The myths of Scotland’s gay scene exploded.



Out dancing

Avril Mair and Andrea Baxter investigate gay clubland in Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Little more than a decade ago, writing about the gay clubscene in Central Scotland would have been impossible. Homosexuality here was illegal. A ‘scene’, as such. did not could not exist. As an underground movement certainly, its presence was acknowledged, but exclusively gay events were rare. With decriminalisation in 1980, however, came the emergence of a new breed of club owners, who recognised the desirability and commercial viability of safe venues catering specifically for a gay clientele.

We spoke to four people, each influential in the Central Scotland gay clubscene: Alan Fleming, Editor of Gay Scotland’s Scenearound section; Brian Levell, formerly of Club Xchange, now DJ at Gay Mondays, the Tunnel’s new one-nighter; Andy, co—owner of both Chapps Club Bar and the recently opened Club Exit; and Bill Grainger, the man behind the legendary Fire Island Club, now record label boss and DanceView Editor of Scots Scene— and asked them about the reality as opposed to people’s preconceptions.

There are many pre-supposed differences between the gay clubscene and the so-called ‘straight’ clubscene, but do these actually exist? Alan: There is really no distinction between a gay club and a ‘straight’ club except the people who go there. It is all much of a muchness these days. Brian: The difference is that the kids who are involved in the gay scene really go out because they enjoy the music and like dancing, and from a DJ’s point of view it’s great to have a clubful of

people you know want to dance, rather than people who are just in there to get pissed.

Andy: Yeah, there’s a completely different atmosphere. Nine out of ten times, when you go to a gay club it‘s like going to a party people are just out to enjoy themselves amongst people of their own kind. There aren’t that many gay clubs, so you tend always to meet people you know. Many people also believe that gay clubs just play hi-NRG music and nothing else. Is this criticism justified?

Alan: Well, there is a reasonable amount of hi-NRG on most playlists, but what you find these days is that clubs usually play chart-type dance music.

Bill: That’s right, the music at one time used to be more distinct. Now it’s sort ofsimilar to any other club, but there’smore variety. You do tend to

find more poppier stuff than in other clubs. though. Brian: I think that’s been taken too far, however. and some people are playing almost purely soul, dance, house and electro, and there’s a bit of a rebellion against that. Obviously, with the problem of ‘queer-bashing’ plus the unavoidable troublesome element which exists in any club, it’s especially important for people involved in the gay scene to feel safe. Is this a problem in Central Scotland? Bill: No, l have never heard any reports of trouble. There is a better. safer atmosphere in the gay clubscene than in any other city clubs. Fire Island ran for ten years. for example. but you could count the amount of trouble we had on one I hand, which is something you couldn’t do with t ‘straight’ clubs.

Alan: Yeah, in gay clubs in Scotland in general ' there is no hassle at all. I really can’t remember I the last time there was an incidence of trouble. | Brian: There’s very little trouble in gay clubs l l

probably only about a tenth of the trouble you’d get in a ‘straight’ club because it is just not tolerated by the other customers. Andy: preople want to come in and enjoy

! themselves, and know how to enjoy themselves

; properly, then there‘s no problem. But they

f Andy: The way I see it, straight people are very

: door. We have all sorts come in both straight

I married couples and gay couples. Basically. if

you’re a decent enough person, you‘ll get in no

: problem.

2 Brian: You’ll find that straight women are always

; cause trouble. Provided the door staff are on the ball, you can suss that out at the very beginning.

:9 G LA S G 0 W: Bennets, 80-90 C lass ford Street, . 552 5 761 . Tue, Wed, Fri—Sun 11pm—3am; Club

1 Street, 204 1000. Mon 11pm—3am. I EDINBURGH: Blue Oyster Club, 96 Rose Street

Chapps Club Bar, 22 Greenside Place, 558 12 70.

7—1 1 pm; Club Exit, 9 Victoria Street, 225 2564. Thurs-Sat 10pm—2am, Sun 10pm—3am; Millies,

Niddry Street, 556 6050. Mon— Thurs 10pm—4am, ; Fri—Sat 10pm—6am; Women 's Network Disco,

. the crowd when it comes to gay clubs at all. there

know what will happen to them if they start causing a rumpus - we just don’t stand for any trouble.

How welcome are straight people who want to go to gay clubs because they enjoy the atmosphere? Does this create tension with regulars regarding them as voyeurs?

welcome to come to our club. but it is very strictly membership only, so everyone gets vetted at the

welcome straight guys people tend to be unsure about until they’ve been a few times. Bill: Yeah, you can usually tell who just wants to

The golden rule for us was that we didn‘t mind who came in, so long as they came with somebody who was a regular.

Andy: Well, to be honest. you just can‘t classify

are just such a wide band of people. And that can’t be helped if a gay club said that it just

wanted to attract one kind ofcrowd it would be cutting its own throat.

X change, 25 Royal Exchange Square, 204 45 99. Tue—Sun 11pm—5am; The Tunnel, 84 Mitchell

Lane North, 226 6458. Th urs—Sun 8pm—4am;

Mon—Thurs 9pm—3am, Fri—Sat 9pm—4am, Sun

Liberty ’5. Greenside Place, 5573807. First Friday of each month, call venue for details.



I FOLLOWING their recent guessed it. a style highly successful club tour, competition. Organised in the latest venture by beer association with Glasgow

company Schlitz is an School oi Art. it invited 89

enterprise ‘aimed at students to produce a relating the education of branded design-anything designers to the needs of from a catsuit to a can

crusher- suitable for use as

the marketplace’. Yes, you

Such a loose brief has

, resulted in a weird and wonderful range oi items- a dog's body warmer. a door handle, and a sandwich

' board, to name but three. The Printed and Knotted Textiles Department have been a little more realistic, however, and have come up with funky and fun clubland . articles-posters,T-shirts, l dancewear. sculptural

j knits, bags. . . even a

Schlitz wigl Before you see

everyone wearing ‘em down The Tunnel, pop into the Art School's Mackintosh Museum between 11 and 17

a promotional product.


well over, and

, setting in. the latest v exploits by the man behind

world. should prove welcome ones. Sshbooml1 was held on Guy Fawkes

, incorporated music by three


Sshboom! 2. Planned tor 21 January at the Network once more. the event will involve the combined talents of Shag. Floral Riot and tee. with the usual 'added attractions‘ provided. Instead of a charitable cause, this time Sshboomi is being light-heartedly organised as a birthday bash for Mr Hall, who will be ‘old. too old’the following day. Certainly old enough to know better! But, wheteverthe reason behind it. this looks set to be one sure way to brighten up the start of the year.

I Oil the wild and wacky world of Graham llall. With the season of lestlve cheer

post-celebratory ennui

Shag, the Viz oi the nightlife

Day on all three floors of Edinburgh's Network.

of the city's best clubs. . attracted 1400 people, and ! raised a considerable sum iorcharity. Now. preparetor l

The List l l 24January lWl 57