Image copyright of Ed Heath from Men In Frocks

Saturday Night At The Porchester

Drag Ball nights! Some of the greatest nights out in London during the late 70s and early 80s were to be had at the Porchester Hall Drag Balls. One could park a lot easier in those days and parade up to the Porchester Hall entrance, much to the delight of local residents who always joined in the fun and laughter with some repartee.

There was an delicious mystique about visiting the Balls; the thought of doing something rather mischievous that most people in London had no idea about was very appealing. And that was the big attraction - the fact that hardly anyone outside the TV/gay world had an idea this sort of thing went on in a rather select part of London yet hundreds of TVs, gays, Drag Artistes, their partners, friends and punters had the most decadent fun.

Those who attended will never forget those nights and how enjoyable they were. An abiding memory is of one of the waiting staff collecting glasses dressed as a Joe Lyons nippy wearing his masculine shoes and socks and a mustache, no wig. Brilliant, and a eye-opening introduction to the world of Drag Balls.

Steve Francis and Ron Storme took over running The Porchester Hall Drag Balls after Jean Fredericks died, sometime in the late 1970s. During the early 1980s, Ron Storme, began organising Drag Balls at The Tudor Lodge, in the east-end of London and Dennis Gilling, a London theatre entrepreneur, also began holding Drag Balls.

Steve Francis was a huge man and every inch a Drag Artiste. At least 6 foot 4, he was built like a Greek God and looked stunning in Drag. A charming man and very likeable and approachable.

The ladies loo at the Porchester resembled a busy night in Piccadilly Circus: women, men, TVs, TSs, Drag Artistes, literally everyone used the Ladies at the Porchester. And yet, there was never any trouble between the various factions; everyone just happy to be out showing off and enjoying themselves.

The costumes ranged from flamboyant and extravagant in the extreme to the idiosyncratic from members of the Beaumont Society. Some of the gays had hired a huge ensemble of costumes for the parade, some wore Victorian military uniform; some wore frocks and mustaches, some looked like the queen, others looked like a secretary at the office. No-one really minded; everyone was there to have a good time. Everyone was there to dress up and show off.

Nevertheless, words cannot adequately describe the atmosphere at The Porchester Halls so there is a large gallery of photographs to try and show the pleasure and characters to be found at these Balls.

It was so much innocent fun, frivolity and gaity that sadly, probably won't ever be repeated because nowadays everyone seems to want to take drugs to dance all night to loud Dance music

The Porchester