A detailed pencil drawing of a trio of muscular men wearing revealing leather and denim fetish wear

John Edwards and The Backstreet

Saturday Talks Series

John Edwards, founder of The Backstreet, leads a talk on the iconic venue, leatherman subcultures, and the work of Tom of Finland.

For 37 years, The Backstreet was a legendary part of the gay bar and leather scene, becoming the longest-running and strictest men-only leather bar in London. In 1987, Edwards commissioned two drawings from Tom of Finland to help promote The Backstreet. The drawings, one a leather man and the other a rubber man, replaced the earlier club logo of a pair of boots, and soon became synonymous with The Backstreet, appearing on posters, flyers, and newsletters.

This event forms part of our Saturday Talks series, in which artists, curators and writers lead personal responses to Beryl Cook / Tom of Finland. These talks, readings and performances are an opportunity to explore specific aspects of the exhibition, from 'bad taste' to class tourism, masculinity and sexuality in the military, and London's lost queer spaces.

  1. Edwards opened the club in 1985, and worked the door and cloakroom until 2013, but remained the owner until the club’s closure in 2022. A leather and fetish bar, it held regular themed nights with strict dress codes. Club nights included Mastery nights, BLUF [Breeches and leather uniform fanclub], ROL, Meatrack, Unzipped [naked night], Unzipped Light [naked, jock, underwear or fetish], Skin, Sports and Gentlemen. The Backstreet’s distinctive decor included close to a hundred leather boots hung throughout the club and walls adorned with posters from leather bars around the world.

    Items from The Backstreet’s archive are now held in the collections of the Bishopsgate Institute and The Museum of London.

  2. Tom of Finland, On the Bike, 1973. © 1973 Tom of Finland Foundation.

Suggested donation £5

Saturday 17 August 2024, 3–3.30 pm

Studio Voltaire
1A Nelsons Row
London SW4 7JR

Open Wednesday–Sunday, 10 am–5 pm.

Registered Charity No: 1082221. Registered Company No: 03426509. VAT No: GB314268026