A new documentary takes viewers back down the rickety stairs to the trailblazing Gateways in Chelsea

The Gateways is back. The longest-running lesbian club of all-time – the one whose actual clientele appeared in the 1968 film The Killing of Sister George; the one where Mick Jagger tried to talk the owner into letting him crash in a frock; the one that was a sanctuary to every class and sort of woman, from well-known figures such as the writer Patricia Highsmith and the artist Maggi Hambling (then an art student) to swimming-pool attendants at the Tooting Bec lido – has been given a new lease of life in the first full-length documentary film to celebrate its history, and ensure that it is not erased.

Behind a dull green door on the corner of King’s Road and Bramerton Street in Chelsea, down some rickety steps to the basement lay the dive, a former strip club. The lease had been won in a bet at a televised boxing event at the Dorchester hotel by course bookie Ted Ware in 1943, and initially he offered it as a hang-out to a group of his lesbian pals who had been kicked out of their old Soho haunt the Bag O’ Nails pub after new owners took over and banned them.

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