Royal Vauxhall Tavern

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The Royal Vauxhall Tavern

The Royal Vauxhall Tavern is a gay nightclub in London. It is also known as the RVT. It is South London's oldest surviving gay venue.[1]

Early history[edit]

The RVT was built in 1863 at Spring Gardens, Kennington Lane, on land which was originally part of the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens. It started life as a Victorian music hall .[citation needed] After the war, returning servicemen and local gay men were attracted to the venue, which held shows of female impersonators, the forerunner of drag shows.[2]

By 1975, the Royal Vauxhall Tavern had two bars around a kidney shaped bar which doubled as a stage for the drag artists to dance along in their stilettos from the tiny apron stage at one end. Prior to the cabaret starting the bar would be cleared of glasses and drinks and the staff would clean the bar ready for the drag to dance along it in their heels. The public bar attracted local workers and had a dart board whilst the lounge attracted the local gay community. Notable acts from this era include "Carla", famous for her Barbra Streisand impersonation and "The Great Lee Paris" on a Saturday night with Land of Hope and Glory, and There'll always be an England.[3] Freddie Mercury was also a frequent visitor during the seventies.[4]

At this time the words "The Palladium of Drag" adorned the exterior of the building .

Also during 1976 [Roy Alvis] staged an all male revue both at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern and The Union Tavern, Camberwell New Road. The revue spawned a four piece all male cabaret group called 'The Boys Plus' In the space of a couple of months this group was seen in residencies all over the London drag circuit....The Union, The Vauxhall, the Black cap and the Cock (Lewisham). The group only lasted a couple of years but set the trend for shows in the 21st century such as Funny Girls in Blackpool

The RVT survived local redevelopment throughout the seventies and eighties and has managed to maintain its independence as a gay venue. Many of London's top drag artists have appeared at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, including Hinge and Bracket, Adrella and Diana Dors (although Diana Dors was in reality a woman and not, therefore, a genuine drag act).[5] A resident for eight years and probably most famous entertainer, with shows four times a week, was Paul O'Grady's Lily Savage.[6]

The venue came under attack from the developers in the nineties, when Lambeth Council entered into a three year agreement with a developer and announced plans to build a shopping centre on the site.[7] Protesters marched to Lambeth Council and the development was subsequently dropped.

Recent history[edit]

In 2005, the Royal Vauxhall Tavern was taken over by gay businessmen Paul Oxley and James Lindsay. With a new lighting and sound system the venue is now open seven nights a week and still maintains its popularity.[8]


The most well known event held at the RVT in the present day is Simon Casson’s avant garde nightclub, Duckie, hosted by Amy Lame. For the past 14 years, Duckie has run every Saturday at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern providing progressive working class entertainment for the homosexual communities of Vauxhall.[9] DJ's [The Reader's Wives] provide the music for the evening, with diverse musical tastes from Britpop, disco, hi-nrg, easy listening, glam rock, rock, contemporary pop, new romantics, punk, et al.


Sundays at the RVT formerly known as S.L.A.G.S./Chill-Out has been a hugely successful Sunday afternoon event which most recently has been hosted by Charlie Hides who started his residency at the RVT on 7 April 2013. Prior to that Jonathan Hellyer's Dame Edna Experience was the resident act for 14 years and helped the club to become an institution on the gay scene and became extremely popular .[citation needed] The event attracts a large number of devotees from all over London and further afield. In addition to Charlie Hides the event is supported by resident DJ's Simon Le Vans and Sean Sirrs who play a mixture of dance anthems and commercial house from 2pm until midnight.

The Dame Edna Experience was voted the Best Cabaret Act for 2011 (Pink Paper reader's awards).[10]


Intermittently artist David Hoyle hosts an avant garde cabaret show, where sometimes controversial themes are explored.


The RVT won the Fringe Report best venue in 2010.[11] In addition the RVT also won the best London Cabaret Venue Award for 2012.


In March 2013 it was widely reported in the UK and World press that Princess Diana visited the RVT in the 1980s disguised as a man, being accompanied by Freddie Mercury and Kenny Everett, according to a biography written by Cleo Roccos. The "scandal" drew a mixture of credulity and merriment in the press and at first was thought by many to be an April fools joke, which in fact it was not.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°29′11″N 0°07′19″W / 51.4864°N 0.1219°W / 51.4864; -0.1219


  1. ^ Bridge, Haydon. "QX London Gay History: Southern Comfort" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-06-10. 
  2. ^ Bridge, Haydon. "QX London Gay History: Southern Comfort" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-06-10. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ Freddie Mercury a Life, in His Own Words
  5. ^
  6. ^ Bridge, Haydon. "QX London Gay History: Southern Comfort" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-06-10. 
  7. ^ "A New Plan for Lambeth" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-06-21. 
  8. ^ Bridge, Haydon. "QX London Gay History: Southern Comfort" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-06-10. 
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ "Fringe Report Award 2010". Fringe Report. 2010-02-08. Retrieved 2010-06-10.