Heaven

11 The Arches, Off Villiers...

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The Covent Garden Comedy Club @...
Heaven
11 The Arches, Off Villiers Street...

London clubland in the 1970s was a fairly dismal place. It compared very unfavourably with New York and many European cities and the concept of ‘clubbing’ as we understand the term today simply did not exist.

To that end a group of innovative characters got together and took over the site that was a run down old roller disco called Global Village and in December 1979 Heaven opened its doors for the first time. It was timed perfectly. Six months earlier Mrs Thatcher had been elected and an era began that saw unemployment rise to levels last seen in the 1930s. The sense of decay and gloom was palpable. The ‘Swinging London’ of the 1960s a distant memory. London needed a splash of colour & flamboyance to counter balance the otherwise grey monochrome that was the reality of the British capital.

Heaven was the brainchild of Jeremy Norman, responsible for the Embassy club, and which was seen as the nearest London had to Studio 54 in new york. Heaven quickly became the focal point for what had until then been a fairly understated gay scene that hitherto had been based in small hidden cellar bars or pub discos. When Heaven opened its doors in 1979 only 12 years had elapsed since the decriminalisation of homosexuality and at the time there was still a lot of overt prejudice against gay men & lesbians. Heaven bore the brunt of some of that intolerance and in those days was regarded warily by the authorities.

It did however establish itself as a club venue that constantly re-invented itself. Its long standing creative director and general manager David Inches ensured that it never grew tired and always had a bookings policy that set it apart from its rivals. Not just gay club events either. Over the years nights such as ‘Bedrock’ ‘Pyramid’, ‘ Shoom’, ‘Rage’, ‘Megatripolis’ amongst many others all attracted a predominantly straight crowd for whom Heaven represented a delicious step into the decadent unknown.

There were periodic live shows featuring bands who fancied playing an off the wall venue rather than the usual spit and sawdust live music venues. New Order played their first London show here in 1981. Barely six months earlier, when they had been called Joy Division their lead singer Ian Curtis had committed suicide. The renamed band minus Curtis had much to prove. Their London show 33 years ago has since passed into legend.