Party on down under: Australians avoid London's regular nightspots for more rough-and-ready entertainment. James Robertson visits the clubland of Oz
Wednesday 06 July 1994
'Aussie clubbing' is a fairly vague term which covers a whole host of activities, always involving 'amber nectar' in specially dedicated venues. The term is doubly inaccurate as Aussie clubs are frequented by travellers not just from Oz but also from New Zealand and South Africa.
There are a variety of pubs and clubs around London whose function is to provide drink and entertainment for travellers, particularly those from Australia. The first one I visited was the Castle Tavern in Shepherd's Bush. Strictly speaking, you have to be a member to get in. You must be from South Africa, Australia or New Zealand. However, members can bring in guests of any nationality if they wish.
Inside, the atmosphere is friendly and fun, and beer can drop to as little as 50p a can during the week. Fashion is a dirty word at the Castle. Glen, a member, boasted: 'We are probably the most unsophisticated bunch of people in London - most of my friends think that Armani is a type of foreign lager.'
My next stop was the Church club, held at Bagley's Studio on Sundays. The Church is a massive institution and regularly attracts more than 1,000 people each Sunday lunchtime. But what do these clubbers get up to? Unfortunately, I was refused entry at the door and the promoter 'was not available for comment - the owner doesn't like any publicity'. Undeterred, I managed to speak to two Australian veterans of the Church.
Sharon was the first to reveal its secrets. 'It's a huge barn of a place, with sawdust on the floor. The drinks are cheap and the games are quite amusing. The women have to get their tops off and the blokes get down to their undies. There are also strippers.'
Getting down to bare essentials seemed to pose no problems for Richard, a regular customer. He was enthusiastic, pointing out the positive aspects of a very friendly environment, with no pretensions. Both Sharon and Richard agreed that the Church must be experienced at least once.
Apparently it is more difficult for the British to get in as there are two queues - a fast stream for Aussies and a very slow one for the rest.
Finally I dropped in at the Southside Cafe in Covent Garden. This had been recommended as the friendliest of all the venues. The management are extremely welcoming. Monday night is pounds 2 at the door, but offers a free barbecue.
The club is far more salubrious than the others and sports neon lights around the bar. Although the atmosphere was very restrained during my visit I was assured that splashing beer, stripping off and the infamous wheel of fortune are generally the order of the day.
Aussie clubbing remains a pastime well concealed from most of us. The reason is clear; we are outsiders and are not entirely welcome.
'Church', Bagley's Studio, Kings Cross Freight Depot, Sun 12pm-3pm (071-278 8318)
Castle Tavern, 21 Shepherds Bush Green, Mon-Sun, free to members (081-746 1202)
Southside Cafe, 1 Tavistock Street, Covent Garden, Mon-Sun (071-497 2016)
Captain Cook, 1-3 High St, Acton, Mon-Sun, pounds 2 (081-896 3400)
'Red Back', 264 High St, Acton, Fri, Sat, pounds 2 before 11pm then pounds 4 (081-896 1458)
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