We are currently trialling our new-look independent.co.uk website - please send any feedback to beta@independent.co.uk


Seedy club featured sex in the stalls: Patrons of cinema recall that some members preferred intimate contact to conversation. Mary Braid reports

AT DREAM CITY, eye contact was rare but anonymous sex sessions were becoming increasingly popular, according to one man who watched pornographic films at the 'dingy, seedy' club.

'Contact sport between punters was a worry for the management when I last visited the club six months ago,' said George, who preferred to remain anonymous. 'It was really a straight club. The gay interest was relatively recent and I think Sunday evenings were set aside for them. But gay men also attended on other nights because some of the films had gay sex in them.

'Most customers were alone although gay men sometimes came in couples. Not everyone got involved but some men did have sex in the dark while the movie was playing. It was all very anonymous. It was a private club and you had to be a member but some people only went once a year. It was not the sort of club where you chatted to people.'

George said that since the crackdown on Soho vice, clubs like Dream City had become rare. He said he was not surprised that a fire had gutted the four-storey building which housed the City Coffee House on the ground floor and the cinema club on the second and third floors: 'The passageway was narrow and claustrophobic and always dark. It was a thoroughly unpleasant, unhappy place.'

Surveying the blackened building in St John Street, John, another customer who preferred to remain anonymous, said yesterday that Dream City had attracted men from all social backgrounds. For pounds 6, they could watch films on two screens. Most evenings two employees ran the club. 'It was somewhere to go, really,' he said. 'It's not a bad thing, having a place like it.'

A local resident, Christopher Wood, said the clientele was half straight, half gay. Gay nights were Wednesday and Sunday.

Rocco Avena, 27, who works in the City Coffee House, said the cinema was used by all sorts of people, 'from men in suits carrying briefcases, to some very dodgy characters'. Mr Avena said he had never visited the cinema, but he believed it screened straight pornographic films.

'We've owned the ground- floor property for 10 years. There's always been a club there. Originally it used to be a massage parlour. There's never been a name above the front door. It's such an old dilapidated building, I think it's probably unsafe now.'