I’m sat on a cushion outside of the cloakroom in Islington’s Metal Works when a reverse centaur emerges from around a corner: top half elaborately adorned horse, bottom half fishnets and stilettos. ‘I sssssmell goat’, she hisses, sniffs, and disappears into the darkness of the corridor. I exchange looks with the faerie queen next to me, who shrugs it off and takes a sip of her drink.
The Goblin King’s Ball is Grimm fairytales come to life, now for the third year running. North London doesn’t do things by halves – every single person is in costume. Some of them – intricate rococo-style dresses, animal masks, hairstyles laced with entire gardens – had clearly been in the making for months. The venue itself, usually a haunt of metal-heads and rockers on the weekends, had been transformed into a cavern, an elven forest and a witch’s lair. God, there is glitter on everything.
The entertainment is in-vivo. Bands perform throughout the night in one of the room (a special shoutout to The Bohemianauts, a folk vaudeville ensemble inspired by Lovecraft – because why not?) and the main stage is host to dance, magic, burlesque, theatre and puppetry.
As the night wears on, we are treated to all things beautiful, grotesque, funny and just plain impressive. The acts themselves bleed into the crowd between performances. It’s hard to tell who’s there on business and who is just an especially enthusiastic punter. In the end, it doesn’t matter: everyone here has come to see and be seen. In fact, the ball may be crowned the single top spot for people watching in the capital.
The atmosphere is a blend of Lothlórien and Dark Crystal. People are very friendly (as tends to be the case at most alt nights) and the organisers avoid the common irritants of a too-packed venue or too-loud music. Having said that, the novelty and veneer wears off rather quickly. Bearing in mind that the Ball is a once-yearly masquerade and not a regular club night, it reads more like a sub-culture convention than a party. The Goblin Ball is an extraordinary and unique opportunity to inhabit an alternate universe for a night, but it’s a universe with which one has a very deep affinity.
Verdict: worth the £15 price tag if you’re really, really into Jim Henson.
The Goblin King’s Den of Iniquity took place on Sat 4 May at:
Islington Metal Works
7 Torrens Street