I’m standing in a queue at least 100 yards long leading to the doorway of a club opposite Victoria Station. In front of me is a man, 6’7” or thereabouts, dressed in a latex black catsuit and matching thigh length high heel boots. The woman next to him is Japanese and sporting an itsy bitsy white rubber bikini that barely covers her breasts and bum. As for me, I’ve gone all out and am wearing a knee length A-Line skirt of my own creation crafted from a clear vinyl, gold sparkle shower curtain, a bronze lace embossed rubber bra, black vintage waist cincher, fishnet stockings and 6” high heels. I’m about to enter Torture Garden, the most famous fetish club in the world, where the torture for the majority of attendees comes in the form of the fashion police on the door.
Just in case you think I’m joking, here’s what was written on the ticket to the event, the TG London Fetish Weekend Ball, leaving me in no doubt as to what I could expect on the night:
“TG is an extreme event with an extreme dress code, General no’s include: camo, suits (yes, even with a hat), denim (even black), cotton shirts, and regular trousers or normal party dresses or cotton underwear. Our dress code is FULL FETISH FANTASY, outfits must be head to toe effort, not just a gesture towards the dress code. You can email firstname.lastname@example.org before the night to check your outfit is ok.”
My two friends, visiting from NYC, are accompanying me. “Do you think they’ll let me in?” says Selina. She’s braless, except for some rope arranged ‘Shibari’ style over and under her humongous breasts. A black sheer long skirt covers her lower half incorporating a corset around her midriff. Black knee length biker boots complete her ensemble. “I don’t think it’s going to be a problem,” I reply, not entirely sarcastic.
We enter the club where, once again, we join another queue, this one for the cloakroom. The line is winding its way up the staircase, where men and women are in various stages of undress while waiting to check in their duffel bags and coats. Off comes the daywear to be replaced by skimpy latex shorts or trousers, rubber dresses, uniforms or, occasionally nothing except some strategically placed electrical tape or a bit of cling film. Twenty minutes later, we’re finally inside the club where two separate sound systems are competing for their own dominance across the venue’s two floors.
Torture Garden is a rotating club, meaning they don’t have a permanent venue. Tonight we’re at the former home of Pasha in Victoria but we could have just as easily been at the Coronet in Elephant and Castle where the club often resides. There the former cinema’s space, featuring half a dozen rooms of various sizes along with a seated balcony overlooking a stage, lend themselves to the performances and BDSM play for which the club has become known – that and dancing, drinking and general debauchery. At Pasha one of the dungeon areas nearly backs onto the bar. The ‘couples’ area is not so much an area as a walkway along which some sofas have been positioned, perfect for the exhibitionists, not so great for those who prefer somewhere a little more discreet to shag. To top it all off, we’re packed like rubber clad sardines into the place. This is not my idea of fun.
The club is full to overflowing with over a thousand people of various ages and sexes. Despite the endless queuing and the club’s name, the vibe is friendly and fun. In my ten years on the scene, I’ve yet to see a drunken fight at TG. Spotting a spare sofa on the periphery of one of the ‘dungeon areas,’ we take a seat. I’m relieved. My feet feel as if I’ve been walking over hot coals. Lori, my femme Domme companion, with a penchant for flogging subservient men, has brought her club bag, a mock leather tripod roll filled with her favourite instruments of pain. My own Dom, who is absent on this occasion, has requested that I abstain from any activity unless it’s with his permission. So it’s up to Selina and whoever else volunteers to take up a position on one of the spanking benches to satisfy Lori’s desire. There is no shortage of willing subs. Lori is in her element.
Between the rubber and leather-clad audience gathering around the dungeon area and those on the various pieces of equipment within the space, it’s hard to know where to look. If you’re into people watching, Torture Garden is an orgy of visual treats. For those who think their clubbing days are well behind them, it’s comforting to see so many who are well past their clubbing heyday enjoying themselves.
For the next two hours, Lori has a ball trying out her new lilac vinyl flogger on Selina along with a sixty-something man dressed in an ankle length tutu and, yes, me. It turns out my Dom doesn’t mind me being flogged as long as the person holding the flogger doesn’t have a dick.
The only genuine torture of the night turns out to be when we leave and encounter yet another long queue leading to the cloakroom. The attendants are unused to so many customers with quite so much baggage. Well, that’s Torture Garden. My advice: if you go, leave your baggage behind.