The Royal Vauxhall Tavern in May won the Time Out Love London Award – best LGBTQ venue.
Since February it has won five industry awards for Best Cabaret Venue, Best Cabaret Act, Best Club Host, Best Panto/Christmas Show and Best Bar Staff.
The RVT was built between 1860 and 1862 at Spring Gardens, Kennington Lane, on land which was originally part of the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens. It hosted drag shows for returning servicemen after the Second World War.
Notable acts 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.
Freddie Mercury was also a frequent visitor during the 1970s.
Many of London’s top drag artists performed there, including Hinge and Bracket, Regina Fong and Adrella. Diana Dors also appeared there and Lily Savage, the drag persona of Paul O’Grady, was a regular performer for eight years, with shows four times per week.
Diana, Princess of Wales visited the RVT in the late 1980s, according to Cleo Rocos in her memoir The Power of Positive Drinking, disguised as a man and accompanied by Rocos, Freddie Mercury and Kenny Everett. Rocos claimed revelers did not notice Diana because their attention was focused on the other three.
Paul Oxley and James Lindsay took over the pub and opened it for seven nights a week. They sold up four years ago to property developers but Lindsay was retained to run it by the new owners. The community campaign group RVT Future was formed soon afterwards to defend the venue’s continued use as a site of LGBTQ community and culture – and the building was made a Grade-II listed building in September 2015 – the UK’s first building to be listed in recognition of its importance to LGBTQ community history. The campaign was supported by then Mayor of London Boris Johnson, actor Ian McKellen and Paul O’Grady.
Duckie is an avant garde club night, hosted by Amy Lamé which has run every Saturday night at the RVT since the mid 1990s. According to the venue, Duckie provides ‘queer heritage, performance art and honky-tonk’.
Sunday Social is an afternoon event hosted mostly since April 2013 by American drag queen Charlie Hides. Since June 2015, he has rotated with Myra Dubios and Mary Mac. Jonathan Hellyer’s Dame Edna Experience, the resident act for 14 years, returned to the rota in July 2016.
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