Ever fallen in love on the dance floor? That’s what happened to journalist and writer Charlotte Richardson Andrews at the legendary London club ‘Ghetto’. We caught up to discuss online dating, queer role models and falling asleep on the night bus home.
I never got bored of walking through those doors. Every time I walked through those doors and walk down those stairs, there was always like butterflies in my tummy. You know about like, who will be there who I was going to bump into who I might pull, what music they’d be playing. It was always a thrill. I never got jaded.
K Anderson 0:22
Hello! I am K Anderson and you are listening to lost spaces, a podcast that mourns the death of queer nightlife. Every episode I talk to a different person about a venue from their past, the memories they created there and the people that they used to know. This week I am talking to Charlotte Richardson Andrews, a London based writer and culture journalist. She’s also the founder of the amazing cuisine Fest in London, and in 2012, she documented her most cherished lost spaces in a black and white scene called wasted. We caught up to talk about ghetto, the cult Soho dance club with a mixed clientele of club freaks artists and international a listers. I took that from Wikipedia. Legendary nights included nag nag nag misshapes, the cop gets her ran from 2001 to 2008.
That’s why was my favorite queer club. For a long time I went there religiously every week. If I could afford it, I’d be there twice a week. And ghetto was where I met my partner. But I’m still with today. And we’ll be celebrating our 13 year anniversary this summer. So I am grateful to ghetto for for introducing me to my my life partner. We’ve actually been talking online for months.
K Anderson 2:20
So if it was 13 years ago, what were you talking on Friendster? Oh, my
God, oh, go. And we’ve been talking online for a couple of months. But I was nervous about meeting not because I was kind of socially phobic at that point. Anyway, but added to that was this fear that like they will lose this? You know, scary people on gaydar. I’d heard a lot of horror stories
K Anderson 2:45
where they reinforcing the lesbian stereotype. Oh, yeah.
But also stuff about like men pretending to be lesbians and you know, you’d be have having this kind of like, you know, really meaningful online conversations with someone that you thought was a lesbian, and then you’d meet up with them. And it turned out to be a man or a woman and her boyfriend and you know, so I was really kind of putting off meeting up in real life with Michelle. And then we met accidentally and ghetto because a mutual friend introduced us and I didn’t have a profile picture up. So she didn’t know she didn’t recognize me, but I recognized her and when I introduced myself she was like, Why the fuck have a profile picture up?
K Anderson 3:29
So we’re so high wages? So you had a meaningful conversation online, but you didn’t have a profile picture? No, because like I say, so she had no idea what you look like no, wow. Yeah,
we bonded over Music is my username was Babes in Toyland song and she messaged me, that was the first message she was like, You stole my he stole my username. That was my idea. So we bonded over music. And we were talking online for a couple of months. But yeah, I didn’t have a profile picture up because as I say, I heard there were like, lots of scary stalkers on gaydar.
K Anderson 4:02
So you were dipping your toe in?
Yes, yes. I was laughing, I think is that so yeah, when we met in person, it was complete fluke, someone we just happened to have in common introduced us. And they didn’t know that we’ve been talking online either. So I was like, I know you’re saying so. And she was like, Who are you? And I was like, I’m sorry. So she’s like, Why the fuck have you got a profile picture up? And it was kind of super corny, but it was like, it was actually ghetto was the place where I first said, I love you to her. It was like, No, no, she’d said it to me. And I was like, Huh. And I was too scared to say it back. And then one night we were out that ghetto. I think it might have been read I on a Monday and we were just on the dance floor and I was looking at it and I was like, why am I Why am I holding back? This is ridiculous. She’s told me she loves me. Why am I so scared to say that? And I was like, I love you too. And she was like, What? She didn’t hear me over the music. I was like, I
love you too. Yeah,
I guess it means a lot to me because it’s where I met the love of my life. But also like a lot of my, my closest friends that I have now I met through ghetto through people from ketto. Let’s,
K Anderson 5:22
let’s back up a bit. Can you describe the venue?
And well, it was down this alley, I think or Falcon core and the alley stunk. Like people would pass down the alley. So it always stunk. So you had to walk through this cloud of like urine aroma to get to the main door, and it was kind of like a hole in the wall. So like, unless you know it was there. You could just walk straight past it. And then so the main door would open, you get pressed by the bouncer. And then you’d walk down this short set of stairs, and you’d pay and get your hand stamped. And then yeah, it was tiny. It was a really tiny club. And that was one of the reasons I loved it. I’m, I’m much more at home in like small intimate venues than I am in like the big supersized, like three floors, kind of venues. It was just tiny. It was pokey. It was grimy. It was dark, it was always packed. I think the walls were red. And yeah, I just loved the I loved that I always felt really safe there. And I think because it was underground as well. It felt kind of secret and special. And, and private. You know, you would get straight people in there. But nine times out of 10. They were like there with the queer friends and they were behaving, you know, I was never worried about having to deal with low, lecherous straight men. When I was there. They never
K Anderson 6:51
seem to be that kind of crowd of hen parties or straight people out on a gay Safari.
Maybe again, it was that sense of like it was it really was hidden away. You know, it wasn’t out on on the main road, it was it was down a tiny alley,
K Anderson 7:12
you got to have purpose to be down that alley.
And I think if you were straight, you were there with gay friends. So you knew that you were there as an ally. Like it wasn’t your space, you know, you were there as a as a guest. But also, I guess maybe some credit is due to like Simon who ran ghetto. And Tommy and the promoters. I think there was a lot of love and attention put into the club nights there. And I think they were really dedicated and careful in terms of like advertising and what kind of crowd they wanted there. I think they tried to make it as safe as they could. And I think that showed in the atmosphere.
K Anderson 7:54
So you talked about different nights that they put on. And you’ve mentioned red eye before, which I’d never heard of. No way there was read I
read it was my favorite, favorite, favorite ghetto night. So it was on a Monday. And it was the alternative night. So it was like you’d have punk you’d hit metal you’d hit score, you’d hit grand, she’d have Riot girl. Which was totally my, you know, my scene, my music. I loved it. I loved it. But it wasn’t I think like, you know, quiz already such a small minority in in the wider population. And then like alternative quiz, a minority within a minority. So I think out of all of the Knights there, it was like the night that made the least amount of money for the venue. And because of that there were periods where it didn’t. It just didn’t happen, you know? So I think sometimes it was on every other week, and I think there were periods where it just wasn’t on at all, and then it will make a comeback. But yeah, it was, as far as I was aware, like the least profitable night for the venue, you know.
K Anderson 9:22
So what was some of the other nights? What do you remember the night you met Michelle? Yeah,
I think it was a red eye night on a Monday. So then the other night that I will go was a Thursday, which was misshapes, which I think was their most popular night. And I kind of suffered to be honest that because it was just a little bit too Poppy and indie for me. There was a lot of
K Anderson 9:51
so like major label indie,
yeah, which just was not really my thing. And in between those songs, you get a bit of whole A bit of no doubt. And, you know, that kind of balanced out for me. But it was my favorite red eye official was my favorite night.
K Anderson 10:08
That was your go to Monday night? I mean, I don’t I think I’m far too sensible to go out on a Monday.
Well, that was the other thing it was it was like who goes out? Except quit alternative students who don’t care about rolling into college or uni with a hangover the next day.
K Anderson 10:27
So we haven’t talked about the period that you started going together? Do you remember your first night?
I don’t. Either don’t I’ve been trying to work out via like, when I first met Michelle, which was in 2000, we got together in 2005. But I’d been got I thought I’d been going to get over a couple of years before that. So like 2003. But I remember going to see the breeders at the istoria around the corner from ghetto in 2002. And I definitely was going to get out at that point. So I think I started going around 2001. And I think we sort of stopped going a couple of years after we got together, which would have been 2007 2008. Is that
K Anderson 11:18
because you’ve got to that kind of boring part of coupledom real estate? Oh, yes. Okay. Good to hear. So you can’t remember your first time, what’s the first memory you have of being there? I don’t I don’t have anything to work with here.
Oh, gosh, I had so many good times. And some really short times, too. And they all just kind of like I couldn’t give you a timeline. I really couldn’t. And I really wish I could remember my first time. Actually, I think I have vague memories of the first time I went and I remembered maybe not dancing for the first couple of hours because I was so shy. I remember feeling really safe there. Even though I was shy. I remember feeling welcomed, and not intimidated. The way that like bigger clubs made me feel. It was just a really nice, intimate, welcoming space.
K Anderson 12:18
So who so if we go back? Let’s let’s go back in our time machine to 2001. Which is really scary. What who was Sharla? At that time, you’ve already kind of mentioned you were socially awkward. Sorry, I’m, if I’m putting words in your mouth.
Yeah, I, I was, I was in a really weird place. I was like struggling with mental health stuff. I just, I think I’d either just come out of or was nearing the end of my first. Oh, gosh, and getting my own timeline messed up now. Let me just think I think I might have started going there. before I’d come out.
K Anderson 13:05
And by come out, you mean like to have family and friends or
kind of to myself, like, basically, I think I was introduced to get over by a my best friend at the time. And she was out. And she kind of like had this whole, like lesbian network of friends. And I was sort of like, I was kind of tagging along. You know, I wasn’t out I wasn’t even sure like who I was in terms of orientation. And I was just introduced to this kind of secret underground world. I was drinking a lot, because I wanted to socialize, but I was terrified of socializing. And so drink was like a good way of like being able to do that, which obviously, in the long run was not a sustainable coping mechanism. But yeah, at the time, I was drinking a lot. And I was going out a lot. And it was a really weird time. So I had this social anxiety, which I was kind of managing through alcohol, and drugs, I think I was self harming at that point, as well. But alongside all of that kind of dark, difficult, like young person stuff. I was also feeling really liberated and brave about like coming out and hanging with these cool older gay women or girls. They felt like women to me, but they were girls. They were just a couple of years older than me. So it was a really exciting time. It was like a dark and exciting time simultaneously. And I think coming out is like that for a lot of people because it is liberating to realize who you are and to do it on a dance floor. But it’s also really confusing time and I think scary too. And it’s all of those things at once, which is a lot. So I think that’s who I was. I was I was kind of trying to navigate all of those
K Anderson 15:00
Yeah, and that’s the thing about the unknown. It’s exciting and scary and terrifying. Yeah. I don’t know this about you, but are you are you from London?
Yeah, I grew up in Hammersmith and Fulham. And I also grew up in Brantford.
K Anderson 15:17
And so at this time, were you still living with your parents or
I was between the between my parents, my parents are split up. So my mom was in Branford and my dad was in Hammersmith. And I had a really troubled childhood, and a really troubled teenage hood as well, or teen herd rather. And I think at that point, when I was first going to get out, I was just kind of like living between the two of them. So I’d be at my dad’s for a couple of months until things got bad. And then I’d like run away to my mom’s, and it’d be at my mom’s for a while until things go bad there. And then I’d run back to my dad’s and it just became this kind of, you know, back and forth thing.
K Anderson 16:04
You said until things got bad. How much of what was going on was an experience that’s common to teenagers and how much of it is about just the relationship that you have with your parents?
It was probably a bit of both like, yeah, a bit of both. I think that’s probably the neatest way to put it.
K Anderson 16:25
Yeah, parents will fuck you up by name. laughing about that. It’s okay. And so you talked about your friend who introduced you to the club? Can you tell me about that relationship?
Yeah, it was like the classic. So it was before I before I came out, and it was like the classic gateway. Like, best friend thing that’s also like a platonic lesbian relationship. So we were like best friends. And we used to call each other soulmates, and we had this really intense, platonic relationship. And wherever we went, people would confuse us for girlfriends, because we were just kind of close. And that was it, that kind of teenage thing where you spoke to each other every day, and you gave each other like, in depth updates on really banal things about your life, apparently, like that. It wasn’t a young teenage thing. It was like a late teenage thing going into your early 20s thing. So it was like, too intense to really be acceptable. You know, like, when you’re in secondary school, it’s acceptable to have those really intense codependent like bestie relationships. Well, we were like, coming into our 20s. And it was like, Okay, this is a, you know, this is something more than that, but like, we just had that kind of relationship. And, yeah, she she was out. And she was kind of like, experimenting, and eventually she got girlfriends. And I was just kind of tagging along and like, soaking it in, you know, hanging around with this, this group of like, queer girls and going to these queer clubs, even though I didn’t identify as queer at that point. And then after a while, I came out as bisexual. But yeah, she really was like, the gateway to all of that for me, because I just didn’t have anyone else in my life. Like that. Who was queer and who went to queer clubs. I just, she was the only person I knew who, who was living that life. So she really was like, my entry into that world.
K Anderson 18:39
So you weren’t out and she was out? Did she know where she kind of pushing you in that direction? 100% Okay, okay, that was trying to be really polite in the way I asked her, but
yeah. 100% she was, yeah, for sure. Yeah, I think it was that kind of thing where like, liberation can be contagious. So like, she felt really liberated, that she was coming out. And she was experiment saying she was, you know, dating girls, and it felt really right to her and, like, really freeing, and she I think she wanted that for me as well. But I think you know, also it was that classic thing where I think sometimes people know that you’re queer before you know yourself. And I think she knew that I was clear. Before I did. So yeah, I think she was 100% pushing me for sure.
K Anderson 19:28
It’s nice to have people like, and a term that you used earlier when describing her friends was that she had a lesbian network. Does anyone stick out in your mind from that time? Well, out of that circle, there’s only one of them that I ended up having like an independent friendship with so the rest of them I think, have all like left London now. Like, I don’t know what they’re up to now. But I just remember being like this classic like geeky baby dyke. You I like these girls were only a couple of years older than me, but they’d been out like a lot longer than me. And they knew queer London, they knew where all the queer places were, or the clubs or the bars. They knew the lingo. You know, they were super fashionable, but like in a, you know, in a grungy way, not in like an expensive designer clothes kind of way, not in a, an L Word kind of way. And I just remember just feeling so, like, not cool enough to hang around with them. Just like this, like really green baby died. What were some of the cool things they were wearing?
Oh, God, they all just dressed like tomboys. And like, where I grew up, I was didn’t do that. You know, I moved in very straight circles. And I’d been to like a very straight school. And I was a tomboy as a kid. But I grew out of it. So like, seeing the skulls in like baggy shorts and like wifey avesse. Like girls who looked queer. They didn’t pass a straight, you knew straight away that they were queer. And I was just like, Wow, that’s so cool. I was just really inspired. And I just felt like I wanted to be them when I grow up. You know?
K Anderson 21:18
It’s really interesting to hear though, because we also talked about how the music that you were into was like grunge and Riot girl. Did that come later? I’ve just always assumed that that was a teenage thing.
No, I was into that stuff before I came out. But I came to grunge late, like I came to grunge like after it’s payday. I wasn’t a kid when grunge was I was a kid kid when grunge was happening. Sorry.
K Anderson 21:41
And the reason I’m making that point is just because kind of a lot of the band members in riot girl band and that type of scene. Yeah, embrace that androgyny and that type of look.
And there was a big overlap between Riot girl and quickl. Of course. So yeah, you’re right. There was it was definitely like, all connected through I
K Anderson 22:03
guess. Yeah. So it’s just an interesting that the way you’re describing it, it sounds as though it was like the first time you were exposed to that.
Yeah, cuz I think me and my bestie we were into grunge. But we were into grunge from a distance because we were in the UK instead of America. And we were coming to grunge and Riot got art like way after it had happened. So it was already like a nostalgic thing for a lot of people. And I think that older like girls that I met and was looking up to I think they had come up during like Britpop maybe. And there was, you know, an overlap between Britpop and grunge as well. So I think it was just all these like a confluence of influences and scenes and you know, fashion and aesthetic that was all Yeah, a confluence, a brick collage.
K Anderson 22:51
So back together, talk to me about a typical night.
Oh, so I am working clothes. And I never really had a lot of money for clothes. So I was always on a budget in terms of clothes. And I mostly at that point, wore baggy jeans, because this was way before skinny jeans came in. So I mostly wore baggy jeans and wife beater vests, or like banned t shirt.
K Anderson 23:21
And what was your favorite band t shirt.
My favorite band t shirt was a Cypress Hill t shirt, which I had hacked to pieces and turned into like a halter top thing. Getting ready was like, was fun, because that was just part of the ritual, you know, and I think we’d meet and Vesper, which was 10 minutes away from ghetto, and it was my favorite, like non club lesbian hangout place. It was really down to earth and really cheap. And we’d start there, me and my bestie or whoever it was that I was going to get her with with me and Vesper and have a couple of points or shots or points and shots. And then we’d make our way over to get Oh, I think we try and get there before 11 because I think it was cheaper if you got there before 11 maybe. And so
K Anderson 24:13
once you’re there, what what happened
once I got there, I would go and chat up the girl who worked at the cloakroom. she’d let me put my coat and my bag in for free. And then it will be straight to the bar for a pint of red stripe, no a can of red stripe. So I think that was the only bit and then it will be on to that article. Like I’ve always been one of these people who needs a couple of drinks in me before I can get on the dance floor. So unless I was already drunk when I turned up, which was the case at the time, I would need to go to the bar first. I love dancing there. I love dancing with my friends and pulling people I think, yeah, I pulled a lot of
K Anderson 25:05
any interesting stories there. Ah,
someone that I’m still friends with now who, who is very dear to me, I I met men Gatto, and I pulled them before we even spoke. It was really weird. I walked in, and they were on the dance floor. And we just made eye contact immediately. And I just walked over and pulled them. It was nice. And we never actually dated, but we stayed friends. And in recent years, they came out as trans and they transitioned. What was really weird was that that day that I met, or that night that I met them and pull them and get out. When I first made eye contact with them. I thought they were a dude. Obviously, they weren’t that they were. And it was really, it was really an affirming thing, when they came out as trans because I think I’d seen them, I’d seen them, I think I’d seen their authentic self, before they were ready to see the see it for themselves, if that makes sense. Which was made it really special, you know, made that, that in retrospect, that first time that we met on the dance floor really special. There’s someone that I’m still friends with, like, I pulled a lot of people there who I have no contact with at all anymore. But I I also have, you know, people that I met there that I’m still friends with today, and they’re one of them. So it just, it wasn’t just the club, it also kind of felt like, I don’t know, like a kind of family place. You know, we didn’t just dance there. We also had friends who worked there and DJ there. And it just felt like a community hub where people got with each other.
K Anderson 26:54
Sorry, I asked you earlier whether you remembered the first time you went there, and you don’t? Do you remember the like the last time
Yeah, the last few times we went there, we left early, so. So at that stage where we just wanted to be at home with each other. And I think we just sort of outgrew it. So we’d go with friends, but I think we leave a couple of hours before closing, which is definitely what we wouldn’t have done in the past, we would have been like there until the end, we just kind of grew out of it. You know, we were like nesting. And also I think like when we met, we were both pretty heavy drinkers. And I think like within a couple of years of like being together and kind of settling down. We were like, kind of weaning ourselves off of that lifestyle, like going out all the time and drinking all the time. I think we were just sort of trying to maybe not even intentionally but just naturally drifting away from that. That lifestyle is definitely something that a lot of young people need and do when they come out because so much of coming out is based around like clubs, and drinking and things like that. But you know, we were getting into this kind of really loving serious relationship and we just wanted to be at home with each other we don’t want to be on like a puke festooned night bus. You know, one of my favorite pictures of us is fast asleep on the back of the night bus coming home from which is actually the picture that I put on the front of my scene wasted
K Anderson 28:28
weight, so but you were both asleep. So someone else was looking after you on that bus? Yeah, okay, good. Okay. That’s what I need to know. Do you remember hearing about ghetto closing?
I do. I think, do you know what I cannot remember? If I heard about it before it happened, or after it happened? Me she’s actually here. I’m going to ask her. Do you when Godot closed? Did we know about it? Do we know it was going to happen? Or do we find out after it happened? She doesn’t remember either. This is the problem when both of you. We can’t remember. I honestly don’t know. But I do remember feeling absolutely devastated about it. And it wasn’t just ghetto. It was ghetto. It was first out it was ga why that whole Tottenham Court Road quarter that that triangle of like queer places just all got obliterated. At the same time. You know, they all just vanished. And those are the places I grew up. Those are the places I came out. And they all just vanished. And, you know, we had to stop going there regularly, but knowing it was there was a comfort to us knowing it was there if we did want to go, you know, and also hoping that like other young people were having the same kind of like, really important life for me experiences that we had had. That was also important. It was As an institution, you know. So we were devastated and really, really angry. When it when it closed down, I think it was just one of the few queer London clubs that was open every day of the week. I don’t think we have that in London anymore. I think the closest to that we have is the word voxel tavern, when I think when ghetto when it wasn’t just like a personal blow, it was also like a blow to the community and to the generation that was coming up under us. I think for me, like, being on the scene was important when I was younger, because I was coming out, I was hooking up with people, I was just really throwing myself into that life. You know, that coming out baby duck life. And the things that I got from the scene aren’t things that I need now, because I’m in like, a long term, monogamous relationship. And also, I don’t have the money to to be in Soho. You know, I’m not based near there. So I’m really there. And yeah, when I am now I don’t recognize it. And I don’t feel you know, when I was younger, I always knew what was happening. I knew the best club nights to go to I knew the best spots to hang out in and none of those places exist anymore. So it doesn’t feel like my my Soho anymore. So yeah, I don’t recognize it. No, honestly, no, I just don’t feel like anything has ever topped ghetto for me. There will never be anything to equal it. But I guess the next best thing to me now. Is is the RVT. And maybe not. It’s like Butch, please. I think context is part of it too. It wasn’t just ghetto. It was also ghetto at that particular time of my life. I just don’t get the same experience from clubbing now that I did when I was younger. And that’s not necessarily something I’m mourn because I have a completely different life now, and I don’t need the things that I needed then. So I’m not like mourning that but I do worry about the lack of queer spaces. You talked
K Anderson 32:15
about the killers before. And I’m sorry to bring them up again. Are there any other songs from that period that transport you back? Mia anything from Mia? First and second album? second album? was the one with paper planes. That’s like third third album I saying okay, sorry. Sorry. Don’t worry. Um Oh gosh. What else? Yeah, like any no doubt so basically like Sandra played a lot of no doubt she played like whole celebrity skin. Oh, yeah. The grants the funny solo stuff as well. Like no doubt just a girl. That was a really great song because you can hear that at Miss eight and red eye and also whole like you can get whole at both of those nights. Yeah, dizzy, Rosco. Yeah, fix up. They played a game played a lot of System of a Down which was really cool. Oh, God, bodies. Bodies by Drowning Pool. Yeah,
beautiful people by Marilyn Manson pictures. Oh god pages. Oh my god, how could I have forgotten? let it grow? I think that was the era like let it grow peaches and the distillers like that was the Holy Trinity.
K Anderson 33:42
I my final question. If you had to describe ghetto in one word, what would it be?
Magic. It really did feel like a magic space. To me. It really felt like a transformative place. Yeah, a place where I transformed for sure. And I felt like other people were too wasn’t just about me. It was also about like being around other people who were also on their journey, like exploring their queerness and embodying their queerness and, like, making community for themselves, you know, making friends and finding lovers or partners, and just this real sense of like, magic and transforming and becoming. So I think Yeah, magic would be my word.
K Anderson 34:42
Did you ever go to get her and want to share your stories or your photos with me? then reach out and talk to me on social media. I am on Facebook and Instagram and Twitter. And you can find me under the username K Anderson music. You can also To find out more about wasted disease that I mentioned at the beginning of this episode at the cuisine archive project, which is www dot q said, a p.org. Lost spaces as well as being a podcast is also a concept record. I’ve been writing songs about queer venues and the vibes that took place in them and alongside them, and outside of them, and I will be releasing songs from that record over the next year. The first song is called well groomed boys, and is now available to listen on Spotify, iTunes, and all those other good places. If you liked today’s episode, and you want to hear more, then please do subscribe, and then you will receive a notification whenever a new episode is published. It would also make a huge difference if you could tell people about this podcast if you have any friends that you think might be interested, then do let them know post on social media. And if you’re feeling really generous, please leave a review on the iTunes Store. My name is K Anderson and you have been listening to lost spaces.