Monday, 21 March 2011

Tits & Bra's? The Church Makes A Boob Of Itself In A Grand Setting

By Laura Collins.

Church on a Sunday? Not too strange a notion. A fancy dress church service with a St Patrick’s Day theme? Hmmm, I don’t recall people dressing in Guinness hats and leprechaun outfits at Sunday service. But then this wasn’t just any church. This was THE Church, possibly one of the most renowned events in London. Known for its Antipodean roots and drunken clientele, The Church has a reputation that can’t be matched, and I found out why.



Held every Sunday afternoon, The Church is an excuse for hardcore partygoers to dress up and let their hair down; and in most cases, the hair hasn’t slept and is still being let down from the previous (Saturday) night. It offers four hours of unadulterated drinking, dancing and unsophisticated activity; a real love-it or hate-it entity. The debauched event first launched in 1979 and has since been held in many venues across London. It currently resides in the Clapham Grand, an iconic, Victorian-era listed building that is severely underrated and is perhaps a surprising location for such a seedy party.



On entry to The Church, I was met by a blur of green: a mass of people in St Patrick’s Day outfits. And hats off to the dressed up revellers. Some had gone to great lengths to get into the Irish spirit. The green haze covered two of the three floors of the Clapham Grand and emanated from the balconies and royal boxes that line the impressive venue. The sticky disco-tiled dance floor, as well as the bars and drinking areas, were filled by a heaving crowd that moved as one creature.



Once I’d managed to pull my voyeuristic and unbelieving eyes away from the drunken Church-goers, I began to notice my surroundings. Clapham Grand is a beautiful theatre building with a striking burgundy interior that echoes a bygone era. Opened in 1900 and originally serving as a cinema, bingo hall and nightclub, The Grand has a rich history behind it. Now, thanks to an impressive refurbishment, today’s public can enjoy The Grand as it was originally meant to be seen: as an events space for club nights and comedy gigs. Sadly, however, the olde-worlde elegance is slightly lost on a Sunday when The Church takes place.


Don’t get me wrong, an afternoon at this famous event does have its elements of fun and attending is almost like a rite of passage. It needs to be experienced to be believed! As well as the usual drinks, dancing and fancy dress, there is an entertaining but extremely crude compere and a variety of games on stage. It does have a more sleazy side, though, which those with an easily-offended nature should be warned about. Not only is there a female stripper who takes her act a bit too far, there is also a testosterone-rich videographer who pans the room with his camera, trying to get girls to flash on the big screen. He even offers grammatically incorrect words (‘Tits & Bra’s!’) as a form of encouragement; a mistake that perfectly sums up The Church. For those who enjoy this type of entertainment, I would recommend it, if only for its fabulous setting in the Clapham Grand. One word of advice, though: say your prayers before you go and save the forgiving of sins until afterwards!





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