Missing you already: A ewelogy for the Black Sheep Bar

It’s Saturday night in Croydon and for the first time in years, our yoof correspondent JAGER B. OHM is unable to while away the hours into Sunday in his night club of choice

I have a confession to make.

Who's that sneaking in at the side, out of the sight of the bouncers..?

Who’s that sneaking in at the side, out of the sight of the bouncers..?

Before it became the first venue in Croydon to adopt a members-only finger print identification system, I would sometimes sneak into Black Sheep, underage, via the gap in the fence of the smoking area. I have no regrets, I’m glad I did what I did. And it wasn’t that tricky to do.

Once you’d made it inside the fenced perimeter, as long as you acted casual and made sure to defuse any immediate hostility to your infiltration from the paying clubbers, you were half way there. Phase two was having to convince someone to let you borrow their make-up.

Then you would forge that night’s entry stamp on your hand to get past the bouncers, as if you’d been in there all night. This part varied in difficulty. Elmo was especially hard to draw on with mascara. And occasionally I sensed it was quite evident I’d never sported any facial hair. I’m no Ethan Hunt. And sometimes the bouncers caught on.

But, all-in-all, my subterfuge system had an 80 per cent success rate. What I took for granted was that it ran so smoothly not because the security was slack, or because I was impeccably sly, but because I was, more-often-than-not, aided by those in the smoking area who had just seen me slide in.

This was what was great about Black Sheep Bar. It attracted people with a penchant for boyish shenanigans. And it persuaded me to return again and again.

The crowd it attracted varied massively from the edgy to the creepy to the weird and the wonderful. It was true to the ethos stated in its title: it celebrated differences. Inside that relatively small room, you would see anything from the alternative to the downright freakish. From Dubstep to burlesque, the Black Sheep catered for those with tastes that weren’t satisfied by the generic, churned-out, repetitive, uninspired music and scenes found in Tiger Tiger or Shoosh.

And with such a mixed crowd, you were always in for an interesting night. The atmosphere was always amicable and, if you wanted to, you could dance/skank/waltz like an idiot/badman/gentleman.

Baaad girl: Granny Sheep on one of her clubbing nights

Baaad girl: Granny Sheep on one of her clubbing nights

Yes, events like Fetish Night might have been the sort of thing that would make your grandmother’s stomach turn. Conversely, it allowed other grandmothers, notably regular Julia, also known as Granny Sheep, to take out her whip, become the sexually liberated octogenarian she is and, in one instance, get off with my mate whom we subsequently nicknamed Gerontophile Joe.

These things may not be to everyone’s taste, but the sad thing is that, in truth, Croydon hasn’t just lost a club, it’s lost its only other club. There is only one sort of night afforded by the venues that now remain. It’s one most young people are too familiar with, precisely because places like Tiger Tiger know that they can make a good deal of money by reeling in people who are willing to pay inflated prices to hear the same commercial music in an uninventive setting.

And I personally think it’s a shame that on a Thursday, Friday and Saturday night the centre of our town is flooded predominantly with the people who would choose that over a place like the Black Sheep Bar.

Factors for the bar’s closure include the recent financial atmosphere coupled with a recent plan to build flats above the venue, leading to a regrettable yet pragmatic decision by the club’s owner of 16 years, Paul Bosick. “I’ve got no intention of making Black Sheep 2,” said Bosick, “unless we open Black Sheep 2.”

So, not all hope is lost.

The strong reactions, given by many loyal supporters in mourning at the bar’s closure, indicate that there remains a substantial demand for something different and with its own character in Croydon. But we can be sure that, for the time being at least, there won’t be anything that will readily fill the Sheep-shaped-hole left in Croydon’s night life.

Farewell Black Sheep Bar, ye shall be sorely missed.

And to Mr Bosick and his staff: sorry about sneaking in, but we all had a sensational time.


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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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