It’s the end of an era for the thousands of revellers
who descend every week on the Sunday afternoon drinking institution
that is The Church. But before the grief-stricken hedonism
reaches an unmanageable peak, we should point out that The
Church has only moved on – not closed its doors for
After ten years, 500 blurry afternoons and more wet t-shirts
than you could shake a can of Fosters at, The Church –
motto: “If you haven’t sinned, you can’t
be forgiven” – has been born again.
The step took them to the “bigger and better premises”
of The Forum in Kentish Town after 10 years at their current
home in Bagleys nightclub, Kings Cross.
“The time was right to move,” says Church manager
Clair Sullivan.“I was kind of scared at first because
you become so used to being in the same place but now we’ve
had a think about it we’re all excited about it.
“Like anything, when you are doing the same thing for
too long you become stale and you need the motivation to have
a shake up.
"The Church is popular with those in the pursuit
their Mr or Mrs Right...Or at least Mr or Mrs Right Now."
“We’d been there a really, really long time and
it was definitely time for a new area and a new beginning.
All the staff are buzzing.”
From humble beginnings 24 years ago The Church started life
as a gathering point for homesick Aussies at a pub in Fulham
Broadway that was next to a church whose Sunday bells heralded
the opening of the bar (hence the name).
Church has since built itself a reputation for hosting Antipodean
hi jinx and drunken revelry including strippers (male and
female) and wet T-shirt competitions. Quintessential Australian
brews VB and Fosters are served in bags and sawdust litters
the floor to absorb the spills. When classic Aussie tunes
such as Cold Chisel’s “Kai San” blast from
the speakers those cans are raised and arms draped around
each other in a mass patriotic karaoke session.
But it’s not just the familiar tunes that revellers
are here for. As one warden admits The Church is popular also
with those in the pursuit of their Mr or Mrs Right..."Or
at least Mr or Mrs Right Now."
The warden adds: “People come here to pick up and
be picked up. Its as simple as that,”
And as the afternoon unfolds revellers can take part in
The Church’s very own version of speed dating. Men prove
their masculinity in beer drinking competitions and women
their femininity in wet T-shirt contests. The more daring
forgo the T-shirt altogether - to the whooping appreciation
of the assembled crowd.
Helen, 23, from Perth, Australia, says: “It’s
a real meat market here,” as an unidentified male runs
past to announce excitedly to his mates: “I just gave
£15 to two girls to kiss.”
While it may not be the most sophisticated way to while away
a Sunday afternoon, the event is undeniably popular and its
appeal is no longer limited to Australians alone. Increasingly,
the crowd is filled with Londoners.
“The Church has such a great atmosphere,” 23-year-old
East Londoner Justin Abrahams says.
an awesome time, especially considering it’s the middle
of the day. It’s three and a half hours of being in
a different world and everyone’s just there to enjoy
themselves and have a good time,” he says.
“The bouncers are all really laid back and will actually
talk to you, not like in some clubs.”
Helen, a 23-year-old from Perth, Australia says it’s
the activities provided by The Church staff that makes it
such a great Sunday out.
“It’s really good entertainment. Everyone enjoys
themselves and the guys and girls get up on stage,”
“It’s all about the music, everyone knows all
the words and dances away.
“I’ve never been to a place where you can meet
so many people and everyone is so friendly and just out to
have a good time, no trouble.”
The Church had been at its Kings Cross location for 10 years,
its longest home ever. But since the building of the Channel
Tunnel and the subsequent redevelopment of the area, the demographic
of the Kings Cross locale has changed. No longer is it a quiet
and rarely-used space, instead it is teeming with activity
in preparation to become what developers and investors hope
will be an up-market housing estate and leisure precinct.
“When we came here it was ideal. There weren’t
many residents, we’re on private land – it really
was great for us.”
“But the area has changed now, it was just not suitable
for us any more and it was time to move on,” Clair Sullivan
“What we’re really focusing on now is The Forum.
We’ll have a comedian, male and female strippers, extra
games and give-aways.”
Church consultant Tony Askew says The Church’s fame
is unique.“It’s a secret society thing,”
he says. “It’s never been advertised but every
young person who’s traveling to England, especially
the Australians and the Kiwis, know about it. It’s famous
as a meeting place for anywhere between 800 and 2000 people
“The young people can be mischievous,” Tony
says. “I’m not denying they’ve had a good
bit to drink… but as far as I’m concerned they’re
a great crowd. In all my years here I’ve never, ever
seen a fight. They’re here to have a good time.”
Clair Sullivan admits that controlling the masses as they
spill out of The Forum is a different logistical challenge
for the Church team.
“Obviously we still have the problem of people in
the street but it’s a shorter distance to the tube,”
As at Kings Cross, Church wardens will line the route from
The Forum to the Tube to ensure punters make their way home
as safely and non-disruptively as possible.
“When the punters come out onto the street they are
being silly. We have the security there as a means of controlling
that silliness as opposed to actually having to prevent any
The Church opens at The Forum, Highgate Road, Kentish Town,
NW5 (Kentish Town Tube) on Sundays from12 noon till 3.30pm.
By Amy Freeborn