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Tuesday, 15 October 2013 07:46

40 Years of Leather

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On a damp Wednesday evening on 17th October 1973 over 90 leather guys crammed into the room above the Colherne pub in Earls Court to debate forming a social networking club for gay and bisexual leather guys to meet and socialize is a safe environment.  This was the beginning of the leather club MSC London known back then as Motor Sport Club London and within just three months its membership had more than tripled to 293 members.

The first meetings were held at the Villiers pub in Charing Cross before a more permanent move to The Bedford Head in Maiden Lane. Various sub-groups were formed including a Bike Group, Social Group, Charity Group (MSC London has raise many thousands of pounds for gay charities over the years) and a Television Entertainments Group that produced a regular News Programme! Events held during the first year included the infamous Solent74 trip, when the club chartered a whole train from Waterloo and visits to other similar clubs in Berlin and Amsterdam when MSC London twinned with MS Amsterdam. 

By June 1975 membership had risen to 530 with packed out club night meetings at the Bedford Head pub.  New ‘MSC’ clubs quickly formed in the wake of the success of MSC London: MSC Pennine Chain, MSC Scotland and MSC Midland Link were three of them during this year alone and then the natural progression was to form the Fellowship of United Kingdom Clubs (FUKC) an umbrella group for UK clubs. By August of the same year membership stood at 596 growing to the club’s peak of 800 members and overseas members in 1976!

Much has happened in the preceding years as Thursday 17th October 2013 is the official 40th birthday of MSC London.

Paul Turner, President of MSC London, said “It is a real privilege to be president of a club with such a rich history. It’s hard to understand now the difficulties that our founding members were taking on when they bravely set about forming a leather fetish social club in London; gay sex was only recently legal and none of the rights and laws that we all take for granted now existed way back then”

MSC London has had some challenges along the way, the biggest being when in 1979 the club was infiltrated by two undercover reporters from ‘News of the World’ who went on to published a devastating article in the now defunct paper about the club. “This is a shock report on the vilest men I have encountered in 27 years of investigating corruption.  It does not make pleasant reading. But it has to be reported to bring home to the authorities depravity organized on a scale that is a threat to decent society”. 

Club Treasurer, Peter Chapman said of the article “Today, the article seems laughable but at the time it was very worrying. However, it had an effect the News of the World neither intended nor would have wanted: the publicity enabled the club to 'come out' and membership grew because of the publicity generated which has no doubt helped MSC London to continue for 40 years!”

The club will be celebrating in style this weekend with a packed agenda of events including a 40th Birthday Reception on Friday 18th October at Expectations from7pm ‘til 11pm withfree bar and hot hunky barmen in just jocks and boots. Then on Saturday morningthe club will have a ‘sins of the city’ walking tour with a blue badge guide. Then in the evening the club will hold a formal champagne and canapé reception and leather gala dinner to celebrate 40 years onboard MV Edwardian as they ‘cruise’ the Thames to Milbank; followed by an after party at Bar Berlin, the Hoist. On Sunday members and friends will reconvene at Central Station for a farewell brunch followed by a visit to SOP.

Paul went on to say “Whilst the club and its members have faced many hurdles along the way, in true MSC spirit they have ventured forward supporting their leather and the wider community from rising funds for charity, setting up HIV support groups and campaigning for LGBT rights over the years.  Our membership is not what it used to be in the club’s ‘heyday’ but it is slowly rising as we use various forms of social media to reach out and engage with a new generation of leather men who find the social aspect of the club appealing”.

Details of the clubs 40th celebrations and all their events and activities can be found on their website www.msclondon.co.uk

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