The entrance to Heaven
|Location||Charing Cross, London, England|
Heaven is a superclub in London, England which appeals predominantly (but not exclusively) to the gay market. It is located underneath Charing Cross railway station in Central London, just off Trafalgar Square.
History and background
Heaven was opened in December 1979 by Jeremy Norman in a former, run-down roller-disco called Global Village, which was housed in the arches beneath Charing Cross railway station, once part of Adelphi Arches, a large wine-cellar for the hotel above. Norman was also chairman of Burke's Peerage, the publishers. The original hi-tech interior was designed by his partner, Derek Frost. Norman had started an earlier club, The Embassy, in Old Bond Street in 1978. Norman, an entrepreneur, took his knowledge and used it to create an entirely new form of gay club on a larger scale. The Embassy had taken London by storm and is generally seen as the London equivalent of New York's Studio 54. Heaven quickly established itself as the centre of the (then understated) gay London nightlife. Until Heaven, most gay clubs were small hidden cellar-bars or pub discos. Heaven brought gay clubbing into the mainstream and finally got a club to rival New Yorks gay super club at the time The Saint.
As one of the first gay clubs in London, and one of the first openly-so in the world, Heaven courted controversy, frequently appearing in the tabloid press, especially in the famous News of the World headlines about alleged ecstasy use in the nightclub in 1989.
As of the mid 1990s Wednesdays hosted a night called Fruit Machine, hosted by Miss Kimberly and her drag queens. Fridays were 'Garage' (music not to be confused with US Garage which came later) with DJs Blu Peter and Mrs Wood taking the decks. Saturday nights - known as 'Heaven is Saturday - Saturday is Heaven' - hosted a wide variety of parties, the theme changing weekly, e.g. a Beach Party, when the venue was flooded with sand and a beach volleyball net erected over the dance floor. Other nights in the summer involved the use of Heaven's "swimming pool" which was revealed from under the stage. Heaven always put on its biggest show at New Year's Eve with big name acts and the resulting queues around the block - some times into the Strand - waiting to see the next stage performance and enjoy the laser show.
The club was refurbished in 1998 and re-opened as a mainstream nightclub to challenge other larger nightclubs in Central London which had since appeared with the growing popularity of house music. Clubs like Trade and The Fridge had constantly challenged Heaven's long standing reputation as the only major gay nightclub in London.
Famous performances include Madonna in June 1985 when she was on a UK promotional tour of her debut album Madonna, [Jimmi Sommerville/Bronski Beat], Pet Shop Boys, Kylie Minogue, Dannii Minogue, Anastacia, Robyn, The Rasmus, Cheryl Fernandez-Versini, Vanessa Amorosi, Macy Gray, Divine, Kelly Clarkson, Jessie J, Sylvester, Eurythmics, Billie Ray Martin, The Chemical Brothers, My Chemical Romance, Nick Jonas, Baby D, Grace Jones, Gerard Way, 5sos, Micheal Clifford, Patty Walters, as it is, Big Bang, Amanda Lear, Eartha Kitt, Cyndi Lauper, Lily Allen, Deee-lite, CeCe Rogers, Army Of Lovers, Culture Beat, Sandra Bernhard, Loleatta Holloway, Martha Wash, Hazell Dean, Black Lace, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Aqua, a-ha, The Saturdays, Leona Lewis, Hilary Duff, One Direction, Miley Cyrus, Adam Lambert, Mikael Rozee, Adele, Ellie Goulding, Jedward, Caitlyn Jenner, Lady Gaga, Skye McFlurry, Tinashe, Melanie Martinez, Little Mix, Demi Lovato, DNCE, Von Sudenfed featuring Mark E Smith of The Fall, Cher, who launched her single Believe there in 1998, and Måns Zelmerlöw, the Eurovision 2015 winner, on his first international tour.
Heaven's original resident DJ Ian Levine has often been credited with being one of the first DJ's in the UK of the now customary style of "beatmixing" (when previously two records had normally only been segued together by fading one in and the other out, regardless of tempo).
Through the direction of Heaven's original manager David Inches, Heaven always tried to find and employ DJs who could become exclusive to Heaven, who played well, and who most often produced new sounds and mixing styles. These DJs then went on to find greater acclaim in the mainstream or gay music industry. Original Heaven DJs have included: Tony De Vit, Colin Holsgrove, Marc Andrews, Marc Monroe, George Mitchell, Ian D, Jon Dennis, Rich B & Wayne G.
The club was host to the seminal Troll at the Soundshaft in Heaven between 1988 and 1990, which started the career of DJ's such as Daz Saund. Whilst Saturday At Heaven was the club's highest profile night during the 1990s and 2000s, Heaven also hosted Garage on Fridays and one of London's longest running mid-week club nights, The Fruit Machine, which ran every Wednesday between 1992 and 2008.
One of Heaven's most famous DJ's Marc Andrews left his main Saturday night residency to join rival club The Fridge based in Brixton, followed also by Marc Monroe. Their Saturday night presentation "Love Muscle" created significant competition and created a change in the balance of the pink pound market.
The Original Heaven Sound
The original Heaven sound of the 1980s could be attributed primarily to the producer Giorgio Moroder and later to original resident DJ Ian Levine. It can be described as having disco origins and influenced by the emergent house music style. Examples of this style of music include Yvonne Elliman's "Love Pains", Company B's "Fascinated", Eria Fachin's "Savin' Myself", Donna Summer's "I Feel Love", Abba's "The Visitors", The Pet Shop Boys "It's A Sin" or "Always On My Mind", Divine's "Native Love", The Flirts' "Calling All Boys" and "Passion", Tantra's "Hills of Katmandu", Rose Laurens' "American Love", Patrick Cowley's "Menergy", Boys Town Gang's "Can't Take My Eyes Off You", Viola Wills' "Stormy Weather", Carol Jiani's "Hit N' Run Lover", Taffy's "I Love My Radio", Sharon Redd's "In the Name of Love", Gazebo's "Masterpiece", Bobby O's "She Has A Way", Lime's "Your Love" and "Angel Eyes", Sylvester's "Take Me To Heaven" and "Do Ya Wanna Funk", Trans-X's "Living on Video", Big Bang's "Voulez-Vous (song)" and Evelyn Thomas' "High Energy".
In 1998 as part of the relaunch of the venue, it was decided to try broadening the appeal of the venue by including an indie night as part of its new Monday night, Popcorn, called Room Two. At this time Popstarz was riding high and a number of other gay indie nights had followed in its wake, proving that it could be financially viable. However, only Popstarz had done it on such a scale and it was on a Friday - it was unproven whether it could work on a weeknight. Although it took over six months the whole night, as well as the indie floor, became immensely successful. Although the indie floor is no longer the night is still running and helped launch the careers of a number of DJ including Gordon John and Mikey Four.
At the beginning of the 2000s, Heaven adopted a more mainstream tribal house and disco based sound employing DJs originally resident at other major gay London nightclubs such as Gonzalo (a DJ originally resident at Trade, Salvation and Action).
Towards the middle 2000s the music policy of Heaven's main dance-floor became more underground. During that time and until October 2008 Heaven's Saturday night exclusive resident DJs Pagano and Nick Tcherniak played a variety of styles including Progressive House, Techouse, Deep House and Electro, thus ending Heaven's original Saturday night sound.
In October 2008 MAMA Group bought Heaven and moved into the venue its Friday and Saturday night events previously hosted at The Astoria. The club plays mainly Pop music and Commercial Dance under the G-A-Y brand.
After the 1998 refurbishment
Heaven was highly profitable in the early part of the millennium, even though gay culture in itself had become progressively mainstream and less underground. Heaven's reputation ensured it was chosen by national promoters such as Gatecrasher and Bedrock (run by DJ John Digweed) who eventually took up a permanent residence on a Thursday night until 2005.
After the 1998 refurbishment, Heaven enjoyed a real buoyancy in terms of custom, and was very popular. The dotcom revolution and the economic upturn of 1999–2000 meant that customers had a lot of disposable income.
The September 11 attacks in 2001 sent a shock through the worldwide economy, especially affecting airlines. The Virgin Group, who at the time owned both Virgin Atlantic and Heaven, wanted to consolidate their business portfolio and concentrate on Virgin branded products. Although Heaven was part of Virgin Hotels group, it did not carry the Virgin logo, and had no open association with Virgin. For this reason, the decision was made to sell.
Inevitably Heaven now faces increased competition from many other clubs which enjoy more liberal licensing regulations south of the river, in Vauxhall, for example Fire. On the latter point, however, Heaven now has a 06:00 drinks licence, the only venue in Westminster to have one.
Another source of competition has been other places for gay men to meet: saunas/Gay bathhouses, and websites such as Gaydar. Other niche venues specialising in areas of gay sub-culture have also sprung up including fetish, BDSM, sportswear and uniform clubs.
Heaven brand worldwide
Heaven remains one of the best known gay nightclubs in London and one of the largest in terms of floor space in central London. It hosts several large events, corporate events and has been used as a setting for music videos.
Monday is perhaps the busiest night in Heaven's week. The club plays host to a party called Popcorn! - a largely student night which plays pop and funky house music. It is a predominately gay event. The club always features drag queens on Mondays and Thursdays, but not as prominently as in previous years. This has led to Popcorn attracting criticism from the gay community and accusations of Heaven "selling out" and losing its core values as a gay venue.
Thursday plays host to "Porn Idol", a strip competition for men and women previously held at the Astoria, with £250 offered to the winner each week. The competition comprises several rounds, with £1,000 awarded to the season winner. It is preceded and followed by three rooms of pop.
Media coverage of Porn Idol resulted in Jeremy Joseph being banned from 10 Downing Street by David Cameron's staff, having previously been invited to an event for leading figures in the gay community.
Fridays used to be private hire nights where events like Gatecrasher and Euphoria would make guest appearances. Since being taken over by the G-A-Y brand, Heaven hosts "Camp Attack", which was the event held at the former home of G-A-Y, the Astoria theatre.
Saturday night events tend to feature a performance, which over the years have included new start-ups such as Neon Jungle but also well-known acts such as Kylie Minogue, Dannii Minogue and One Direction.
Heaven is located in several railway arches under the concourse of Charing Cross station. The main access to the venue is through an entrance in The Arches Shopping off Villiers Street, down a short stairway. In 1998 the club closed for several months for a refurbishment, which included the purchase of an additional arch and subsequent expansion.
The club is split into several areas, each with a separate sound system / DJ.
The main floor is the largest space in the venue and occupies a full height arch, with the stage used for performances and a large dance floor. There are two bars in this area, as well as the main cloakrooms.
The Star Bar is above the large bar of the main floor and as such is half the height of the main floor. There are two bars in this room.
This small room is directly above the rear bar of the main floor.
The Soundshaft is a smaller room adjacent to the stage on the main floor. Access is via a door on the main stage, or through the Games Room. This room has been open since Heaven opened and has operated as a separate club, under many names, such as Sherbet, The Island, The Eagle, Troll. When it is used as a separate venue, it uses a separate entrance off Hungerford Lane.
The Departure Lounge opened after the 1998 refurbishment. It is accessed from the rear of the main floor. It was originally marketed as a VIP area with a private entrance.
In 1982, Heaven was acquired from Norman, the founder, by Richard Branson's Virgin Group. Branson was one of the first to identify the burgeoning 'pink pound' and saw the club as an investment opportunity, Branson reported in his autobiography that the £500,000 used to purchase Heaven were financed by the brewery supplying drinks to the venue.
On 22 Sept 2008, Heaven was purchased by the MAMA Group through its jointly-owned subsidiary company G-A-Y Ltd
MAMA group was purchased by HMV Group plc on 23 December 2009.
- Gerber, Louis. "Madonna Biography Albums". 10 October 2000. Cosmopolis. Retrieved 3 June 2014.
- Andy, Thomas. "Disco Recharge: Tantra The Collection". 25 July 2013. The Quiteus Music Reviews. Retrieved 14 August 2014.
- Heaven Ibiza
- Heaven at Heaven - Bars & clubs - Gay & Lesbian - Time Out London
- London | Bars, Cafés & Nightlife | Gay & Lesbian | Heaven Nightclub | AA Destination Guide
- May 2007 London travel article on www.guidemag.com
- MAMA Group - Acquisition of Heaven (London) Limited and issue of convertible loan note
- Pink News: Jeremy Joseph buys G-A-Y from HMV administrators