Torture Garden London Fetish Weekend Ball, 30th September 2016
Price: £29 plus £2.35 booking fee
Venue: Qube Project, Victoria, London
I want to begin by stressing that I have only ever been to Torture Garden once, but my experience makes it likely I will only ever go once.
Torture Garden is one of those events that has a lot of hype around it. I’ve heard people talk about the amazing outfits, extreme performances and play that will make you wince. The focus on aesthetics both excited and terrified me. I love to see people dressed in original and outlandish outfits but I’m not very fashion orientated myself. I went through my wardrobe and worried that I’d be refused entry for not dressing fetish enough.
On the night of the event I pulled on a dress I’d usually wear to an alternative/goth club and some very stompy boots. I threw on a collar and cuffs to complete the look but it was still a very low effort outfit. Having heard about the fetish fashion police, I was worried my friends and I would be turned away. When we arrived at the club, however, the fashion police were nowhere to be seen. I have no idea if they are an urban myth but we certainly didn’t encounter any judgmental door staff.
Once inside we waited for an eternity to check our coats. I can’t remember being appalled by the prices so I’m guessing it was fairly reasonable. After we eventually managed to put our coats in the cloakroom we headed to the bar where I was relieved to find drinks were no higher than usual London prices (extortionate).
As I stood at the bar, I surveying my surroundings. I was a bit disappointed to find that I was nowhere near underdressed. I had been looking forward to being blown away by other people’s outfits but I can’t remember a single head-turning costume. My friend and I looked around the room at the minimal play equipment and performance areas and assumed there must be much more in a different area. Unfortunately, there wasn’t. There were a few more bits here and there and a few areas for people to get amorous but it was nothing to write home about.
At this point it is probably worth mentioning that I am not new to the fetish scene. I went to my first fetish/alternative crossover club (Antichrist) when I had just turned 18, which I am shocked to realise was nine and half years ago! A few months later I started working at a BDSM club where play was on the heavier side. Since then I’ve been to a few different clubs, munches, the London Alternative Market…. In the non-fetish world I like watching circus (trapeze, rope, Chinese pole, acrobatics etc), cabaret, sideshow, burlesque and boylesque. It takes a lot to shock or impress me.
Had this been my first ever event I would probably have thought it was pretty hardcore but it really isn’t comparatively. Being fairly mainstream means it is probably a good starting point for people who are a little nervous. There were lots of people who don’t normally/regularly partake in BDSM or fetish events (I spoke to many first-timers and irregular fetish club attendees in the smoking area) and the play is on the milder side.
The music wasn’t really my cup of tea but by the end of the night (after many beers) my friend and I could be found dancing to Madonna in the cheese room. I am fairly certain people were staring but we were having fun.
I’ve heard plenty of people say Torture Garden is mainly about being seen to be edgy or adventurous and I did get that vibe from a few people, most notably the couple who were engaging in the most lacklustre blowjob imaginable. Neither of them seemed like they had any interest in what they were doing so I can only assume they were doing it because blowing or being blown in public is pretty wild, right? They can tick that off their vapid bucket list.
I also felt like lots of people were there because it was such a break from their usual lives and I think that is actually a really good reason to go. I spoke to a guy who was there with his wife. He told me that this really wasn’t something they usually do but once a year they get dressed up, come to London and spend the night at Torture Garden. To them it was incredibly adventurous and a world away from their suburban lives. They were truly enjoying themselves and I was happy they had found a place to really let their hair down, even if it was for just one night a year.
I discussed my experiences with people who have been to Torture Garden many times over the past 15 years and they told me that the intended clientele seems to have changed. They said it feels like it is now mainly aimed at people who don’t usually or regularly go to fetish/BDSM events and they had also noticed the theatre of the event (outfits, performances and play) had calmed down over the past few years. I’m reluctant to paint this in either a positive or negative light because which one it is really depends on who you are and what you are wanting from an event.
I have very mixed feelings about Torture Garden. I personally found it hugely overpriced and unexciting. There was nothing new or particularly interesting to me, but I admit I am not easily impressed. When I go to fetish/BDSM clubs I am really looking to see people having a good time. I can’t stand the posers standing by the bar or the completely fake yelps of someone being lightly patted on the bottom. It’s not the gentle spanking I object to, it’s the falseness. I love watching people playing and genuinely enjoying it, whether that’s a gentle flogging or needles through genitals.
I think Torture Garden could be a good event for people who are new to the fetish scene because it isn’t too extreme, but it is so expensive that I can’t really recommend it unless money isn’t a consideration.
I am glad I went because I feel like Torture Garden is one of these places I really should have at least tried but I doubt I’ll go again. I did have fun in the end but I would have had just as much fun at GAY Late where I have to buy three drinks to take me over the £5 minimum card spend.