Photo Of The Day

Photo:Anthony Linck And George Rodger. Chelsea Arts New Years Eve Ball, London.

Photo:Anthony Linck And George Rodger.
Chelsea Arts New Years Eve Ball, London.

The Chelsea Arts Ball, 1947

The Most Scandalous Party of New Year’s Eve

Some of you might have understandably sworn off parties after last nights New Year’s Eve, but I thought I might tempt you to join me in my time machine to take a tour of the most scandalous New Year’s party of them all, the Chelsea Arts Ball…

We’re at the Royal Albert Hall in London in 1947 at the annual ball thrown by the Chelsea Arts Club, a private members club founded in 1891 and still in existence today.

Their infamous balls however, are not. Banned in 1958 after 50 years of garnering a reputation for being the most outrageous event in the social calendar, the venue’s chiefs were forced to cancel the costume ball after witnessing what they considered a shocking display of terribly uncivilised behaviour indeed!

The event was attended by several thousand bohemian artists, socialites and ordinary Londoners dressed in decadent or barely-there costumes– an ideal party for people-watching!

The balls were well-known reports for public nudity, drunken displays of affection, fighting and unreserved homosexuality, which was then still illegal.

At the dawn of a decade that would see gay men put in jail for up to two years or given chemical castration as an alternative to prison, the Chelsea Arts ball was a place where gay people could feel (relatively) free to be themselves without the scrutiny and surveillance they underwent in their daily lives.

A parade of floats made by artists made a tour of the dance floor during the evening, which became the focus of a bizarre tradition to then destroy them, despite efforts of security hired to prevent the inevitable.

This British Pathé newsreel from 1954 shows the crowd (mostly art students) trying to wreck the floats…

Chelsea Arts Ball (1954)

Wishing you all a fabulous New Year however you spent it !

This photo was fished out of the LIFE archives

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