4: Shim Sham Club


33-37 Wardour Street, in what is now O'Neills

Interwar Soho saw the opening of a small number of jazz clubs and bottle parties. The Shim Sham opened as a ‘bottle party’, a type of members club that got round licensing restrictions because customers would ship booze in from late-night wine shops.

Artist models, writers and musicians, as well as Queer, Black and Jewish Londoners would tap dance the night away. One of the key musicians was gay African-American pianist Garland Wilson, who performed on Shim Sham’s opening night in 1935.

Unlike the cramped rooms and cellars that housed most of Soho's clubs, the Shim Sham had a streetlevel facade that led downstairs to "an expansive and brilliantly lit room" with an elevated platform and a large dance floor surrounded by tables.

The club was often raided by plainclothes policemen who infiltrated Black clubs and noted the presence of "Lesbian type[s]" and "women dancing together" along with "interracial couples on the dance floor."

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In 1937 the club’s name changed to Rainbow Roof and later on the venue became the Flamingo Club.