At Chelsea Arts Club on the 2nd of June 2012
For many years, the most riotous and infamous gatherings in London were the Chelsea Arts Balls, held on New Year’s Eve, from 1910 in the Royal Albert Hall right up until the fifties, when they were banned, due to excessive rowdiness, drunkeness and nudity.
The Club continued to hold Summer Balls, but were restricted to their clubhouse in Old Church Street. Each year has had a different theme, ranging from Mexican and Hollywood to Circus and Alice through the Looking Glass, and the facade has been painted accordingly.
This year, to co-incide with the Queen’s Diamond Jubillee and the Royal Pageant of 1000 Ships, the front was painted pink, with black and white cartoons of famous gays in history, to celebrate The Night of a Thousand Queens. One face had to removed, as the celebrated bachelor Edward Heath had never been outed, and some of the others were there by dint of their fag-hagness. As with other events, the party started at Nicholas Dimbleby’s statue of Whistler, the Club’s founder, on Battersea Bridge, a meeting of the beautiful, the damned, the exotic, the deeply camp and the downright ludicrous.
Apart from the odd knob in a DJ, everyone had made an effort, and after a bracing Bloody Mary or two, the company were entertained to the Club Choir singing Handel, and then processed along the Embankment and up Old Church Street, against the flow of traffic. They were led by a small band playing sackbut and drum, and amongst the revellers were an archbishop, a cardinal, Lady Godiva, complete with (hobby) horse but without a stitch of clothing, angels, fairies, jesters, sheiks, numerous kings and many more queens of all persuasions. More singing and BM’s and then the assembled company repaired inside for a humdinger of a party.