The UK Fetish Scene: a trip down memory lane

The UK Fetish Scene: a trip down memory lane:

Sparing a thought to yesteryear…

 

I don’t hang around in the past, I’m very much a forward thinker, but its certainly fun to look back at where it all began and reminisce a little. It’s what made me who and what I am, and like an old friend, the Fetish Scene that once was, deserves a glorious salute.

I happened across my first slave at an early age. Though, I’d heard of ‘Fetish’ and was intensily curious, I wasn’t exactly sure what to do with him. I remember whipping him with a sad looking leather flogger I’d bought in Soho and most probably went too far. There were no internet sites to look at, I could pick up magazines in a few specialist shops and maybe a flyer or two. My mobile phone seemed as a large as a brick and most people didn’t have them, but somehow I fumbled around and found my way, mostly by word of mouth. Any ‘scene’ to speak of was very much underground.

Advertising as a ProDomme in the past now seems like something somewhat out of the dark ages. Finding Fetish friendly magazines and papers to discreetly place your ad into, was something of an art form. Posting off a scrappy looking form and photo by post, collecting the camera film from carefully chosen unknown developers and wondering if they’d say something, not process the pictures, or keep them all for personal use, was a continuous headache.

Of course, clubs have changed dramatically. They weren’t so widely accessible, wearing your new rubber outfit seemed like a dangerous activity to do, if you went out, everything was kept well hidden under your long coat. Many a time I found myself in an uncompromising position when the ‘powers that be’ would burst into the club to stop things mid flow. I’d have a slave locked to a railing and flap around, insanely trying to find a lost key. It was all very expected and nothing new, we’d get pissed off and laugh about it later. No complaints, that’s what we did! Unlike the acceptability of Fetish Clubs today, things took longer, it was harder to communicate and equally difficult to find your fetish community niche if there was one. But it was a close, honest underground experience, it didn’t give up its secrets so readily, but that made it all the more worthwhile when it did.

The evolution of the fetish scene

The concept of fetish and its familiar clothing first effected the mainstream in the 60’s with The Avengers, then in the 70’s Punk scene with Vivienne Westwood. In the 80’s, the Goth and New Romantic style and subculture started to cross onto the new wave of Fetish clubs beginning to take root. Skintwo was the first club I’d ever heard of and it was the first club in what we now know as the current Fetish scene, that blazed the trail in 1983. Tony Mitchell and David Claridge started Skintwo in a small basement in Soho, followed by the launch of Skintwo magazine in 1984 shortly afterwards. It was seen as the first genuine fetish club since the 1960’s, fighting to keep out press, a dress code policy at the door to maintain its unique atmosphere, it was a tightly knit group of key figures, now world reknown for its rubber fashion couture, clubs and the birth of modern fetish.

Torture Garden is probably the worlds best known fetish club today. Its beginnings were very different, its first event at Opera on the Green, Shepherds Bush in Oct 1990 was a very small affair of a hundred people or so. It moved to Electrowerkz and then The Paradise Club, I remember a mix of goth, alternatives and hardened SMer’s. It also attracted the fetish fashionistas and the both the straight and gay scene, this was a ‘darker’ crowd, compared to its fabulously bizarre vibrancy of today.

Other clubs so fondly remembered, but sadly no longer around, include Severin’s Kiss, Adventures of Gwendoline, Submission, Club Whiplash and The Cane club. Over more recent years was Club Spank, Club Hades and Wicked, each with their own individual style and niche that had evolved for different kinds of players and fetish folk. By the 90’s different more specialised fetish interests were taking root and being catered for in a variety of clubs.

Fetish Fairs and Fetish fashion

The London fetish fair was another first of its kind, where vendors of fetish clothes and equipment and the scene crowd, could buy and sell their kinky wares in one intimate venue. It never had and still doesn’t have a dress code policy, but it’s always been a great excuse for a fetish dress up and social fetish community meet during the day. Like a sunday afternoon stroll in rubber, this was a new enlightened feeling. Here were different fashion lables and kinky bargains all under one roof, very enticing indeed! Before the advent of fetish markets, fairs and the steady increase of shops on the internet in the mid 90’s, I found myself travelling the length of breadth of busy London to frequent my favourite fetish shops and though I still do, it’s not always neccessary. Sealware (began in 1959), Atomage, She an Me, Rubberist, Dressing for pleasure and Ectomorph were some of my first finds. Other long standing retailers are Velda Lauder, Fetters, Jed Phoenix, Ultimate leather and Breathless, not forgetting Skintwo and Torture Gardens own range.

Harking back to those ‘good ole days’, when the vibe was backstreet, underground, erring on caution and mystery, accessibility and instantaneous pleasures now abound in comparison. As with many otherwise lesser known industries and subcultures, the internet and mass media has played a significant role in the Fetish scenes current notoriety and acceptability. Is it a good thing? For those who wish the scene to remain an underground continuum, get over it, it’s not going to happen! Change or not, by the very nature of Fetish and BDSM, the scene is a subculture and will never become wholly mainstream. Cultural, social-sexual taboos and differences will always exist alongside usual vanilla pursuits, and thats what we celebrate, thats what the Fetish scene is all about. Unless the dungeon becomes as common as the bedroom in modern day living, the individuality and uniqueness of the fetish scene remains secure, and thats definitely a good thing. I’m looking forward… but its sure as hell fun to indulge in the past now and then.

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