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Oppose the developers: London is fighting to protect its LGBTQ+ clubs

The capital has lost 58 per cent of LGBTQ+ venues in the last decade and the community they serve has had enough

  • Words: Jim Ottewill | Illustration: Lawrence Abbott
  • 4 October 2017
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Knickerbocker is a club night run by Alex Lawless, producer of Charlie Sloth on BBC Radio 1Xtra and Radio 1, and Aaron Wright, Artistic Director of Fierce Festival, Birmingham's international festival of performance.

Set up as a “party where you could go on a Saturday night wearing a plain t-shirt, get wrecked, pull and go home at 4am”, it’s doing great things in the community. The pair are optimistic about the new precedents being drawn up for how we all, regardless of whether we’re L, G, B, T or indeed anything, live our lives after dark.

“Look at the way 'straight' venues like The Bakery and The Nines in Peckham are starting their own gay nights. Look at Chapter 10 - London's best gay rave. Perhaps as sexuality becomes more fluid, our co-option of space needs to become less binary too,” they say.

“Ultimately this is not a story of gay bars closing, but of cool places to go out being ruined by people who want to go to sleep in silence at 10.30pm on a Tuesday.”

So where does this leave us? After the appointment of Night Czar Amy Lame, who has helped launch the LGBT+ Venues Charter, the recent victory for the Joiners campaigners and hopefully the return of The Black Cap, at a fairly optimistic point.

But Jon still believes more needs to be done in a world where profit rules.

“Local councils need to prioritise community needs when looking at planning applications, and to listen to those who speak for local communities. It would also be useful for the whole process to be more transparent and accessible. It’s this that will help us save our spaces, particularly those like the Joiners that gave us the opportunity to laugh, love, and have a ridiculously fabulous time.”

Jim Ottewill is a freelance journalist

Lawrence Abbott is an artist and freelance creative designer. Follow him on Twitter

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