Queer spaces in London are closing at an astonishing rate. A report from University College London found that LGBTQI nightlife venues have fallen by 58% since 2006 from 125 to 53. One such victim of the closures was the Joiners Arms pub in Shoreditch, London – a vibrant venue with a proud gay counter-culture, once described as “Britain’s trendiest gay dive.”
After learning that the venue was at risk of demolishment to make way for luxury property development, a group of local punters called a public meeting to discuss options for saving the space. The prospect of registering the building as an Asset of Community Value was raised as a way of keeping the Joiners Arms alive.
“It became clear from those early days that this wasn’t just about what we could stop, but also what we could create,” says Amy Roberts, Co-Chair of Friends of the Joiners Arms. “Saving the pub didn’t seem enough! With the large number of queer spaces being taken away from us, we felt it necessary to save the space as one that would be a safe and inclusive space for our community.”
The Friends worked to successfully ensure that future development on the site would include a late-license LGBT pub the first time the protection of an LGBT+ venue has been a condition of planning approval.
While the site has been secured, the Friends of the Joiners Arms are working now to win the 25-year lease for the pub once it has been built. To do so, they aim to show how they can deliver positive social impact and demonstrate accountability to their local community.
With support from our More Than A Pub programme, the Friends hosted a series of events aimed at building community engagement and awareness. The bursary allowed them to promote and publicise these events and hire a videographer to film. Equally, they were able to register as a community benefit society.
They hope to launch a community shares offer to further promote their organisation as a diverse and inclusive one – “seeing yourself reflected in the ownership model is a great way to encourage growth and inclusion in the pub. We hope it will further improve our mission to make the pub a truly inclusive LGBT venue.”
Plans to make the pub more than just a place to drink, include hosting daytime entertainment and activities such as dances and social events for marginalised elderly LGBTQI Londoners, and outreach work focused around health, housing advice and activism. The pub plans on being fully accessible and will cater to groups from within the LGBTQI community that more commercially-orientated queer spaces often don’t cater to, including BAME people, women, those who identify as non-binary or trans, and those with access requirements .