The Colony Room

The story behind the legendary Soho club co-founded by Francis Bacon
Art | 14 April 2020

Above image: Peter O’Toole working behind the bar of the Colony / © Collection of the author

Following a successful crowdfunding campaign led by London artist Darren Coffield, a new book celebrating the history of one of Soho’s most legendary drinking clubs is set to be published.

Founded in 1948 by its lifelong patron Muriel Belcher, the Colony Room Club would, over the next 60 years, become a notoriously louche drinking den of the post-war arts community, the flagship of Soho’s bohemian scene frequented by artists, writers, musicians, aristocrats and pop stars.

GALLERY

After Francis Bacon walked in the day after the club’s official opening, striking up an instant rapport with Belcher (who called him ‘Daughter’ and gave him a weekly £10 allowance to entertain friends and rich acquaintances on the premises), the Colony Room club would become forever synonymous with the painter and his drinking companions, which included George Melly, Jeffrey Bernard and Lucian Freud.

Within its famous green walls, the cultural history of London played out in real-time, a melting pot of talent and major names that would otherwise never find themselves under the same roof. Anyone who was anyone drank there. From the Kray Twins mingling with royalty, The Clash rubbing shoulders with Isabella Blow and Christopher Hitchens asking Kate Moss for a fiver.

From the beginning, the club’s inclusive attitudes towards sexual non-conformity allowed its gay scene to thrive, something which remained a crucial part of its identity until its doors closed in 2008. This book, which commemorates a decade since that moment, provides a written oral history of the club’s halcyon days, when the most influential minds of the time sat at the same bar, burping and slurping long into the night.

Tales from the Colony Room: Soho’s Lost Bohemia by Darren Coffield will be published via Unbound in Spring 2020.

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