Can you tell us a bit about the club and your day to day roles?
John: I purchased the property in 1999 when it was actually a lorry driver’s truck stop. I’d been on the swinging scene for many years, I knew a lot of people on the scene and this particular property was pointed out to me by one of them as being in a good location, i.e. no houses nearby and a good size space. We did some work on it and started to run it as a Swingers venue, back then I didn’t intend to manage it, but it ended up that way. However; since Chanelle has joined us it’s dramatically altered my role. I was doing all of the day-to-day stuff that is really time-consuming and long hours where you can be working until 4 or 5am, but now Chanelle has joined as General Manager my job is easier, and I can just take care of the financial stuff. At the moment I’m taking care of the refurb of the club, but when that’s done my job will be a doddle thanks to Chanelle.
Chanelle: I first started working at Liberty Elite about ten years ago before I then worked for another hotel group, but when I returned to the area John offered me the job. I wasn’t sure at first as I didn’t want to commit to such a huge role as it’s so time consuming as obviously everyone relies on you. We’ve got staff in all day at different times doing different jobs, as we’re a club with rooms on site. I have to make sure the stock is sorted, that everything is completely clean etc, there’s a lot to do and then there’s all the marketing and admin which is huge because there are so many swinging sites out there now to work with.
You mention the growing number of websites. Has the internet had a massive impact on the scene?
Chanelle: Definitely, the internet has made everything massive, as it’s made the world a smaller place. At the touch of a finger you can go anywhere you want to.
John: When I was originally on the scene, I never heard the term ‘swingers’ it was always called ‘wife-swapping’. I think ‘swinging’ was an Americanism that came in in the 1990’s. In the old days there was no way of contacting other people, believe it or not it was quite parochial and swapping partners with the likes of old school mates or people you knew in your local town who was the go-to person. Now because of the internet it’s a totally different ball game, we get people from all over the country and world, we have a couple come once a month from South Africa, we have people from France and Italy and we only have 12 on-site rooms, so we make the area quite busy when we’ve got a big party on and it’s all to do with the internet.
Have you noticed an increase in members in recent years? Or people that are new to the scene that hadn’t contemplated it before?
Chanelle: I definitely think so, until recently and before the internet you’d be posting flyers through people’s doors to market something and you can’t do that for something like swinging, because it’s still seen as quite a taboo subject. I mean it’s getting more accepted, but there’s still an air about it where some people don’t want to admit they’re curious, but with the internet you can look into it and decide if you want to try and find out more. A lot of people think that people who are on the scene have six heads, they don’t realise they’re just normal everyday people.
The documentary touches on the fact that single woman have said they feel safer swinging than going on an online date, is that something you’ve found to be true?
Chanelle: Being a non-swinger and working in this environment I can honestly say yes, I think it is! A lot of people don’t understand why I do this job, and hopefully I’ve made that clear in the documentary, but as someone on the outside of the scene I just think this is such a safe environment for young men and women so I can understand why people, especially single ladies choose to use clubs like ours. If single ladies are out on the town you don’t know who’re you’re talking to, whereas here you can do what you want. You can have a drink, take it a bit further if you want to, or not. And there’s always somebody about, so they know that nothing bad is going to happen.
Are there more single women that you’re seeing than when you worked there ten years ago?
Chanelle: Yes, this time around I’ve noticed more single ladies and now more groups of single ladies too. Friends will come together, not necessarily to play together, I don’t mean that, it’s more the social aspect for them.
John: It’s a very safe environment, it’s a non-pressured environment, people come in and they decide what they want and what they’re happy with and that applies to young women as much as anyone else, I think young ladies have more confidence now.
Chanelle, as you say you’re not on the swinging scene why is it that you enjoy working at the club?
Chanelle: It’s the environment. I don’t think I would feel the same working at a regular club, because you’ve always got that element where you’re more likely to get trouble, whereas here there is never any. It’s so much more laid back, everyone is friendly. I can’t honestly think of one person that’s been horrible, if there was, they’d be asked to leave and wouldn’t be invited back. I think that’s what makes it a nice place to work.
Is there a perception of people on the swinging scene that you would like to change by people watching the documentary?
Chanelle: At the minute a lot of people still have the perception that its middle aged seedy old men involved in swinging. People that aren’t on the scene are called ‘vanilla’ by swingers and when I talk to my fellow vanilla friends a lot of them still have that perception. They think you’re going to walk into a room and everyone’s going to be on top of each other and that’s not the case. You walk in and it’s like a normal bar/nightclub when you walk in through the doors. You have a drink and you socialise, if people want to play then they go to a specific room and play, when they stop they’ll come back to the bar and socialise and so on.
John: People tend to imagine that it’ll be seedy and what I suppose surprises new guests when they first visit is that the venue is spotlessly clean, it’s really kitted out nicely, it’s not tatty in any way shape or form and the people are very friendly and very sociable. People new to the scene and checking it out are usually amazed at what a good night they’ve had, they probably haven’t swapped on their first visit, they’ve had a good sociable night, that has altered their perception. That perception is something I can understand but it’s completely erroneous.
As the documentary showcases the swinging scene is quite diverse in terms of ages and backgrounds, do you think that’s always been the case?
Chanelle: Yes I think so we have all sorts of parties that cater for everyone, our age range is from about 24 to people in their 70’s…
John: Don’t forget we also have a fetish element to the club which is incredibly diverse, it has a substantial element of diversity, and that’s always been the case. Though we’re quite middle of the road when it comes to the fetish side, we don’t go into sexual extremes.
What has been the impact of Covid-19 on the club? And on the swinging scene in general, that you’re aware of?
John: the impact has been obviously massive, we shut down very happily as soon as it became an issue, it’s a serious thing and it’s not over by any means. When you’re in situation, like with Swinging where you can’t possibly socially distance we certainly can’t open. Though funnily enough it was a bit of a blessing in disguise as for a few years I had totally refurbished all our overnight rooms, but I had wanted to refurbish the actual club for a long, long time in an art deco theme. Having to shut down gave me the opportunity to do that, so I didn’t look upon it instantly as a negative. We’ve spent 4 months totally refurbishing, we’ve done everything you can imagine, not just a lick of paint! I’ve had all new furniture made at a bespoke factory using the best English leather and suppliers. I’ve just spent the best part of £100,000 on the place to continue as the best club in the UK.
What is your post Covid-19 plan for the club?
John: We’re going to try and open in September just for socials, all pending risk-assessment. There are a couple of clubs that are open so I’ve been looking at what’s going on, providing we act sensibly we can have socially distanced events and act according to all parameters for people to catch-up and chat, no more than a third capacity.
Chanelle: Yes, just so that members can catch up and re-connect…
John: (jokes) They can’t ‘re-connect’ as that wouldn’t be allowed!
Chanelle: No! Just so they can catch up and socialise like with other pubs etc, as we’ve had to be away for such a long time.
Has it meant that people not being able to come to the club meant there has been a rise in people turning to Zoom to webcams?
Chanelle: Yes, we know a couple of our party hosts have tried quite successfully to do some Zoom parties, everything is virtual now isn’t it?! Though it’s again more for people to keep in touch and say ‘Hi, I’m still here’. In a time like this it does still help people, as obviously people want to interact and not be stuck in the same house seeing the same faces, so a bit of that normality keeps you sane.
John: I’m fairly confident that by 2021 we can be back to normal, I hope anyway with a vaccine. It’ll just be nice to do the socials and hear people laugh and chat until then. We know it’s a good night when we stand there and can’t hear ourselves talk over the chatter, that’s what the club is about, it’s as much about social interaction as sexual interaction.