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We speak to the XXL team ahead of their 18th

Big bear club XXL is turning 18 this year. They’re one of London’s biggest club nights, attracting thousands every Saturday night, all year round.

This Saturday they’re pulling out all the stops for their annual birthday celebrations. We spoke to owner Mark to find out more.

XXL’s turning 18 – for those who don’t know, how did it all begin?

The idea had been in my head for a few years before starting XXL. The London scene was very different then, better in some ways (we had so many bars and small venues) worse in others (general populous had very low esteem about our community with lots of violence and hate towards us) but the 90s was all about change, and in London more so. People say everything happens for a reason – for me that’s been true! In short, an opportunity was there for me, despite knowing zero about how clubs or hospitality worked.  I’d been out raving since I was a teen, and I was on the chub, leather, clone scene as soon as I came out and got to know London! So I took the best and tried to lose the worst of all my nights out – for the section of the gay scene I identified with and called mates!  

Give us a bit of history about the venue, Pulse.

XXL started along the road in my first venue, then moved to Pulse. What many don’t see or know is the constant battle to keep venues open. I’ve been locked up in cells overnight, had court cases and wasted a small fortune on legal battles. But to say “I’m still here” is obvious and XXL is just one aspect of Pulse. It’s a corporate venue as well fashion shows, the launch of the new Bentley is booked and the toast of London’s Blue Chip festive parties. It’s also got a close relationship with the arts and donates both money and space to them from the Old Vic to individual artists. I’ve always intended to gift its lease to the LGBT community when I retire, as it’s crazy there’s not one in London! 

What’s been your best moment over the years?

I hate this question, and I could write a book there’s been so many! But I’ll give you one of my worst recurring one’s – every New Year I’m as happy as everyone in the club, but worrying it’s going to fuck up…. then bang and all’s on ok, it’s all hugs and then really the one man I want to hold and kiss is not here I’m working and he’s five-hundred miles away with his family, but the show goes on! 

What does the brand mean to you?

It’s my way of life. It’s what I believe in for the type of gay men I identify with! And I’m sorry if you feel excluded due to the membership and door entry rules, but it’s been this way for eighteen years. I’d help give advice to anyone, to achieve as I have for their tribe of the rainbow nation. I get flack for standing my ground, but hey is that not what we as gays do! It’s in our hearts to be different and struggle. I battled day and night to make XXL work, for myself and for London’s bears, cubs, chubs, chasers and gay men generally  – but rules are rules.  

What have you got planned for this weekend’s party?

To get utterly intoxicated and forgive those cant afford two pairs of footwear. 

What’s in store for the future of XXL? 

Change and continuum.

XXL 18th Birthday this Saturday 29th September at Pulse London. For more info, head to

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