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Mark F

March 2008


I was born in Birmingham and started to come into the city centre in around 1979, at which point i was 15 years old. I discovered a nightclub called Romeo and Juliets, now called Cobarna and sadly closed, on the corner of Hurst St. They ran an Alternative night on a Thursday and Saturday for people who liked all the current new wave music, Duran Duran, Blondie, Simple minds, the associates etc. I soon got to know a few people and had a great time.

I realised very quickly that there was a whole scene in Birmingham to be enjoyed and once i had sat my exams and had more freedom, i explored this to the full. I met some intriguing people and started to go out a lot more. I was introduced to The Hosteria wine bar on Hurst street, which was full of highly colourful characters such as Patti Bell and Jane Kahn, Martin Degville (later Sigue Sigue Sputnik) with his then boyfriend George O Dowd, who we all know as Boy George, Gay John, Raymond and Twiggy. Through these people, i discovered a club on Broad Street called The Rum Runner and regularly saw Duran Duran socialising there. I distinctly remember going on Sunday nights and there was free chilli, rice and rolls given out. I also used to go to a club called Faces in Auchinleck Square in Five ways, again with the same crowd.

I realised I was gay and this was when i also decided to visit what Birmingham had to offer a young gay man, who liked alternate music and had a penchant for make-up and a slightly (by this time ) goth clothes sense. Not a lot !!!!. The Nightingale was on Thorp Street and was still very much a club playing Disco/high energy music and had a variety of men in check shirts and moustaches. I did get to meet some other young people though and we used to frequent the bars at the time, The Jester, The Viking and The Windmill. At this time i also went to a club which in its heyday was great. This was The Powerhouse, on Hurst Street and now called Oceana. It was alternate on Wednesdays and Gay on Thursdays but both nights were very similar as most of the male alternative scene, were gay. This was 50 pence in before 10pm and i became hooked on Snakebite with Blackcurrant added, popular with most of the crowd. I got to see many big stars of the time such as Divine, Eartha Kitt and Grace Jones.

Around this time were 3 other clubs on offer. The Kipper Club, at the Tin Can run by Gay John in Digbeth. Seedy ,but great fun on a Saturday night as an alternative to the Nightingale. The Come club on a Sunday eve, running from 8-12.30am, up by the ATV studios, again a sort of mixed goth/gay venue and Zig Zag, at Xanadu which catered for Punks, Skinheads and was quite hedonistic in its day, a forerunner of having a darkroom in a club.

I also happened upon The Jug, off Livery Street and run by a charming older man called Laurie. This was a bizarre venue in that it had all these cheap Spanish wine bottles hanging from the ceiling, the back room/lounge smelt awful as it had a waterfall using the water from the local canal and on some occasions the DJ was a Robot !!.

I did go further afield on some weekends and caught the train with friends to Wolverhampton and went to The Lord Raglan Pub, which was ok and onto the Silver Web, a small club up some rickety stairs in Wolverhampton town centre, run by an elderly gay brother and sister, which also had their 4 boxer dogs running around all evening. This closed at 2pm and we all had to sit in a multi storey car park till the station opened at 6.30am to get on the early train back to Birmingham, so this wasn’t a regular occurrence.
Time passed and odd events happened such as going to the I.D magazine party at a big hotel on the Hagley Road. This was a night to remember with 2 busloads of fashionistas coming to Birmingham to party from London.
The gay scene became more accepting of people who liked to dress up and so i gravitated more into going to The nightingale as the smaller venues closed down. This would have been around 1985-1986. The Windmill had changed to become Partners, Now Glamourous, The jester never changed till the day it closed.

A friend started a club at Goldwyn’s called Pink Panther which ran for around a year. This was at around 1987. I made the move to London in January 1988 and so the Birmingham gay scene continued on evolving without me.

Mark F