We never really intended to have a Gay Camberwell Launch Month. We thought it was excitement enough to create the website ( www.gaycamberwell.com ). The idea had been growing in Roz’s head since she moved to Camberwell five years ago and found that a large number of gay people live here but tend to socialise elsewhere and don’t seem to know about the great venues just a five minute walk from home. When I moved in several months ago, we started socialising even more in Camberwell and realised that local gay people — not to mention some of our non-gay Camberwell friends — were missing out on what SE5 has to offer. People weren’t sure of the best bars and restaurants, and hadn’t heard of many of the events going on in the neighbourhood. Thus www.gaycamberwell.com was born.
Having spent an obscene amount of hours putting all the best local information onto the website: Events Calendar, Camberwell history, arts and culture organisations and venues in the area, sports and leisure, social groups, services, best shops, transport info, and photos, as well as partaking of quite a lot of dining and drinking for our Camberwell restaurant and bar reviews (it’s a hard life), setting up an interactive message board, and telling the world about our adventures in SE5 on our regular blog, we thought we’d quite like people to know about it all. And there was the idea. So innocent at first: “why don’t we hold a launch party?”
This launch party expanded into a full launch month of 9 events in 6 different Camberwell venues. Local venues were fantastically enthusiastic about hosting events. The Castle and the Cambria were so keen to hold parties that we had to have two. The Redstar had gay clubs. The Sun and Doves excelled itself by not only having a Pink November film season of a gay-themed films every Tuesday in November, also devising a full cocktail list of Pink November cocktails to celebrate the launch month. Mark, we applaud you! The Oval House was keen to participate and held a Gay Camberwell night at their current (excellent) gay-themed play, Muhammad Ali and Me. And even Camberwell Library took part, displaying a special LGBT book section.
So how did it all go? Well the lesbian club Soul Naturelle at Redstar was brilliant, full, and fun, and was to continue monthly. Though we’ve since heard tell that Redstar has suddenly closed — anyone have further information on that? The Pink November film season has been a great success, with numbers in the 40s and 50s for screenings and lots of enthusiasm, and 3 out of 4 films being Time Out Critics’ Choice. The launch party was an amazing success, with over 100 people squeezed into the upstairs room at the Castle, spilling onto the stairs, the downstairs bar and the street, drinking the bar almost out of alcohol, listening to the fantastic local gay writers (and a cappella group!) who came for free and put on really entertaining performances, and dancing into the night. I have rarely felt such a good atmosphere at an event anywhere. Frankly, Roz and I spent the whole night grinning (and drinking champagne…)
And so the month carries on apace. Major club, Club Wotever, is bringing its night south (Saturday at Sun and Doves), the Sun and Doves’ final film, My Summer of Love, screens on Tuesday, and we’re still taking bookings from more performers keen to get involved in the closing night party at the Cambria next Friday (do come!). Considering Roz and I are off on holiday to Eritrea on Saturday morning, I think I might have to limit my champagne intake (though the lovely owner Steve does plan to provide free pink martinis, which sounds dangerous… as well as creating a Gay Camberwell food menu for the night).
Gay Camberwell started off as a way to inspire and promote interesting local events, gay and otherwise, in Camberwell, and it’s great that the launch month seems to be inspiring lots of local venues to do more. We’re already working with people to develop a regular Camberwell comedy night. The Castle is planning to show gay films on Sunday afternoons. And have monthly cabaret (starting on 6th Dec). The South London Gallery is considering a gay media event. Club Wotever hopes to become a regular Camberwell feature. And there’s even more on the horizon. Another great perk has been uncovering the interesting gay events that are already happening in Camberwell, such as the gay book group (3rd Tuesday of the month at the Castle) and gay male naturist swimming (Fridays 8:15–9:15 at the Camberwell Leisure Centre). We’re having fun. Shame we have full time jobs…
This guest post was brought to you by Layla and Roz from www.gaycamberwell.com