London club night ROAST isn’t your average Vauxhall Ken doll scene, although they’re here.
So too are the big boys, the fetish crowd, the young, the mature, and other clubbers from every background.
People are so comfortable, at times it’s almost startling. As I walk from the dancefloor to a side bar, outfits include harnesses to crop tops and every variation in between.
ROAST was launched in June 2022 by co-founders Lerone Clarke-Oliver, Andrew Harris and resident DJ King James Lee at the historic N1 club, Electrowerkz.
Billed as ‘London’s beefiest clubnight’, it took opportune advantage of the easing of COVID-19 regulations and launched at a time when we were all looking for something new.
“ROAST has welcomed well-known names including Bloc Party lead singer Kele Okereke, Vogue editor Edward Enninful”
The pandemic period saw us experience an unprecedented cultural awakening by way of Black Lives Matter, highlighting the need for minorities that may have been previously overlooked to be proudly visible. In the LGBTQ+ community we understand the need for inclusive, welcoming spaces so that we can feel free — and that’s something ROAST aims to deliver with each event.
Although it’s only been around for six months, on a typical night, ROAST has welcomed well-known names including Bloc Party lead singer Kele Okereke, Vogue editor Edward Enninful, and fashion photographer Mert Alas through its doors.
Tonight, there’s a guy proudly wearing his Mr Rubber Netherlands 2022 sash.
The venue itself, Electrowerkz, is an old-school, warehouse-type space, almost Berlin-style in its rough and rugged look, which works well for the men-only ROAST brand.
However, it is one confusing club to wrap your head around when you first visit.
There are three, four or maybe even five floors — we never really manage to figure that out!
Each industrial stairwell takes you to a part of the building you aren’t quite expecting. But there’s something fun about opening a door you thought led to a particular room, only to find it’s an undiscovered area packed to the brim with roasting men!
There are plenty of spaces to let loose in. Choose from unapologetic pop with a dash of pop-RnB, hard-house/techno, and a huge classic-house room.
“On the surface, a men-only policy can seem at odds with our inclusive messaging”
Elsewhere, the warren of corridors opens onto a courtyard space where you can mingle and catch your breath. There are also numerous quieter bars, selfie photo-booths… Oh, and a darkroom, for those consensual sexual moments.
Catering to a wide range of tastes and tribes, the club can, at times, feel like there’s a lack of cohesion. But most people stick to their preferred dancefloor — it’s truly four clubs in one!
With a crowd that’s predominantly 30-plus and confined to a single gender, it might seem that ROAST is fuelling outdated toxic masculine ideals rather than being inclusive. But the sight of beary men twirling in the pop room smiling ear to ear to a Britney and Dua Lipa mash-up banishes those preconceptions.
I ask Lerone — dressed in an all-in-one ROAST-branded boilersuit, no less — how a men-only policy stands up in contemporary London.
“On the surface, a men-only policy can seem at odds with our inclusive messaging,” he says. “However, when we remind people that we, as queer men, remain a marginalised group in the UK — this is evident in the increasing number of hate crimes against our community — it’s important we continue to create safe places for us.
“A great deal of effort has been made to ensure ROAST feels welcoming. If we can provide a space for celebration and intimacy among men in a world that is increasingly hostile to queer people of all stripes, that’s an achievement we can be very proud of.”
Those with fond memories of XXL might think that ROAST is just a repackaging of that infamous London institution. Although similar, it’s noticeably more welcoming to all, way more self-aware, and feels more representative of the community in 2023. It’s also immeasurably fun.
A noticeable effort has been made to create a dialogue, with ROAST often seeking feedback from its customers online.
There’s a clear willingness to bring London’s sometimes disparate tribes together. It’s this awareness and open forum that sets ROAST apart from post-pandemic London’s other big club nights.
I can’t think of many nights where you can find bears, twinks, muscle guys, trans men, men with differently abled bodies, and those from all backgrounds just vibing under one unified roof. ROAST seems to deliver this effortlessly.
To quote Madonna, who we hear sing as we leave far later than we planned to on our January visit: “Music makes the people come together…” And from what we’ve seen, people coming together is both true of the courtyard, dancefloors… And the darkroom!