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XXL is a gay nightclub in London which primarily caters to the bear sub-group. The club was founded by Mark Ames and his then partner David Dindol in 2000. They split as a couple in 2005, and soon after Mark purchased his ex partner's share of the club. It is the largest dedicated "bear" venue in the United Kingdom and the world. It is not just the bear scene's longest-running weekly disco but London's too, having not missed a night in over 16 years.
XXL is based in Southwark, on the corner of Southwark Street and Blackfriars Road. The present host venue is known as Pulse while the previous venue (on the same street) was known as Arcadia. Both consist of a number of railway arches.
After the previous venue became unsafe due to a structural fault in the railway arches, XXL moved to a new venue, Pulse, in March 2012, one of the capital's largest entertainment venues that was developed and converted by Ames and his team
The XXL website details the history of the club since launching in 2000. Mark Ames felt disillusioned with how little there was for the London Bear Community outside of one bar in Soho.
In 2003, XXL in London created Bear Necessities, now called XXL London Bear Pride, a weekend-long celebration of everything "big, gay and hairy" with events around the country. A year later this turned into London Bear Pride. In 2004 this was expanded to include the leather community in Bear and Leather Pride in 2006. The two subcultures do have a large overlap and a number of leather fetishists patronize XXL.
XXL also operates internationally both in Europe and the USA as well as a monthly night in the UK's second city Birmingham and has other events too. In 2014, XXL launched a monthly event in Glasgow.
Opinion polls in magazines such as Gay Times, the Pink Paper and Boyz regularly put XXL in the top two night clubs in London. XXL was also the title sponsor of the 2006 Bingham Cup in New York. In 2007 the club expanded and also diversified the brand by launching new nights, extending its appeal far beyond the core audience. In 2009 Ames became the gay promoter of the year according to the London Boyz Magazine readers' poll and was named as a gay icon in London's QX magazine. In the 2017 Boyz Awards, XXL was voted best club, with three of the XXL DJ's (Chris Brogan, Joe Egg and David Robson) appearing in the Top 10 most popular DJ's.
There are currently four resident DJ's at XXL; Alex Logan (from 2004), Joe Egg (from 2007), David Robson (from 2015) and Paul Morrell (from 2016). Logan and Morrell play contemporary house and dance mixes with a tribal edge in the main room; occasionally joined by Mark Ames himself. Egg and Robson play an eclectic set of contemporary and retro pop, rock, indie, soul, R&B, bashment and disco in the smaller room, known as 'The Fur Lounge'.
In 2015 it was announced that regular guest DJ's would play in the main room rotating on a monthly basis in between the weekly residents' sessions. These DJs are currently The Hoxton Whores (began residency July 11, 2015), Moto Blanco (beginning summer 2015), circuit legend, WayneG, (from Autumn 2015) and Pagano, who first guested in the summer of 2016.
Chris Brogan is also part of the XXL DJ stable; Christian M was a main room resident from 2000 until his departure to pursue other musical projects on August 10th, 2016.
Previous resident DJs include Andy Almighty, Leonardo Glovibes, Jon Byrne, Stuart Style, Kamishake and others. Previous guest DJ's have included Phil Marriott, Cahill, Mark Loverush, The Freemasons, Paul Scott, Funkybear Martin, David Urania and others.
XXL has a sister club called Fusion that allows a mixed crowd of gay, straight and transgender that operates manly during the UK's bank holiday periods.
XXL also opens on Wednesday nights from 9pm to 3am in a scaled down capacity, with one room of music usually provided by Joe Egg or Chris Brogan.
Mark Ames launched his XXLapp in early 2013 as a free dating app though Apple.com. The app has become a running success; later additions to the app will include live music downloads and club membership.
Gay Pride night on June 25, 2016 saw the biggest attendance in the club's history, with the venue filled to its 2000 capacity until close at 7am.
- Jason Cochran (5 February 2009). Pauline Frommer's London: Spend Less, See More. John Wiley & Sons. p. 320. ISBN 978-0-470-46511-0.
- Editors of Time Out (2 January 2014). Time Out London. Time Out Guides Limited. p. 581. ISBN 978-1-84670-426-0.
- Lonely Planet; Emilie Filou; Steve Fallon; Damian Harper; Vesna Maric (1 October 2013). Lonely Planet London. Lonely Planet Publications. p. 285. ISBN 978-1-74321-833-4.
- "XXL club moves home". Out in the City. 9 March 2012. Retrieved 31 October 2012.
- "QX Gay London Issue 1059". Interview with Mark Ames. 9 June 2014.
- Lloyd, Peter; Reid-Smith, Tris (30 June 2010). "EXCLUSIVE: XXL owner Mark Ames slammed for Muslim boycott". PinkPaper.com. Archived from the original on 16 July 2011.
- Lloyd, Peter (1 July 2010). "YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: XXL's Mark Ames makes heartfelt apology". PinkPaper.com. Archived from the original on 16 July 2011.