I Went To Maggie's Club, London's Thatcher-Worship Club Night
The neoliberal dream lives on, in a club where you can drink 'A Miner's Cap'.
Our 'proper' camera got taken off us, so we had to make do with a crappy camera phone. Sorry.
Prominent socialist thinker William Morris wrote of capitalism, "What sordid, and even terrible, details it surrounds the poor, what a mechanic and empty life she forces on the rich". Prominent rapper Danny Brown said of table service in clubs, "You might not really be ballin'!". An evening at Maggie's Club in Fulham, Britain's most overt attempt to combine expensive nightlife and a celebration of free market ideology, would seem to confirm both these assertions.
Named after neo-liberalism's great queen, Maggie's Club attempts to combine worship of Margaret Thatcher with an 80s guilty pleasure playlist. As with many Tory politicians in the wake of The Iron Lady's death last year, the club presents her as some sort of Churchillian unifying figure who transcended party allegiances, rather than a woman who sparked more celebration by dying than implementing policy. There is a definite sense that, for all the overt repping of her ideology, the exclusivity of admission and the fact that it's actually frequented by Tory politicians, Maggie's wants to give an image of being just a fun, nostalgic, and apolitical night out.
However, a quick scan through their Twitter feed would suggest their clientele are clearly there to celebrate individualism as much as they are to listen to DJ Hayden Jay mix 'Take On Me' into '99 Red Balloons'. Marketing managers, the offspring of European millionaires and forgotten X Factor contestants flock in their droves to drink £7 bottles of Asaki, and pray at the altar of aspiration. To an outsider this seems like a pretty tame way to celebrate being the 1%, but then it is hard to make a real judgement without actually trying it out. So I decided to trade in Rich Kidz for rich kids, borrowed some young Tory garms, and headed to Fulham for a taste of the neo-liberal nightlife.
The general consensus on the internet was that Maggie's is kinder to groups of predominantly females, which is ironic for a bar themed on the original opponent of positive discrimination. To make sure the proles don't get in the way of any investment bankers cutting a Randian rug, the entry charge is £15. The rawness of this deal does not quite hit home until you realise that what you're paying for is the luxury of sitting at a Rubik's Cube table, while a middle-aged man switches between the first ten editions of NOW That's What I Call Music! Although it is comforting to know that if you get really fed up, you can sneak off to the bathrooms and do a line off a Union Jack toilet seat whilst, honestly, being treated to Thatcher's speeches over the speakers.
But then, surely it's the people that make the place? Deciding to get in the spirit of terrible taste, I headed for the dance floor to throw some synchronised shapes with what looked like a lost middle manager and a girl who was paid to roller skate around the venue, but clearly not to pretend she was enjoying it. Then again, earning £6.50 entertaining rich right-wingers is a thoroughly miserable way to make a living.
For all you would expect nothing but six figure salaries and inheritance funds, the crowd was actually a strange one. As She would have wanted, the club had very little communal atmosphere; a collection of bizarre individuals ranging from really rich people having the time of their life, to foreign students who had little idea what Maggie Thatcher stood for, or just how much middle class British people love singing along to 'Total Eclipse of the Heart'.
However, after being disappointed by the initial reserved responses to my questions about Margaret Thatcher, the place began to fulfil my expectations when this Norwegian investment firm owner, pictured alongside our petrified photographer, answered the question "Are you having a good night?" with "I dream about sleeping with Margaret Thatcher. She's so, so sexy."
This was quickly followed by the son of the Bulgarian ambassador to Britain, introduced to me by a woman who looked like a member of Silvio Berlusconi's cabinet, boasting about his wild lifestyle. Taking a break from playing air guitar to 'Agadoo', he told me that he didn't work, and just lived in the most expensive part of London partying every night. He then kindly posed doing the devil horns alongside part of his entourage, before making himself hoarse shouting along to 'Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For'.
Maggie's aims to celebrate the free markets, the 80s wave of new self-made wealthy capitalists, and the entire pop culture of the time. It tries to de-politicise it - all the while selling a drink called A Miner's Cap - and present the decade as halcyon days where Thatcher's policies indisputably changed the country for the better. They want to attract those at the top as evidence of the greatness of neo-liberal capitalism, and what ambition and hard work can win. From the outside it looks like the kind of place only ardent Tories would go to and while I did meet two Daily Mail employees, a stockbroker and a senior marketing manager, for the most part the people seemed fairly normal, and confused as to why they had decided to have a below par night out.
In reality, a night at Maggie's, while basically just people with rubbish music taste and a propensity to waste money enjoying themselves, does say something about Britain, albeit more in 2014 than 1985: a tiny minority having a great time while the majority wander around aimlessly, hanging around because they see a couple of people having the time of their lives, and think they might, at some point, be able to share in the euphoria. All the while, a toilet attendant on minimum wage breaks down with gratitude, as he is tipped a pound by the brand development manager at Jim Beam.
You can follow Jonny Chadwick on Twitter here: @jonnychadwick93