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