Meet London's Monday Morning Clubbers
This is what happens when the party never stops.
"I was at a party my boss was having one night when he ordered a prostitute."
"From one of them websites.'
"And what happened?"
"She came round and he made her do the washing up, innit?"
It is 5.30am on Monday morning. I am standing in the bathroom at Union, a club under the railway arches in Vauxhall, chatting to a dude called Jamie. A petite mixed-race kid, he's in his civvies, wearing a long low-necked vest with XXL on it and a heavy gold chain. Most weekends he's in drag as Barbarella Fierce.
"I'm a dancer and host at clubs. Fire, Area when it was open," he says. "I'm paid to party. That leads to problems."
We're here for Glamorous, London's only Monday morning club event. It runs every week from 3am until a cerebellum-busting 11am. Keen to meet the kind of people who bang bumps to techno while most of us are blearily trying to focus on the Metro on the tube on the way to work, I decide to pay a visit.
There are only about twenty-five people here when I arrive, but they are all on the dance floor seriously enjoying DJ Tiny Tarawe's tough tech house set. A grey-haired bloke with a moustache and sunglasses on his head grips a pint in one hand and shoots a laser pen around with the other. He looks like he's been out since 1994. A guy in a Trapstar shirt and baggy jeans breakdances while his mate, wearing shades, a flowery shirt and an Adidas track-top, sits on a speaker stack and nods. An Italian girl with glittery eye make-up dances with her eyes closed, entranced. Two Spanish men – Jose, who's twenty-four and works at Borough Market and his brother – wander around topless and wild-eyed, showing off their muscles. Glamorous is a mixed club, and there's an equal balance between gay and straight here.
A wild-eyed loon walks into the bathroom.
"I'm looking for drugs," he mumbles.
I ask him long he's been here.
"Eight years," he says, before shambling out again.
It's plausible. This is definitely the kind of place where you can lose yourself if you're not careful. At 7am I head to the smoking area out front. It's getting light and beyond the barriers I see commuters going to work. I get chatting to a kid called Tom. His eyes flit around as he speaks, taking everything in. He works the door of a club in Shoreditch and looks a little like Pete Doherty, before the smack habit kicked in.
"How did they get a licence to open 'til this time in the morning?" he ponders.
Jamie, who's smoking beside us, smiles.
"It's Vauxhall innit. They get a pass."
Things are changing around here though.
"They're shutting it all down, that's why Area's got sold off. It's not just new flats. You've got the American Embassy coming. All the clubs here are going to be gone within a year."
"It's about fucking time! Vauxhall's been going for fifteen years. It's got to come to an end sometime. Other scenes will open up."
Jose shambles out in search of a fag. Tom asks where he's from.
"Spain – beautiful country but lazy fucking people."
There's a shared inhalation of breath.
"It's true though, I think – a little bit. I love Spanish people, I get on with Spanish people the most, but . . ."
The talk turns to immigration. Thankfully, Tom is not the MDMA'd-up Farage I first feared.
"Anyone who talks about immigration, I think they're racist, fam" he says. "I just think 'fuck you, who the fuck are you to speak about other people coming here?' They might be going through some hardship in their house, with their families. Who are you to judge them? They're working harder for cheaper money."
A lanky bloke in a string vest and skinny black hipster jeans walks towards us. He has long dreads, a beard and a heart tattooed on his neck. He's wearing blue eyeshadow. "I'm talking to all the hoodrats," he complains.
On the floor, smoking fags and arguing about French Montana is Lou, a black girl in a leather cap and plastic shades and her mate E. E is eighteen. Originally from Vietnam, she now lives in Lewisham. She's wearing Adidas trainers with a graffiti print. Both girls look like they've been out for a very long time indeed. And like many out here they're listless, too tired to dance but too monged to seriously consider going home. Instead they just smoke endless Silk Cuts, drinking and talking shit. It would be easy to assume that the grimy anti-Nirvana of Glamorous is the sole preserve of a ragged band of jobless wastrels. That's far from the case. While there I meet Pete, a freelance accountant; Mike, an airline employee on stopover from Vancouver; and Steve, a photographer. There's clearly a market for Monday morning clubbing in London that extends beyond terminal pill-heads.
Back inside, Ellie Cocks is pummelling the floor with a righteous set of tech tunes including Denney's "Pimp Out", and Derick Prez's "Follow Jack." Chucking out time at nearby Fire has plumped up the numbers — and the energy.
A ludicrously dapper guy in a three-quarter length tweed coat, a white buttoned-up shirt and a scarf looms into view, looking like he's just been on a spa break on a mountaintop in Switzerland. Perhaps he'd like to discuss health tips.
"Got any meth, mate?" he asks.
Outside, I find Jake, the rotund pint-swilling old-school raver from earlier chatting to Tiny Tarawe, who's chilling out after his set. Turns out Jake is a bedroom DJ himself.
"What do you play?" says Tiny.
"House and garage," says Jake, "I just bought a new set of decks. Two 'nd a 'alf grand second-hand."
Tiny nods. He begins explaining how he practices constantly at mates' flats, and talks of his new club night and his ambition to play Fabric.
Jake lurches forward, his eyes glassy, his breath beery.
"Man, I'm gonna show you – back-to-back – fucking Slipmatt and . . . erm. Awwww mate, I gotta find it"
He stabs at his shattered iPhone with thick fingers while Tiny and I wait. Finally, he locates the video, and we are treated to a clip of Slipmatt and some other dude scratching breakbeats on a London rooftop.
"Slipmatt and . . . this is amazing. The bollocks! Slipmatt and fucking . . . That is the bollocks. Back-to-back. Fucking phenomenal."
That he can't dredge up the name of other DJ seems a minor point.
"That's back-to-back," he emphasises.
Immune to the charms of Slipmatt's 90's happy hardcore stylings, Tiny starts checking his own phone, leaving me to nod along politely to the tinny turntable pyrotehnics
At 10am Kid Kaos is bumping more mainstream deep house tunes like "Jack" by Breach and talk turns to the afterparty Jamie and his mates will be attending. Personally I need to go home and hide under the duvet for several decades. Before I do though, I catch up with Jake one more time to find out what his plans are.
"Me? I'm off home," he says. "I like to come down 'ere from Essex, have me fun then piss off again. I'm 44. I've got three grandkids."
Fair enough. While a morning spent in a sweaty archway in Vauxhall may not be to everyone's tastes, the accountants, ghetto-fabulous drag queens and grandparents that I met at Glamorous couldn't have been having a better time. Let's just hope Union and the other remaining clubs in Vauxhall can escape the scourge of gentrification so the party can continue.
Most names have been changed.