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Earlier this month, Tower Hamlets council contacted venues E1 and Colour Factory, which host Klub Verboten and Crossbreed, two of London’s most popular sex positive, LGBTQIA+ friendly fetish club nights. The council threatened the venues with legal action in an attempt to prohibit “nudity and semi-nudity” at nightclubs in the borough, by invoking “archaic” laws that would require attendees to be clothed at nighttime venues.
Founded in 2016, Klub Verboten is London’s largest kink community and club, with over 10,000 members. Crossbreed, which is held in Hackney Wick venue Colour Factory, began in 2019. As two of London’s most frequented sex and queer-positive parties, they have been instrumental in the increasing accessibility, diversity and visibility of kink clubbing in the capital.
Both events have live DJs playing electronic music, but also include safe spaces to explore kink and sex, including BDSM “playrooms”. Crossbreed has previously described its nights as an “intentional space for London’s queer community to connect, dance and explore identity/sexuality in a safer environment”.
Karl Verboten, founder of the eponymous night, told PRUDE: “Tower Hamlets is trying to force in some very dated conditions that have nothing to do with the type of night we run. What we are so confused about why now, it has been 30 years of running this type of event in London, and it wasn’t an issue before.”
Verboten explained that the council had failed to contact the event organisers, only reaching out to the venues. He said: “Tower Hamlets haven’t done the work, they have never bothered to understand these communities and now are dropping bombs where there is no need for it. We would love to see them approach us directly, ask questions if they are curious and find frameworks and answers that would help to keep communities safe, rather than to erase them from the map.”
Verboten said that banning the nights would fail to protect those who may attend. He explained that the council failed to understand the nature of the nights, and that stricter nudity laws would jeopardise the event’s already very stringent vetting and safeguarding process.
He said: “Councillors have just turned a blind eye, and turning a blind eye has created those safeguarding loopholes that we need to get rid of. We care about the people that come to our events, and so do our promoters. And we want to make sure there is a framework in place that allows us to keep them safe.”
He added: “We pointed out that this would be highly discriminatory towards trans and non-binary people in the community.”
A pillar of queer London nightlife, Klub Verboten has previously been recognised for having an outstanding regard for the consent and safety of those attending the events by Bryony Beynon, co-founder of Good Night Out, a campaign for safer nightlife.
In a statement, Ms Beynon said: “We have trained and accredited Klub Verboten‘s staff and policies three years in a row as an organisation taking the utmost care when it comes to building cultures of consent in nightlife. Their procedures are among the most stringent and well-written I’ve audited in ten years of working to prevent gendered violence in nightlife.”
Verboten told PRUDE that everyone who attends Klub Verboten nights will be vetted, either online or in person, and then each event will have up to 25 safeguarding officers ready to intervene if needed.
Verboten also revealed that they were searching for a Tower Hamlets resident to run in the upcoming elections in May to represent their community and voice in the council.
He said: “There are some local elections coming up in May, there are some people in office, they just have to go. It’s that simple… Maybe someone needs to be elected into these positions that have a little bit more care.”
He added: “We are working on finding the Tower Hamlets residents in our community, and we’re working on an action that involves sourcing someone with a decent and good heart.
It remains to be seen whether Klub Verboten’s event will be able to go ahead tonight. Verboten said: “It will be either a semi-nude fetish protest rave or a full-frontal event. But we’re still arguing back and forth.”
Verboten added: “They have threatened us since 2019. And we are tired of hiding. If it would be only us I would say bring it on. But sadly, the license of the venue is at stake so that is a lot of good people’s jobs [at stake]. And that’s a decision we can’t make.”
Klub Verboten and Crossbreed are both campaigning for the future of kink and fetish nightlife under the #savekinkspaces and #savequeerspaces hashtags.
Tower Hamlets council was contacted but did not comment.
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