There it was a young crowd of mods in the early sixties who would listen to soul music, dancing frenetically in a basement club, sweaty, taking black bombers and having a fantastic gay old time while the music was played on a jukebox."

Patrick says the big difference was that gay clubbing had to be underground. "Le Deuce was in fact the basement of a coffee bar, the music was on a jukebox, there were no gay papers with screaming headlines about all the other clubs around the corner. You had to find out on a word of mouth basis about gay clubs before the law changed. It was all by word of mouth which is still the most potent way of promoting a club as I could tell you."

The images come from a whole host of sources and some pictures of current clubbing mischief have been specially commissioned for the show. "It's fantastic to be able to portray our culture over 50 years. We are so excited that we've been able to unearth these images and that they're going to be exhibited in a top West End gallery mounted with professionalism and with love and care. I think that's a wonderful thing."

In association with O2 the exhibition is at the Elms Lester Painting Rooms 1-5 Flitcroft Street in London's West End until the 1st December. You can get more info about the exhibition by texting QNINFO to 80202 or check out


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