Guilty Pleasures Halloween Horror Ball: The Freaks Come Out in Camden


Birthday boy Sean Rowley and his brilliantly crass Guilty Pleasures crew returned to Camden’s Koko this Halloween for another evening of ‘shameless blameless’ fun.

THE London pop music monthly that includes dazzlingly naff performances by fat lycra-clad dancers and candid Can Can girls churned the cheese factor up a gear with a Halloween Horror Ball of blood-curdling proportions.

The decadent surroundings of the former Camden Palace – the Grade-II listed venue with ornate balconies and a giant glitter ball centrepiece – provided the perfect place for skeletons, Satans, witches and werewolves to bump and grind to disco ballads and soft rock classics. There were some seriously dodgy hair-dos, moustaches and polyester leotards – bloodied and brazenly piss-taking to ‘80s pop beats.

Rowley and his tasteless cohorts must have made a mint out of making pop’s outcasts popular again, and faves included lost gems like Toto’s Africa, Van Halen’s Jump, Michael Jackson’s Thriller and The Rocky Horror Picture Show’s Time Warp. Revellers excelled in the fancy dress stakes, and on-stage antics included three very funny fat-bellied dancers in briefs, some rockin’ white witches and a troupe of Umper Lumpers.

Conceived seven years ago when Rowley chose to break from the tedium of “going to clubs and seeing people being serious and sexy”, Guilty Pleasures became an antidote to the typical party scene. “There’s no sort of posing or posturing,” Rowley says. “We put on a show and it’s very fun.”

Today Guilty Pleasures has spawned compilation CDs, a radio show, a festival stage and a whole new scene for thirty-something ex-ravers who needed a change from conventional club culture. The night provides a certain sense of nostalgia for those old enough to remember the classics and those young enough to appreciate them in all of their irresistibly unfashionable glory. From out of the woodwork cool kids started fessing up to their guiltiest pleasures, began dusting off their record collections, donning sequins and forgetting all that’s cool; a phenomenon was born and the madcap club night has become so massively popular that it packs out Koko every month.

Highlights of the Halloween Ball included a round-up of the best outfits on stage – including a man dressed as a sherbet dip dab – and a celebratory birthday cake for Rowley. And although Koko was like a sauna and a bit of a scrum at the bar, it didn’t detract from the night’s festive spectacle and seriously silly fun.

First published on I Voice, Ibiza, November 2011.
© Abbey Stirling