The secret party history of London's £1 million toilet - Features - Mixmag

The secret party history of London's £1 million toilet

From 2006-2012, Public Life held the best afterparties in the capital

  • Marcus Barnes
  • 22 January 2016

In the mid 2000s East London as we now know it - street art hub, tourist trap, playground for young professionals and hipster HQ – was in its infancy. Most of Shoreditch was still quite derelict, a forgotten part of the city where few bothered to venture and where an underground party scene flourished. For one reason or another, the gritty desolation attracted a new generation of ravers, DJs and promoters and several legendary spots popped up. They are the spaces and parties that so many of us now hear our current superstar DJs name check; Lo*Kee, T-Bar, mulletover and secretsundaze. Public Life was also among these special places, a dingy little 60-capacity, ex-public toilet on Commercial Street that served as a naughty setting for some outrageous parties. Between 2006 and 2012, it played host to events such as Kubicle, where Jamie Jones was a regular feature, and Lost Souls, where techno powerhouse Perc held residency. Now, after having its licence revoked back in 2012, the tiny space has gone on the market for £1 million. And its history must be told before it gets turned into another gourmet burger joint.

"It was pretty messy back then," says Geddes, the man behind mulletover and NoFitState. "That whole end of Commercial Street, you'd still see prostitutes walking up and down near the toilets. It was a bit of a no-go area, a complete contrast to what it is now."

Having the freedom to hold parties in an almost lawless part of the city allowed promoters at Public Life to encourage a permissive atmosphere which attracted an equally hedonistic crowd all weekend. Despite, or perhaps because of, it's miniscule capacity, after-party fiends flocked to the deserted streets around Spitalfields in search of the inconspicuous underground toilet.

Inside they'd be met with a space that would usually be filled with 100 or more inebriated ravers, though the official capacity was supposed to be 60. Much of the toilet's original make-up was still intact, adding to the clandestine allure of the place. It felt dirty and it was – a private enclave for those who wanted to squeeze the last moments of enjoyment from their already rinsed-out weekend.

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