Royal Vauxhall Tavern

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Royal Vauxhall Tavern
Royal Vauxhall Tavern, Vauxhall, SE11 (2866697236).jpg
The Royal Vauxhall Tavern in 2008
Royal Vauxhall Tavern is located in London Borough of Lambeth
Royal Vauxhall Tavern
Location within South London
General information
Address 372 Kennington Lane, London, SE11 5HY
Coordinates 51°29′11″N 0°07′19″W / 51.4864°N 0.1219°W / 51.4864; -0.1219Coordinates: 51°29′11″N 0°07′19″W / 51.4864°N 0.1219°W / 51.4864; -0.1219
Opening 1863
Listed Building – Grade II

The Royal Vauxhall Tavern is a Grade II listed[1] gay entertainment venue in Vauxhall, London. It is also known as the RVT. It is South London's oldest surviving gay venue.[2]


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 1970s.[4]

The RVT survived local redevelopment throughout the 1970s and 1980s and maintained its independence as a gay venue. Many of London's top drag artists performed there, including Hinge and Bracket, Regina Fong and Adrella. Diana Dors also appeared there.[5] Lily Savage, the drag persona of Paul O'Grady, was a regular performer for eight years, with shows four times per week.[2][6]

According to Cleo Rocos‍ '​ book The Power of Positive Drinking, Princess Diana visited the RVT in the late 1980s, disguised as a man and accompanied by Rocos, Freddie Mercury and Kenny Everett. Rocos stated that revellers didn't notice Diana because their attention was focussed on Mercury, Everett and Rocos.[7][8][9][10]

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 opened seven nights a week and maintained its popularity.[2] In November 2014 the RVT was sold in a multi million pound commercial deal. James Lindsay, former joint owner, was retained and appointed by the new business owners.[11]

The RVT was made a grade II listed building on 8 September 2015 – the first building to be listed in recognition of its importance to LGBT community history.[1][12] The listing was the result of a campaign supported by Boris Johnson (Mayor of London), Sir Ian McKellen and Paul O'Grady, among many others.[13]



Duckie is an avant garde club night, hosted by Amy Lamé, that has run every Saturday night at the RVT for the past 18 years. According to the venue, Duckie provides "queer heritage, performance art and honky-tonk".[14] The event's disc jockeys, known as "The Readers Wifes" [sic], play Britpop, disco, hi-NRG, easy listening, glam rock, rock, contemporary pop, new romantics and punk.[15]

Sundays at the RVT[edit]

Sunday Social (formerly known as Sundays at the RVT and prior to that S.L.A.G.S./Chill-Out) is a Sunday afternoon event which most recently has been regularly hosted by Charlie Hides, who started his residency at the RVT on 7 April 2013. Since June 2015, additional Sunday social acts perform in rotation which include Charlie Hides, Myra Dubios, Laquisha Jonz and La Voix, who was a semi-finalist in 'Britain's Got Talent'. Prior to that Jonathan Hellyer's Dame Edna Experience was the resident act for 14 years. The event attracts a large number of devotees from all over London and further afield.[citation needed] In addition to Charlie Hides the event is supported by resident DJs Simon Le Vans and Sean Sirrs plus regular special guests who play a mixture of dance anthems and commercial house.

David Hoyle[edit]

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


The RVT won the Fringe Report best venue in 2010,[16] the Time Out Love London Award, Best Pub Award 2014, Boyz Best Smaller Club 2014, Boyz Best Bar South London 2014 and London Best Cabaret Venue 2012.[citation needed]

The Dame Edna Experience was voted the Best Cabaret Act for 2011 (Pink Paper reader's awards).[17][non-primary source needed]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b Historic England. "Royal Vauxhall Tavern (1426984)". National Heritage List for England. 
  2. ^ a b c d Bridge, Haydon. "QX London Gay History: Southern Comfort" (PDF). Retrieved 10 June 2010. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ Freddie Mercury a Life, in His Own Words
  5. ^[dead link]
  6. ^ "Paul O’Grady: Drag queens were the Vera Lynns of south London in the 1980s". Pink News. 8 July 2014. Retrieved 9 September 2015. 
  7. ^ Cox, Laura. "Night Princess Diana dressed as a man to visit a gay bar with Freddie Mercury and DJ Everett". Daily Mail. Retrieved 5 February 2015. 
  8. ^ "Freddie Mercury 'smuggled Princess Diana into gay bar disguised as a man'". The Telegraph. Retrieved 5 February 2015. 
  9. ^ Legge, James. "Freddie Mercury 'smuggled Princess Diana into a gay club dressed as a man'". The Independent. Retrieved 5 February 2015. 
  10. ^ McCormick, Joseph Patrick. "Freddie Mercury dressed Princess Diana in drag to sneak her into a gay bar". Pink News. Retrieved 5 February 2015. 
  11. ^ "Iconic gay pub Royal Vauxhall Tavern sold". Pink News. 8 October 2014. 
  12. ^ "London gay pub the Royal Vauxhall Tavern is given Grade II listing". The Guardian. The Guardian. Retrieved 9 September 2015. 
  13. ^ "Future of the Royal Vauxhall Tavern". RVT Community. Retrieved 1 July 2015. 
  14. ^ "Duckie". Retrieved 12 February 2015. 
  15. ^ "The Readers Wifes Interview". Time Out. Retrieved 4 February 2015. 
  16. ^ "Fringe Report Award 2010". Fringe Report. 2010-02-08. Retrieved 2010-06-10. 
  17. ^