London council tries to ban kink clubs, raising safety fears at fetish nights

Kink culture is under threat (Picture: Zbigniew Tomasz Kotkiewicz)

London’s Tower Hamlets council is attempting to shut down, or at least significantly stifle, kink nights run by established fetish companies.

Klub Verboten and Crossbreed have been warned legal action will be taken if venues host their fetish nights.

Not only a blow to kinksters and party-goers, it also threatens the safety of those who participate if events can’t be hosted legitimately – opening the potential doorway to less regulated kink events.

This month, the council said they intended to ‘prohibit nudity and semi-nudity in safeguarded venues’, as shared by Karl Verboten with Vice and

Crossbreed’s founder, Alex Warren, later shared in an email to subscribers: ‘Yesterday we received an email from Tower Hamlets putting pressure on us, quoting the same archaic laws and attempting to shut us down.

‘We stand with Klub Verboten and all queer space’s against state-sanctioned oppression.’

Kink club

Two leading companies have been threatened by the council (Picture: Zbigniew Tomasz Kotkiewicz)

Kink club

Kink could become less regulated if legitimate events can’t run as normal (Picture: Zbigniew Tomasz Kotkiewicz)

The club nights under fire are aimed at young, sex-positive audiences and are open to all no matter their sexuality.

Consent is integral to how events are managed, providing safe spaces for people to explore in a controlled environment.

Karl tells ‘There is pretty much a new and different reason [as to why the council wants to take action against us] anytime we engage.

‘It seems the councils have absolutely no understanding of the policies they are trying to enforce.

‘Currently, the argument is that the venue’s license contains a condition that does not permit nudity or semi-nudity.

‘Tower Hamlets completely ignores that this condition was there to regulate performances at the venue when it was originally applied for. It does not address guests at all but is now weaponised against us.

‘However, since we are all decent citizens who do not intend to break an apparent law, our 1,000+ guests have emailed Tower Hamlets Council’s licensing team a description of their outfit for approval prior to the event.’

Over on Klub Verboten’s Instagram account, followers have commented on posts sharing their support and that they’ve taken action by doing things such as emailing London’s night czar, Amy Lamé.

Kink club

Kink nights have consent at the heart of them (Picture: Zbigniew Tomasz Kotkiewicz)

Kink club

They allow people safe ways to explore kink (Picture: Zbigniew Tomasz Kotkiewicz)

Public nudity in the UK is not illegal if the intention isn’t to offend or harass others, and given the nature of the kink nights, in which entry is not a given, nudity in these contexts is to be expected and inoffensive to those who choose to be there.

Guests are heavily vetted, bouncers are at large, and there’s a safeguarding team at Klub Verboten events, monitoring the activity that takes places inside.

Many feel these two nights have been targetted due to their inclusiveness of trans and non-binary people, given that a swingers club in the same borough with a largely heterosexual crowd has not been given the same warnings, a spokesperson told Vice.

Karl says: ‘We are disgusted. The legal context that Tower Hamlets Council provided defining semi-nudity is highly discriminatory towards trans and non-binary people of our community.

‘We simply can’t participate in kink without a culture of consent, honesty, transparent communication, safety, and acknowledging risks. Kink is complex, so we rely upon exchange, guidance and boundaries.

‘Kink communities and spaces provide a home to those curious ones and promote those ultra-important values from which vanilla nightlife culture outlets could learn a great deal.’

Crossbreed and Klub Verboten have since sought out legal advice.

In response to these threats from the council, the two club nights are now promoting their a campaign called #savekinkspaces.

Karl adds: ‘With the #savekinkspaces campaign, we show that we can’t be erased from the map.

‘Kinksters are everywhere, and we are outraged that we can’t have an adult conversation about this.

‘Tower Hamlets Council attempts to dictate to informed, self-regulating adults what they can and, crucially, what they can’t wear in a private club. Is the sight of an ankle, bare shoulders, buttocks, cleavage and bare chests matters of legitimate public interest?’

Karl will be holding a panel discussion to encourage conversation on the issue, inviting those from local councils, policymakers, the police, licensing barristers, charitable organisations and community leaders to participate.

A spokesperson for Tower Hamlets Council said: ‘The venue Klub Verboten nights are hosted in is in a residential area and has a premises licence which allows for alcohol and entertainment. It does not have a sexual entertainment licence or a licence that would allow for nudity or partial nudity. We understand Klub Verboten is hosted by this venue and therefore what events take place in its premises has to be decided by the venue in line with its licence.

‘We have not shut down the Crossbreed event, but, as with any licenced premises, we do expect the venue owner to operate within their licence.‘

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