Arts & Culture  Features

The Royal Vauxhall Tavern (RVT)

Vauxhall today

Published on
October 4, 2017

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It’s never short of a hoot and a half!

Yes, the Royal Vauxhall Tavern is the oldest surviving LGBTQ venue in London (Grade II listed) but it hosts an array of the latest queer acts, performance art, and cabaret shows.

Perhaps most well known is Duckie: a club night hosted by Amy Lamé, every Saturday night. It’s been running since the 90s and plays Britpop, disco, glam rock, punk, you name it. On Sundays, they run Sunday Social which includes a cornucopia of acts and resident DJs. It’s the place to be all weekend!

RVT history

The Royal Vauxhall Tavern was built in the early 1860s as a Victorian public house. Over the years, it began to feature shows by female impersonators and by the 1970s, it had become a well-known drag bar. Throughout that decade, the Union Tavern in Camberwell was also a well-regarded drag pub and the two rivalled one another with performers switching allegiances every now and then. Many big names performed there, including Hinge and Bracket, Regina Fong, Adrella, Diana Dors, and Lily Savage. There are also stories of Freddie Mercury and Kenny Everett visiting RVT with princess Diana in the 80s.

However, in the early 2000s, many revellers were going to Soho and the RVT was struggling. That’s when the two businessmen James Lindsay and Paul Oxley took over and started cabaret night ‘Duckie’. Those shows went on to the West End and internationally, reigniting RVT as a tinder in London’s gay nightlife.

With such a vibrant and rich cultural history, the RVT was finally made a Grade II listed building in 2015 for its outstanding LGBTQ heritage.

But it wasn’t the only LGBTQ destination in the area. Over the years, the nightlife options were varied: Club Colosseum, Gravity, The Hoist, and Club Factory. While those venues have closed down since, there’s now Fire, Bloc South, Market Tavern, Union, Eagle London, and of course, Royal Vauxhall Tavern.

So for your next night out, make sure to hit up the RVT, and if you want to grab a spot at Duckie, book in advance.

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