Heaven on earth

Natalie Spencer checks out the new-look Heaven, complete with eight bars, but finds it’s the people who make the biggest impact.

One night in Heaven can again be yours – underneath London’s Charing Cross Station. Heaven is probably Europe’s most famous gay club and has been at the centre of the club scene for over three decades. Rodney Fitch & Co has redesigned the venue, which is located in 19th century railway arches, to broaden its appeal. It was reopened last week with a silver theme party.

The entrance is now lined with mirrors and black walls, giving the impression of a subterranean complex. The foyer is spacious and inviting, with doors and stairs leading to the different zones. The design group has developed a labyrinthine circulation system so that the clubber can explore the eight bars. The club extends across three arches, which contain three dance floors, two performance areas and a café bar. Each is designed as a distinct and individual environment, allowing the management to theme areas of the club for the regular guest nights.

All the elements have been rebranded, including a new and exclusive membership-only area called The Departure Lounge. Opening night politics, and the wrong coloured arm-band, ensured the exclusivity was maintained. I wasn’t allowed in.

The main dance floor reaches up to the full height of the arch with a balcony and walkway around it to the VIP bar. Off the dance floor is a series of cushioned seating areas beneath smaller arches, each lined with silver helium balloons accentuated with moody lighting. The heavily overlit main bar shows off all those embarrassing sweaty, red faces – don’t try to pull here.

The lighting elements over the main dance floor comprise small spot lights connected by circular hydraulic lighting frames. The DJ box sits high above the dance floor getting a great view of the many varied and eccentric outfits and people.

Overall, the sound system and lighting is OK, if you excuse the regular hiccups and silences at the beginning of the opening evening. There was a generous supply of bars, but a scarce supply of bar staff frantically trying to keep the clubbers happy. Other rooms cater for varying musical tastes and private parties.

The amazing silver outfits worn by the first night clientele included sequinned dresses, elaborate wigs and accessories. My favourite was the man wearing little more than a pair of silver Buffalo shoes and a silver grape wig. It is definitely the people and the music that make the club and not the angelic surroundings.

Heaven is at The Arches, Villiers Street, London WC2

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