Tell us your RVT stories

Whatever the RVT means to you, tell us all about it!

To send your story, use the form below

The Royal Vauxhall Tavern has played all kinds of roles in all kinds of lives.

Maybe it’s where you had your most memorable night out.
The spot you knew you’d always find your mates.
The stage where your ideas about performance were turned upside down.
A vital workplace in your career.
The site of your political awakening.
Perhaps it’s where you found a personal lifeline that made all the difference.
Maybe you’ve never even been inside the building but it holds a special meaning for you when you pass it.

Please use the form below to tell us – and everyone else – about your RVT so we can celebrate how many lives it has touched.

Neil Bartlett, playwright, director and performer

I started going to the Tavern in the early eighties, and discovered a deep-rooted sense of community that was a literal life-saver in those darkest of times. I also had, not coincidentally, some of the best nights out of my life ! I’m always deeply proud to be able to list my own performances at the Tavern on my CV – it means a great deal to me to have trod the same boards as so many iconic queer performers. More importantly, now that dark days are behind us, I want to see the Tavern continue to be a beacon of innovation in London’s unique queer culture. It’s a place that speaks powerfully of where we’ve come from, but it’s also a place full of excitement about how we might re-invent ourselves next.

Stephen Beresford, writer of the film Pride

The RVT is so much more than just a bar. As Pride shows, it has a special role in LGBTQ history and London life; a unique place where different communities can come together. The RVT has always stood out as embodying the true spirit of the LGBTQ movement and it would be a real shame if it lost touch with that heritage.

 Daniel Fitzgerald, visitor & Performer

As a teenager escaping to London from the oppressive Surrey suburbs of the mid 80s, my train from Epsom moments before it pulled into Waterloo, would pass the just visible top of what I assumed to be a pub, huge (I think) red letters spelling ‘Royal Vauxhall tavern’, it was always a welcoming indication towards the end of my journey, that I was almost in London & safe. I had no idea back then (c1985) that the RVT was a Gay pub, until a few years later when I started working in London & finally moved here in 1989.
I Love the venue and went along to Lambeth Town Hall & other meetings when the RVT was under threat back in the late 90s. I’ve dipped in and out of various nights over many many years, Cleo Rocos looking stunning introducing herself to me and saying “I used to come here with Kenny and Freddy”, thought I was going to pass out with so much glamour, what a lovely woman. And first seeing Divine David c1996, electrifying performances with tons and tons of ad libs.
I once promoted my own monthly night at the tavern, Dysfunctional Dandy back in 2001 – 2002. The hours spent decorating the place, once turning the gents bogs into an air raid shelter for ‘The Germans Are Coming Ball’, happy memories.
Such a beautiful, historic and well-run LGBTI venue, it MUST stay. Please list the RVT Heritage England?

‎Kevski, regular visitor

The RVT and particularly Duckie, its Saturday night extravaganza revolutionized my impressions of what gay culture is capable of. I stumbled into it in 2000 not knowing anything about it. It was very empty at 9:30pm. At 2am I knew I had had the best night of my life and have regularly been going there since. At a time when gay culture seems to want more than ever to be seen as ‘just the same as everyone else’ the RVT screams, hollers and wails against homogenisation and yet I feel its nurturing hand squeezing mine far tighter than any other LGBTQ entertainment venue I have ever experienced. Since 2000 the amount of gay/straight/non-London RVT virgins I’ve taken there has certainly numbered over a hundred and only one has left with bad memories (we don’t now speak). The rest have often left with incredible memories (and hangovers) and have since spread the word to their own friends. If aliens were ever to land I’d take them for a night out at Duckie to show them just what LGBT culture can offer. I’m sure they’d want to take it home.

Regular visitor and rare performer

I live not far from the RVT and it is an essential part of our lives. One night though sticks in my mind. It was a night of shame for Parliament, where LGBT MPs still cowered in the corners, out of 600 or so MPs, only one was out. All of which made this particular night hard to stomach. So, it was 21 February 1994, it was a Monday. In the Palace of Westminster MPs were debating the age of consent, Edwina Currie MP (at that time having an affair with the then Prime Minister) had introduced a bill to reduce the age of consent to 16, but the text had become corrupted and the age changed from 21 to 18, but not equal at 16 as Edwina had urged (a rare Tory friend at that point). The tone in the commons had been set by Ian Paisley, saying something about how gays all wanted to shag boys or something. Usual rubbish. Tony Blair made wonderful arguments, setting a tone for his heyday from 1997 to 2003. It went late, like really late. So late I can’t remember if the RVT was actually open. Anyway there was music playing inside. When we found out we had lost, we walked home with our placard (it just said “16”). We sat in the park behind the RVT, and drank cider from cans. We decided to be angry about it. And we were, with various people I went on every march I could, to every protest. I spoke at things even. I started a club night where fellow angry types could come. It was great. The RVT was always at the centre of every LGBT debate, every milestone. It is practically a public utility. Protect the RVT!

Max Barber, regular visitor

The Tavern has been there when I was at my best, my worst, my saddest, and my happiest. The punters, the shows, the events and atmosphere are like no other that I’ve been caught up in over the years. It’s a one in a million, totally unique, and has seen thousands upon thousands of people go through its doors to form treasured memories – some more fuzzy than others – over its many years. If we lose this place it would be like tearing the heart out of London’s Gay and performance community. LONG LIVE THE TAVERN!!!!

Sean Harwood, fan

First time I visited RVT I was 19 and came to Duckie to see my friend’s band, Noblesse Oblige. I came all on my own but ended up befriending an entire troupe of American drag kings called ‘The Cuntry Kings’. They asked me to walk them to the bus stop as they didn’t know how to get back in to town, alas as I have no sense of direction and was also quite drunk I got us all completely lost. Ah the follies of youth!

Corey Gilmore, visitor

I came to the RVT for Bar Wotever for the first time when I was just a little baby trans. I was dead nervous about not knowing anyone, but people made sure I was included and welcomed and looked after. Now, I’m a big old trans and getting queerer by the day, and I have you guys to thank for it, and I love you.

Regular visitor

I was taken to Duckie on my first night out when I moved from Melbourne to London in 2007, with no idea what to expect. The Cholmondeleys and Featherstonehaughs were performing that night and I couldn’t believe that such a brilliant place existed, and that I could came back every week (which I nearly did for the next five years). My friends and I fell in love with the RVT and its bonkers character. I still tell anyone who listens that that first night out in London at Duckie was one of the best nights of my life.

Matt Legg, regular visitor

Being so drunk I tried to walk through the mirror thinking there was another room. Getting demolished by David Hoyle for not observing absolute silence. HRH Regina Fong doing Marti Caine for me. Duckie gay shame BBQs. Bingo Mondays. Walking past on new years day and seeing a chap dancing in shorts in the snow to a terrible Adele dance remix booming from inside. A precious and unique place that truly understands the meaning of community.

Walshie, regular visitor

I grew up in Tooting. As a teenage poove, when the 88 used to go to Tooting, every time I passed the Vauxhall Tavern I used to think, ‘Ooh. Them gays like me go there’ and wondered what went on in there. And now, 30 odd years later, I am at Duckie loads. My local. My people. Long may it last.

Stevan Alcock, regular visitor

In 1998 I met my partner of 10 years on the dance floor of Duckie at RVT. At that time we were both fledgling writers. Although no longer an item we’re still best of friends. We both signed with our respective literary agents at about the same time and this year, both of us became published writers in the U.K. only a few weeks apart, and to considerable critical acclaim. The RVT is a very special place for a million reasons. It must survive.

Ryan Ormonde, punter

As far as I’m concerned the RVT is a sacred space – home to the Rt. Hon. David Hoyle, the celestial Readers’ Wifes, Her Holiness Amy Lamé and many other guiding lights. Bar Wotever is a deeply spiritual society and the panto is basically Midnight Mass. All these glorious goings on have given me so much love, joy and hope over the nine years I’ve been among its camp congregation. To tear it down would be sacrilege!

Joe Pop, regular visitor

I first came to the RVT about 20 years ago to a very early version of Duckie that I think was called Big Girls Blouse? I loved the faded grandeur of the place and the intimate scale. I then went on over the years to dance, drink, fall over, make friends and have many life affirming moments on many different nights at the RVT. I now really like Bar Wotever on Tuesday, for its wide mix of patrons, the varied and sometimes unexpected performances and the sense of community that I think pervades all the different nights at the RVT. I love this place, and it has played a very big part in my life.

 Regular visitor

The Royal Vauxhall Tavern is the first gay (not to mention queer) venue I ever attended. I remember being so nervous and shy, and worrying whether I would fit in or not. The atmosphere was wonderful though. I had such a good time with the people who brought me along, and though my work schedule hasn’t allowed me to go as often as I would like to, I know now that there is a place for me to feel a part of a community, and where my presence is unlikely to be questioned. While I was initially scared that I wouldn’t be “the right kind” of queer, whatever that means, the RVT has been so much more accepting and inclusive than I could have imagined. There’s so much culture squeezed into the building, whether it be music, dance, drag performances (thank you RVT for introducing me to drag!), or spoken word. It really is a hub for culture and creativity as well as community.

The RVT is the closest I’ve found to a queer pub – it’s so intimate that it doesn’t feel like there’s an us and them separating audience and performers – and is wonderful for socialising. It’s also somewhere where I know I won’t be the only gender non-conforming person, and there are no words to describe the comfort and warmth which that brings. Especially for younger people like myself, it’s great to be able to be around people from a broad range of backgrounds and ages – to have a place where you know you’ll be around people who have asked (and may still be asking) themselves the same questions you may be grappling with, and to be around people who, together, are finding a way through that works for them. The RVT gives me so much hope and shows me that, despite the reservations which are sometimes pushed onto me by others, not only do I have a future, but it’s an exciting, fun, connected and meaningful one.

If it weren’t for the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, I don’t know where I’d find that community and reassurance that I still really need sometimes. To have a place where you can go, and be reassured just through physically being there that things are going to be ok, is simply worth more than words can describe.

 Karen Lloyd, visitor

As a lesbian I always used to go to Sunday lunch with my Gayboy flat mates when Adrella (bless her) was around, she made her usual get at the lesbian jokes and then I had a glorious bleached blonde white crop and she picked on my roots and I just launched back at her, said her lesbian jokes were awful and rude and offensive that I did not stink of fish and that I was out with my gay boyfs and people cheered me , I stood my ground and we engaged in a conversation about jobs and theatre and she said its great to see a real woman ruling and apologised and invited me to her dressing room for a drink …. Duckie is an institution and so is the RVT don’t let anyone take it away from us please ….

 Waynw, Drag queen sugar

This venue is in the hart of Vauxhall and I have only been there on a couple of occasions to do competition and the place is unique and so friendly plus it’s where all the big names have started so that must mean something and I am all for development but not there. As it’s a dented point of Vauxhall I think like a lot of people would agree with me it should be listed.


Steve Ellis, employee/regular visitor

Much of my story is in the brilliant Tim Brunsden film ‘Save The Tavern’. I took over as DJ/compere at the RVT not long after Pat & Breda took it over. The original aim was to try and build up the quiet mid-week nights but the two nights a week gig soon turned into an all-week job. We used gay newspapers for advertising and succeeded in building up the other nights. I also took over booking the acts for a time. Introduced many of the best known acts that appeared at the RVT in the early 80s including Lilly, Adrella and David Dale. Pat McConnon was a great mate and used to let me get away with a lot of ribbing over the mic. Was also instrumental in getting the Sports Days off and “running”. Sad to think all that legacy may be knocked down. Just hope a bright future can be established for this memory riddled giant of an LGBT monument.

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