Notorious yet legendary Antipodean party venue, The Church, is on the move again, as it celebrates the 1.5 millionth regular through its doors.
From Sunday January 3rd, service will be held at The Clapham Grand.
Started 30 years ago at a Fulham Broadway pub by an Irish publican keen to provide alternative Sunday entertainment for his Antipodean regulars, the Church’s notoriety and place in the hearts of UK working visa holders from Down Under and beyond has passed into legend ever since.
Hundreds of thousands have flocked to its once long-term home of a Kings Cross railway warehouse and then to the more recent Kentish Town Forum venue since 2003 to mix and mingle, party and be entertained.
Transport headaches, rather than thorny locals prompted the move, according to South African manager, Julian Molteno.
He has seen the Church faithful swell from a few dozen to over 1100 partygoers each Sunday from noon to 4pm.
“Even more on Australia/NZ Day and Bank Holidays, where there are so many partygoers here, we have to get them to buy online” he boasts.
“It’s an institution, a part of the social heritage of the antipodean overseas experience here in London”
“That makes The Church a must-do, even if only once, just to say ‘I’ve been there.'”
In addition to the trademark acts of comedians, singers, the inevitable stripper(s), and competing Antipodean drinking teams on stage, Churchgoers have witnessed some flambouyant acts as part of their Sunday Service.
“There’s Simba, a woman who dances on smashed beer glasses, only to wash her face in the splinters.There’s a man who sticks his head in a cage full of rats.
“Then there’s Stevie Star” says Molteno. “He’s a regurgitator. He swallows coins, lightbulbs, goldfish, and then brings them back up in any order you like. Then we have the more lowbrow acts.”
But its not just all fun and games. Or at least this hard-core partying is not hard-hearted. Revellers through its doors have enabled The Church to sponsor many sports teams over the years. In 2006, some £18,000 was raised for Sports Scholarships for underprivileged kids with sporting or academic potential to the prestigious Bath University.
Reflecting a nod back to another part of its congregation, Molteno’s team also plan a ‘Help for Heroes’ event to assist injured UK armed forces personnel, who regularly turn up in droves to bring homegrown competition to their Aussie counterparts onstage.
As the new Clapham Grand venue gears up for its new ‘religious’ influx each Sunday, Church management are working overtime to get the word out, betting that the new location’s closeness to SW London’s antipodean suburbs of Clapham, Wimbledon and Southfields,will increase its popularity.
For the new chapter in this institution’s lifespan, more outrageous and memorable acts are planned by Church staff to expand its core audience in its bigger new home.
“Even though we’ve found that previous venues have been special for our regulars, in the end its not about the venue at all, but about the people and the great times they’ve had when they’re there,” says Molteno.
“Our new home is straight across the road from Clapham Junction train station, the busiest in the UK, and has about 30 bus routes passing by it too, We’ll be a lot easier to get to.”
And God forbid you don’t get to The Church on time.
*The Church begins its New Years After Party at the Clapham Grand, 12Noon on Sunday January 3rd. Entry £7. See www.thechurch.co.uk for details.*