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01 Feb 2010

Seven years ago, Tim Jones and some friends launched Tonker onto London’s gay scene. Each week it offers a packed out club space for gay men to meet and mingle, living by the ethos of ‘booze, cruise and tunes.’ So why has it been such a big hit?

Jonny M talks to Tim Jones about providing an antidote to the commercial gay scene.

Why did you launch Tonker onto the scene? 
We had had enough of poor music and the lack of a men-only space, plus the move to bland corporate clubbing and the attitude of most of the larger venues had become annoying. We wanted a fun party for our friends with good music, and it just blossomed from there.

And why do you think it has been such a success? 
Everyone says there is no attitude, it’s a club for all comers, some call it a ‘bear’ club, but I prefer to call it a ‘blokes’ club – the bear label is so dated today and carries with it the attitude and feeling we were trying to pull away from. Also our music is very fresh, we use many DJs from the London scene and beyond, not just the same old roster week in week out which others have.

What makes it different to other nights in Vauxhall? 
Fridays need a special formula to work. Most people want to go out, meet friends and have a few drinks, rather than go crazy and have a full on dance experience. We try and cater for all, so with The Eagle you have the choice of a quiet bar or a dance bar plus an excellent patio space. Our clientele also make it very special, we have a firm following of great guys who are really welcoming to new customers and create a very special atmosphere.

What’s the crowd like at Tonker? 
It tends to be the over 25s blokes and guys – a very sexy mix of ‘guy next door’ meets your favourite dad or uncle and rugby player!

You usually adopt a men-only door policy. Why do you feel it’s important to do this? 
Everyone who attends agrees that we have lost the men only spaces in London and that the other clubs have to adopt a more mixed policy to keep the cash rolling in. Our party brings back the older view that gay men want to hang out with gay men, not with the addition of the girls from Essex Brigade out for a laugh. We find the formula works very well. If someone wants to bring an occasional girlfriend we are open to that if it’s not a special party and they check with us beforehand.

Why is the Eagle such a great venue for Tonker? 
The Eagle is unique, it has the traditional pub feel with a great bar for cruising around, plus a good dance space, which is even better now the sound system has been upgraded! Plus the brilliant patio garden space at the back, which is probably the largest around. The garden really comes into its own in the summer and we aim to use it more for BBQs and cook outs as the nights warm up. "It tends to be the over 25s blokes and guys – a very sexy mix of ‘guy next door’ meets your favourite dad or uncle and rugby player!"

You’ve had some pretty special guest DJs over the last couple of years. Who were your favourites? 
I think Danny Ramping on New Year’s Eve was a highlight – he is amazingly professional and you could feel the atmosphere in the venue really get electric when he played, he was taken aback with the night and loved it. We have had so many DJs this past year, over twenty different ones playing sets, to pick another best is really difficult, but I think memorable mentions go to Pagano, Per QX, Simon Le Vans and Deep Wolf.

What style of music is Tonker famous for? 
Tonker does not limit itself to one style of music, our view is that at 9:30pm on a Friday you don’t want the biggest progressive tracks blaring out as you walk in. We try to move it up as the evening moves on. So we start off with cool house, funky house and disco tracks, then move it up a notch to more tech and progressive numbers, after 2am it depends on the feel of the crowd – a good guest DJ will have them baying for more by then. We do try and avoid the poor style minimal electro tracks – they just don’t work.2009 was a big year for Tonker.

What was the highlight? 
Gosh many things, going to Madrid Pride was huge for us, Milk in The Park in the summer was a brilliant party and our area was kicking! Plus the nights we did with AlphaMale Media were a massive hit with all, the shows were eye wateringly good! New Year’s Eve was probably the highlight – it started in the planning as a small party for our nearest and dearest and turned into a sold out, packed fun night for all, I am still getting compliments on it in January!

What are you most excited about in 2010? 
I think 2010 is looking exciting because we are travelling around The World with Tonker, Sydney for Mardi Gras, Provincetown for Bear Week, Madrid Pride again, possible Dutch parties and also Germany is on the radar. In the UK, Torquay for a special Blokes Weekend, Brighton and Manchester for Pride, plus Milk in the Park in August, which will be even bigger this year. Not forgetting our roots the regular Fridays into which we will be putting new effort and raising the bar once again this year, Tonker will be the fun place to be every Friday!

Tonker takes place at the Eagle, Vauxhall, every Friday night.


Author: Jonny M

Boyz Magazine London Issue 922 , Thursday 30.04.09

How has Tonker been going of late?

Fantastic – our numbers have gone through the roof recently. There have been nights where it’s one in one out by midnight, so get down to Eagle early for guaranteed entry! Why do you think that you have such a loyal crowd? Everyone I speak to just loves the laid back atmosphere, the great music and Eagle’s fantastic bar staff. We really seem to have hit the correct mix for a Friday night. People try elsewhere but always end up back with us. You have had quite a few good DJs recently – who’s really pushed your Tonker button lately?

Our regulars are great, but I have to say Micky Galliano has really made the party rock. Plus we had Danny Rampling at New Year Is there anyone famous out there who you’d really like to turn up at Tonker?

We’d love to see Russell Crowe in his Gladiator outfit, any of the players from the England Rugby team and maybe athlete Geoff Capes too. What about Hugh Jackman, aka Wolverine from the X-Men?

He’s hot, but I don’t think I could cope with the shredded sheets and curtains at the afterparty at my place.