Many of you may know that the original Wicked thread was deleted by the editor on 14 April as he felt some of the comments were inappropriate. It is a difficult topic to discuss without some 'adult' content. So with some trepidation...
Wicked is a venue built in the arches of London Bridge on Tooley St run by the fetish lifestyle couple Caroline & Brian Sheridan whose scene names are Lady Caroline & The General.
Coincident with the threads removal Wicked posted outside the venue their application for a sex licence. Objections to this application can be made to:-
The Director of Regeneration,
Any objections must be made by the end of this weekend and objectors must be prepared to attend a public hearing.
The couple have run the venue since December of last year and have caused controversy both on and off the fetish scene.
On the scene it's the Generals predilection for Nazi uniforms and swastika insignia that has caused offence.
Off the scene it's the nature of the venue that has caused concern.
A number of people on the last thread said that we should accept fetish parties at Wicked for fear of driving them back underground. I disagree.
Fetishism is a subject which is just about guaranteed to generate giggling. This, I think, is because the majority of us know so little about it. Ignorance and sex an irresistible combination. But fetishism and BDSM go way beyond what most of us would recognise as normal consensual sex. It mixes it with humiliation, sensory depravation, scarification, and domination. Sexy and stylish, as the Sheridans advertise? Not in my opinion.
In one of their final posts on the previous thread the Sheridans stated that they had purchased another nightclub venue in SE1. Does anyone know where?
As a person who broke the then sex laws of Britain when I was 22, by having my wicked way with a 20 year-old man, when the law was 21 (not that many years ago), I am naturally a bit suspicious of people who want to ban lifestyle choices because they do not approve of the sexual choices of those who take part.
This is not a complex issue. If you believe in the principle of "Informed Adult Consent", all sorts of seemingly complex issues become quite easy. And yes, I am well aware of the fact that some of the more extreme people on the fetish scene are into non-consensual fantasy, but that is the key word- fantasy. As long as these consenting, informed adults don't cross the boundary between fantasy and reality, who the hell are any of us to tell adults that they can't do what they want behind closed doors, as long as their actions are self-contained between fellow consenting adults? And if they are not consenting, informed adults, well there are (rightly) some of the most draconian laws in Britain that are regularly activated to deal with such deviants.
You have to be bloody careful where you draw the line on these issues, because as I know only too well, one person's peversion is another person's harmless fun. That's why I always stick to the principle of "Informed Adult Consent", when talking about drug-taking, suicide, sexual practices, or whatever. Now, does anyone want to have a debate about what constitutes "informed" or would that be way off the SE1 topic overview?
I take issue with you though when you say that some of the more extreme fantasies remain as fantasies. As I understand it, and I think this is maybe where the Sheridans could be helpful by giving their view, one of the key aspects of BDSM play is to act out your fantasies in what they call a scene. Now this in some ways appears to make the participants sound like actors putting on a show for an audience. But when the sex is real, the blood is real, the pain is real, I would say that the line has been crossed and the fantasies have been made real.
You hit the nail on the head when you say one of the most important aspects of this topic is ‘informed consent'. In my view it is the extremeness of the activities that make it difficult to accept that ‘informed consent' has truly taken place.
We were very surprised to find that the Editor James Hatts has allowed a new thread to be posted but presumably he is satisfied about the legalities so yet again we must respond to put the record straight.
You start by pointing out that in accord with the Council's Rules and Regulations we have
1) Advertised our application for a Sex Licence in the South London Press
2) Posted the notices outside our club, which incidentally have now run their course and any objectors have had their say
However we need to correct you. As a result of consultation with Southwark Council it became clear that we did not need to apply for a Sex Establishment Licence as we have no intention of running a sex shop or sex establishment. Therefore our application relates to waiving certain clauses in the normal PEL so that our specialist clubs are fully licensed.
You are determined to continue to try to discredit us and once again it is clear that “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing”. You say that we have caused controversy both on and off the fetish scene and you refer to items on the London Fetish Scene message board.
First of all you should know that the Fetish Scene in the SE of England has probably got 25,000 club goers and it is growing every day. Up until recently no one with any commercial background or money has been involved in the setting up and running of clubs on a major scale. This has ruffled some feathers and frightened some of the smaller operators.
The London Fetish Scene website is run by a group of volunteers who are in the main quite new to the scene and are quite young and inexperienced in the commercial world so relying upon this website for an insight into the Fetish Scene is very naive. They do not represent remotely the views of the 1400 + members of Club Wicked that have joined our club during the first year or most of the Fetish fraternity.
You then go on to to say my “predilection” for Nazi Uniforms has caused offence. No doubt you think by mentioning this you will persuade people that we are Nazi Fascists. Many people on the Fetish scene wear uniforms and military insignia and symbols, not because they represent any political or belief structure but because they like the imagery. As you are probably aware there is a huge re-enactment community, which organises events where people wear uniforms and act out battles - this doesn't make them bad people, even when they are on the “wrong” side. This is not my personal interest but I respect those people who like to do this.
My lifelong hobby has been WWII history and I have a vast collection of memorabilia including uniforms, medals, autographs, books and various items that I have amassed.
My German Uniforms go alongside my American, Italian and British Naval ones and they are not Nazi they are Army, which is quite different. Adolf Hitler was a psychopathic lunatic who happened to be in Germany at the right time for his ideas and took advantage of the situation - thankfully he is dead. My highly decorated Father fought in the Royal Navy to come home to a land of freedom not another tyrannical regime. My uniforms do not indicate support for any kind of “Fascist Regime”.
You then go on to say that it is the nature of the venue that has caused concern off the scene. Why? What has changed? Cynthia's hosted fetish events for almost 3 years before we took over and these were openly advertised, whilst during the day the venue served families with children. Why didn't you object then?
The truest statement regarding Fetishism in your posting is “the majority of us know so little about it. Ignorance and sex an irristable combination.” We have found that most people do not trust what they do not understand and, if they perceive an elitism that excludes them, mistrust quickly turns into dislike or even hatred. This has clearly happened on the SE1 Forum.
You then go on to speculate upon the nature of Fetishism and BDSM, which is far from reality Fetishism today is individual and there are probably as many different fetishes as there are people the UK. One person's fetish might be to eat ice cream or other foods that “turn them on”. We have one club member who has this fetish. Another person's fetish may be to wear latex clothing, another may be to wear a diamonte bikini and nothing else, another may be to be an exhibitionist, another may be to dance to hard house music whilst wearing leather, others are cross dressers or transgender persons, others are into voyeurism and that's just the tip of the ice berg. A strict dress code has developed for most clubs to help create an exciting and inspirational atmosphere and to enable people to express themselves. A strict etiquette has also developed where class, race and what you do for a living are not the criteria for interaction. Conversation covers a huge range of subjects between people of all ages (over 18!) and all walks of life that do not take place in almost any other situation in society and certainly not within a regular nightclub. In addition the etiquette demands respectful behaviour and especially respect for women, however they are dressed. These aspects of Fetishism are not generally known outside of the scene and all newcomers express their surprise and delight in the reality of an exciting, playful, respectful, safe environment where they can “be themselves” or escape from their pressurised lives for a night.
BDSM is an aspect of Fetishism, which is more complex and therefore is even more misunderstood by people like yourself who are outside the “scene”.
SM activity is typically an activity that requires extensive negotiation and planning and there is a theatrical element to the role playing involved. INFORMED CONSENT is EVERYTHING. A strong relationship of trust and understanding develops and exists between participants. Many are in relationships, often they are married or have known each other for years.
“People who practice BDSM use terms such as Top and bottom or Dominant and submissive, which emphasises the fact that both partners are active in the encounter, albeit in different roles. Indeed many people switch, that is take different roles at different times. One of the most important rules is that the bottom sets the limits to the encounter. In reality the submissive party dominates the role playing. It is the Top or Dominant's role to serve the submissive or bottom by giving just enough of what the submissive or bottom wants.”
“SM sex is extremely varied. It should be fully consensual in much the same way as legal non-SM sex is, and for this consent to be present prior negotiation is essential to ensure that all the acts that a lover instigates are genuinely consented to.”
“In a typical S&M encounter it is agreed that the Dominant is in charge. The feeling of power met with obedience adds to the sexual excitement of both partners. The common use of bondage often serves to amplify the sense of domination and subservience. In a physical sense it appears that the Dominant is in control but in practice the Dominant has to stay within the limit set by the desires of the submissive. It is a very common saying by those involved with SM that the submissive is the one who is actually in charge.”
“SM experiences can, like vanilla (non SM) sex mean a lot of things. It can be light hearted but exhilarating fun between two people who barely know each other. But it can be far more than that. The giving and sharing of pain between two people who know the pleasure that it can bring is as deeply moving as is any act between those bound by love.”
“SM provides myself and my friends with an intense form of erotic gratification which by its very nature involves levels of trust and compassion rarely found in other walks of life. In addition, my personal experiences in coming to terms with my own sexuality have, I believe, led me to a deeper understanding of the complexities of human nature.”
You said in your second posting that we could be helpful in giving our view on this subject. We feel that the above quotes provide an insight and as they are all from an official Law Commission Report, it gives them more weight than coming from us.
This official Law Commission was appointed in 1995 by the Home Office and it came to the same conclusion as the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders - DSM-IV; SM or sadomasochism, short of causing serious or permanent disability or injury, should be no crime (and no disease) between consenting adults.
Another little known fact is that many famous people have been and are currently dedicated to BDSM activity. These include Jean Jacques Rousseau, King Christian VII of Denmark, Prime Minster William Ewart Gladstone, Lawrence of Arabia and UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold plus many people in high profile positions in this country today. A further little known fact is that many people who take part in BDSM activity are also active members of the church and do not find the two elements of their belief structure at odds with one another.
One wonders why you are on this mission Mel. This apparently started because you were concerned about minors being allowed to come into our club. That is no longer an issue as a person must be 18 or over to attend any club night regardless of the nature of the event.
Now you appear to feel you must take us on because we have specialist Members Only clubs that don't appeal to you or perhaps it is our plan to run a “playboy” style club with lap dancing and nudity that offends you. However, this will be a Members Only club also so that shouldn't be an issue.
We don't cause any trouble, our entrance and signage is discrete, there's no rubbish, no parking problems, no obstruction, no drunkenness and no bad behaviour.
Why aren't you concerned about the increase in drugs, drug dealing and violence in other nightclubs, in our schools and on our streets or the behaviour of an employee of the Church in Southwark, who is currently on trial?
We have taken a very hard line on the drugs, weapons and behaviour issues that affect all club owners and operators in London. Since taking over we have been confronted by several “underworld” characters over the past few months trying to intimidate and threaten us to allow drug dealing but we will not be intimidated by anyone. We have zero tolerance of drugs, weapons and violence or bad behaviour of any kind.
For the record the other 27 + days of the month that we have conventional events are doing very well. We have several charity events coming up and a wide variety of dance promotions with clientele who are all happy to comply with our rules regarding drugs, weapons and behaviour.
We have now decided to from a new pan European Association called NOPLA - the Nightclub Owners, Promoters and Licensees Association. This body will work with police and councils to establish a proper code of conduct and an agreed way of operating together in the future. We will actively fight to repeal all of the archaic UK laws replacing them with ones suitable for the 21st Century. We will provide in-depth information, research, opinion and through a due process will change the law by consensus.
Your comments in your News article 533 are incorrect, sensationalist and provocative.
Prior to seeing your news piece we had written a response to Mel Allen, which we have posted on this Forum. This response covers a number of the points you chose to feature so we will not repeat them again.
May we respectfully request that you talk to us before printing anything so that you report the truth by incorporating all sides of the story fairly and correctly.
We don't only describe ourselves as Property Developers, we are Property Developers with over 18 years successful track record to prove it. We are very experienced in business with over 25 years working for and with some of the world's greatest corporations with an emphasis on marketing, sales and PR.
We are nothing like the public perception of a typical night club owner.
The facts are
1. Wicked is a nightclub and is separate from “Club Wicked”, which is a glamorous fetish promotion.
2. Our fetish club events occur on the first and last Saturdays of every month. On the other 27 + days of the month we have conventional dance nights when incidentally we have to quadruple security.
3. On the advice of the Council we withdrew our application for a sex establishment licence application as we have no intention of opening a sex shop or sex establishment. Instead we are applying for a waiver of certain clauses in the standard PEL to ensure that our specialist clubs are properly licensed and to enable us to operate an elegant “playboy” style club with some nudity and table dancing along the lines of Stringfellows - not exactly earth shattering James.
4. We have done everything the objectors have asked us to do and a lot more besides to show that we do not wish to offend and to be as conciliatory as possible
a. We made the venue strictly for 18 years + only, regardless of the nature of the event. Even family celebrations are now restricted to adults over 18.
b. We made our club promotions “bona fide” membership clubs that require applications to be completed with references, full personal details, sight of and a copy of a valid passport or drivers licence and 2 passport photos. In addition membership applications have to be processed 48 hours in advance of attending a club night. Anyone coming to our clubs wants to be there.
c. We have invited people to meet us in the venue to democratically discuss things on an ongoing basis.
d. We have followed the Council's rules to the letter and applied and paid for every licence already.
5. We are no trouble to anybody and we open our fetish night club promotions between 9pm and 6am when the Dean and the other 7 objectors in the area are long since gone for the week-end or are in bed. What is the problem? Our lawyers tell us we are not breaking the law so what are we to believe?
6. Prior to us taking over the night club when it was known as Cynthia's Torture Garden ran a fetish promotion called Club Flesh there for almost 3 years. This was not a membership club however exactly the same dress code and behaviour took place, which the Council and Licensing police witnessed on at least one occasion during this time. What has changed other than that we want to pay for the correct licences and to operate our business within the law.
7. The photograph you used in your news piece is misleading. It dates back to the time when the venue was a Chinese restaurant and was just changing hands to Cynthia's. The outside of the venue no longer has neon signage or wild colourful painting and our appearance is much more discrete altogether. We suggest you replace this with a photograph from www.wickednightclub.com instead of the one from your archives.
Brian and Caroline Sheridan
All in the name of research of course as I knew nothing about it and therefore felt I couldn't comment.
I found the premises to be tasteful with great potential, more gothic than dungeonesque.
I found Brian Sheridan to be welcoming, enthusiastic, concerned, a little upset that his efforts to develop and utilise the space were being blocked through ignornce.
When I was there your archtypical stereotype walked in wearing a mac with a rolled up newspaper - the truth I swear! He was promptly yet politely escorted from the building.
Having lived in Holland for 2 years I believe that we sometimes wrap ourselves up too tightly in a Victorian nannyism state. Sex between two consenting adults is not a crime, who are we to say what people should find erotic or arousing? As long as nobody is coerced against their free will or hurt in any way we should be understanding.
I do believe that Brian and Caroline will observe the limits of respectability that should be practiced in this historic area and should be allowed to proceed.
I can understand that the article may not be the coverage that you hoped for, but we're here to do more than reprint press releases.
I stand by the piece, and believe it to be a fair summary of developments so far in what is a fairly complicated situation to follow. I don't think it is unduly critical of you, but it does also cover some of the points of concern from those who object to aspects of your business, which is surely reasonable enough.
I'm sure it's a story we'll be returning to, so no doubt we will be in touch for further comment from you in due course.
You are of course welcome to add a response, as you have done here.
As to your surprise that the discussion has resumed, I made clear in my email to you on 23 April that: "I do not propose to reopen the previous thread about Wicked, but of course someone else may well raise the subject in due course. If this happens, we will of course be able to make sure that all posts on this sensitive subject are in compliance with the new rules from the very start."
The messages I posted at the time of the closure of the thread also made clear that I was keen to allow discussion of this controversial issue to continue. That is why this forum exists.
I am satisfied that the (albeit limited) discussion so far in this thread has been reasonable, mature and in accordance with the rules of the forum.
I'm not gay, I have nothing against gay people. It is an environment I do not understand yet I do respect it and their right to decide how they live their lives. Good luck to them. Some people within the gay community choose to dress in a similar fashion to skinheads who I'm sure you will agree are rather anti gay lifestyle. again, their choice.
Some people go to the 'School Disco' where young women and men dress as schoolchildren. People in the mainstream find this acceptable and a sexy night out.