For a couple of weeks back in 2011, Angel Club brought LGBT clubbing to the centre of Shanghai. The Wulumuqi Lu space, now Arkham
, was so regularly packed (with an overwhelmingly male clientele) that many partygoers were forced to spill out onto the street.
Unfortunately, the club was promptly shut down. Whether this was due to the authorities finding such an obvious LGBT venue in the centre of town unpalatable or whether they really believed some of the lurid stories allegedly fed to them about the club remains unclear (it’s likely a combination of these reasons), but Angel responded by taking their parties on the road.
Stints at a number of venues around town followed – Circus, MJ Club and Dubai have all hosted hugely popular parties organised by Angel in the years since – but now the company has a home of its own once more with the opening of ICON at Shanghai Stadium.
With the club boasting a capacity of 1,500 and spanning two floors, a preview event we attended revealed a suitably enormous space. Tables are dotted around an upstairs balcony that overlooks an impressively lit stage and wide open ground floor with a lowered dance area. It feels like a modern day Coliseum, only the gladiators here are more lovers than fighters.
The venue features four bars with a variety of drinks on offer – you can splash out on flash bottles but there are a healthy amount of single drinks priced 30-40RMB. With a layout that accommodates both Chinese and Western tastes as well as the drinks deals, the club radiates inclusion.
Music from house DJs Maychin and Makr resonated through the impressive soundsystem on our visit while the lighting effects vividly brought ICON to life. ‘Madonna in drag’ and other performers took to the stage to provide the customary live shows.
Hopefully this time Angel will be left alone by the powers that be as Shanghai inches toward a more tolerant climate. As one of the new club’s managers puts it: ‘We are very happy that we have become part of the process. The situation for gay clubs is getting better and better each year’.
By Benedict Wintour