Torture Garden comes to Manchester

BCN 122 cover

This originally appeared in BCN issue 122, December 2013

The World famous fetish club, Torture Garden,  visited Manchester for the first time on Friday 29th November. Originally the club was supposed to be held in the fire damaged part of the Northern Quarter so it had been rehomed at Alter Ego, perhaps best known to the BCN readership as venue of the historically biphobic indie night Poptastic. 

Tales of beautiful people all dressed up dancing for hours meant I had wanted to go to Torture Garden in London for years but I had never got round to it. The announcement that the event was coming North had my girlfriend and I planning outfits weeks in advance, a good excuse for corset shopping we both went in corsets with burlesque/ goth accessories.

We arrived with another friend, who was also dressed up looking dapper in steampunk kilt & waistcoat with brass buttons and clock parts accessories.

Torture Garden has a reputation for strict dress code but on arrival the atmosphere was easy and laid back with the doormen welcoming, directing us down the dark stairs to the basement ticket booth. The staff were friendly with a secure cloakroom near to the entrance.

The club is divided into two main spaces a DJ booth, small stage and dance floor to the left of the entrance and a long bar, seated areas, second dance floor, toilets and quiet space at the back to the right of the entrance.

The area to the left was loud with dance music, dubstep and industrial interspersed with performances on the stage.  The area to the right had a long bar above which TV screens were playing some quite good vintage porn. The large open floor in front of the bar was a mix of dungeon equipment and dance space, the equipment was used more for decoration than play. The music in this space was quieter, to me annoyingly inconsistent but with some highlights including tracks by The Cure and The Undertones.

Beyond the bar area was a quieter seating area with more dungeon equipment this area was mostly being used by people sitting and chatting with a few people playing.

The whole venue had a relaxed feel of inclusivity there were mixed and single sex couples and some clearly poly / play partners groups with no discrimination, as far as I heard/could tell, of any sort.

The beautiful people were certainly out to play: a spectrum of latex – lots of latex – lace, leather, naked & inked skin, satin, steampunk, militaria and goth fashions adorned all body shapes and sizes. Don’t let the strict dress code put you off there were people who had clearly muddled together inexpensive outfits and still looked amazing, some just in underwear, some well covered up and others in nothing more than their skin and some accessories.

I only saw the last of the performances a strange but fun piece of performance art involving a man dressed up as a greedy pig wearing latex pig mask and Victoriana waistcoat and breeches. The performance included speed eating cake, downing wine, a striptease down to pink latex apron and pants, audience participation and fire eating!

There was a small group of overly excited youngsters who inevitably ended up thrown out by the end of the night for being too wasted (they weren’t particularly bothering anyone) but overall the crowd was open and welcoming with people happy to chat.

Having been once I’d still like to go to the larger London version of the night but I’m not sure I’d go back to the Manchester one: I had fun but the music wasn’t consistently good enough to tempt me back. Overall the event is more of a fetish fashion show, dance and social space than a play space, just a few kinksters were doing their thing.

That said, if you are considering going I’d definitely recommend it as a fun unique experience, very bi friendly, where you’ll be accepted for who you are.