Torture Garden is officially the worlds largest fetish club, has been going for 18 years and this October saw TG become part of the London Fetish Weekend with its’ very own fetish ball. Torture Garden has a reputation for cutting edge performances, showcasing extreme fashions and enforcing a strict fetish dresscode to match it’s dungeon and couples play area.
In the early days of clubs like TG, the media reported them as scandalous and shocking, with police raids and even a court case resulting in individuals being convicted of breaking the law for taking part in consensual S & M acts (which is still illegal now, but that’s another column…). Nowadays fetish influences mainstream fashion, music videos and tv shows and has become much more acceptable, but despite the alternative scenes’ growing popularity Torture Garden doesn’t ‘want just anybody at our events’. The official website also says ‘the TG crowd is the most diverse, radically dressed up and cutting edge crowd in the world wide scene. It is they who have made TG what it is.’ I have no doubt that this is true, unfortunately the crowd at the recent Fetish Ball let them down.
The fashion show from AMF Corsets, which included body suspension, was suitably twisted and I have never seen a drag burlesque quite as hilarious as Ryan Styles’ ‘Fuji Yama Mama’. Pandemonia’s amazing inflatable rubber catwalk show, including a Medusa and a Lichtenstein inspired pop-art blonde, was truly unique but the audience were not. Some guests had obviously spent laborious hours on their outfits (myself included) – one gentleman had a schizophrenic suit made from half a pinstripe 3 piece and the other half red, lacy womens underwear, complete with half a blonde wig and half a bowler hat. I had made myself a bustle with white lace and beads, a black and white hound-tooth waspie, latex braces and sparkley pasties topped off with my favourite vintage side cap. Other attendees, however, had got passed the usually vigilant door staff in blue jeans and black tops with only masquerade masks to count as an ‘effort’. A man in front of me in the queue to get in wore blue jeans and a beige knitted jumper, with no outrageous outfit to change in to as some self-conscious TG goers prefer to do, pleading with the staff to let him, with promises to make more of an effort next time. They relented, to my dismay, and I felt as though my costume efforts were pointless and, more importantly, that I was going to feel uncomfortable inside. All good fetish clubs enforce a dress code to ensure that real fetish fans feel at ease and, as someone in one of the infamous masquerade masks groped me as he walked past, I decided I wasn’t feeling as relaxed as I usually did.
Dita Von Teese made her UK performance debut at TG and Marilyn Manson, Marc Almond and Boy George have all visited – Adam Ant was turned away for not dressing up enough – so Torture Garden has a fearsome reputation to uphold but on this occasion I was disappointed. Dressing up and the opportunity to let myself go is one of my favourite reasons for going to the world class club, the shows are consistently first class but will always come second to planning and parading in my costume. TG says the ‘if your outfit wouldn’t turn heads in the street – don’t bother to wear it to Torture Garden’, something those taking tickets should be reminded of before I rush to buy another ticket.