Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Coney Island, 18th August

Coney Island sounded like it could be a lot of fun but I didn’t really know what to expect. It was supposed to capture the spirit of Coney Island in New York and have some silly games and even a hot dog eating contest. The music was to be 50s, 60s and French pop. It intrigued me.

Well, I finally got to go to it Saturday night. It is held once a month at the Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club and unfortunately it happened to fall on what must have been one of the hottest days of the year. Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club isn’t just an ironic name, it really is a working men’s club and I suspected their air conditioning wouldn’t be state of the art. I was right, it wasn’t up to scratch to deal with a heaving, busy club night, but that was the only downside to the night.

We arrived and were given the groundrules for entrance by one of the doormen, namely that we must leave quietly and not congregate around the exits because the people over the road were a care home and kept complaining and would really rather the BGWMC was shut down. In an effort to ensure this doesn’t happen, we were happy to agree to the terms and gain entrance. 

We went in and even though it was only 10:30, it felt like the party was in full swing already. Along one wall were the funfair games, which of course we had a go at. There were minor queues for each game but they went swiftly enough. The first I tried my hand at was a mini pitch and putt – you had to get the golf ball between the cutout’s legs. I was so close the first time, but just seemed to get worse on my next two turns. No prize for me. 

Then I tried knocking tin cans off the wall. The lady overseeing this activity was a lot more generous with the definition of ‘three turns per person’. After at least my sixth go I had knocked most of them off the wall and earned myself a prize. Which is to have a lucky dip in a trash bag. I pulled out a flowery hairband. Prizes other people won included a wagon wheel, old not-so-great DVDs (Confidence with Rachel Weisz anyone?) and a mini can of deodorant (perhaps quite useful in that hot environment).

They were also giving away free ice cream and had a lady doing free temporary tattoos (otherwise known as body painting) of dubious quality. All very silly fun.

But they also had some rather unexpected entertainment on the main stage. The first was a magician who had been wandering the crowd but was given a few minutes on the stage to wow the entire audience. With a bit of participation from a member of the crowd, his act was none too bad. Then there was a lady in fetish wear who did a bit of a striptease before stapling blue lights to her body, piercing herself with sparklers and setting alight to them before flouncing around on stage a bit. Quite a sight.

Warning - semi-adult content in the video!

And then there were some competitions! A dance competition where several people on the dance floor were picked upon to go up on stage and compete for the audience’s approval. I am very proud to say my friend won, and beat off some stiff competition. And finally, the hot dog competition. This was actually a little disappointing and not quite the spectacle I was hoping. They picked three people at random to compete and were told they had five minutes to eat as many hot dogs as they could. The clock started counting down and the three people began to eat. Sedately. Normally. Boringly. They had clearly never seen a hot dog challenge or any other kind of timed food challenge before.

Ah well. After that was over it was time to concentrate on dancing and that we did. The music was excellent although it did take a slightly weird turn towards the end (I wonder if this was the French pop part). Maybe they keep that in the bag to help persuade people to leave as the night drew to an end. We thought we'd try to request something else. I went and loitered by the DJ booth looking somewhat hopeful and friendly but failed to make an impression on the DJ who dutifully ignored me.

I have already described what BGWMC is like inside in my previous post on Homework held there, and it was just the same really, except there was a scattering of tables and chairs instead of in rows. It’s definitely a funny little venue; as we were going in some old boy was coming out – it was functioning as a regular club in the downstairs part which surprised some of my companions. But so far 2/2 of the nights I’ve been to have been grand, and I don’t see any reason to imagine the other varied aren’t just as good. I will be gathering more evidence when I go their Double R Club night (cabaret the way David Lynch might do it) in a few weeks. 

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I work as an editor in educational publishing by day, and then spend most of my spare time discovering interesting things to do in London, and taking people there with my own Meetup.