‘A Trojan Horse Draped In A Rainbow Flag’

Below is the text of the speech delivered by Amy Roberts (co-chair, Friends of the Joiners Arms) at Tower Hamlets Development Committee, August 2017.

Councillors, thank you for giving me an opportunity, as a representative of the LGBTQI community of east London, to speak on this proposal.

I’m here today because queer spaces matter to me. These are spaces where I feel safe. In the 13 years that London has been my home, I have been called a dyke by passers-by and been victim to a violent homophobic attack on the street. On nights out in non-queer spaces I have had pictures taken of me by strangers when I have been dancing with another woman and had my gender brought into question when I walk into female toilets. There are countless other examples I could give you of how I have been made to feel vulnerable, inferior, unsafe, because of who I am, the way I look, and because of the people I love. And I’m not alone. My experiences, and much worse, are echoed by countless others.

I cannot put into words the immense feeling of liberation when I walk into a place like the Joiners Arms. London has lost 58% of its LGBTQI spaces in the past 10 years, including 70% of spaces in Tower Hamlets. We DESPERATELY need these spaces in order to feel safe and thrive as a community.

I’m sure you’ve seen in the media over the last couple of days, a lot of celebratory remarks about how groundbreaking it is to have the queer character of a venue as a condition for planning approval. And perhaps it is. But we need to recognise: what’s proposed is NOT a viable replacement for east London’s most iconic queer venue.

Experts, including CAMRA and independent LGBTQI operators, have assessed the proposed A4 space. Everyone reached the same conclusion:

With no basement storage space, no off-street smoking area, no ancillary accommodation, and a condition that it closes EARLY seven days a week, we cannot possibly hope to have a space resembling or replacing the highly-popular, late-license community pub that was The Joiners Arms.

Further, the proposed Heads of Terms do not provide any legal protection: control over the selection and approval of the queer operator and the commercial terms of the venue remains entirely in the hands of the applicant.

Councillors, you are fully aware of the Trojan Horse tactics employed by developers to gain local authority approval, whereby a pub is promised but fails to materialise. In our view THIS is nothing more than a Trojan Horse draped in a rainbow flag.

Tower Hamlets NEEDS a queer community venue that caters for people before profit.

936 days after its closure, we want nothing more than the Joiners to re-open. We want nothing more than the queer community to witness the establishment of an LGBTQI venue that will replace just one of the DOZENS that have been shut across London. We want nothing more than to end nearly three years of campaigning with a victory for our community, after we’ve endured countless cuts to our vital services and an ongoing rise in hate crime. We want nothing more than a safe, fun, liberating space where we can meet, make friends, fall in love and dance.

But this MUST have the diverse voices of our community at the front of any proposal. The Joiners Arms has served communities in Tower Hamlets for over 150 years, 20 of which served the queer community, what is another 6 months to get this right?

We ask you to reject this current proposal in favour of finding a long term, viable alternative that will truly re-provide the Joiners Arms for our community.

Advertisements

TOWER HAMLETS COUNCIL HAMPERS PROPERTY DEVELOPERS’ BID TO DEMOLISH ICONIC EAST END QUEER VENUE, THE JOINERS ARMS

London Borough of Tower Hamlets Development Committee today, on 9 August 2017, decided to defer a decision on a planning application submitted by Regal Homes. The plans would have seen the Joiners Arms demolished, and replaced with a drinking establishment which campaigners say was a ‘trojan horse’, designed to fail. The council agreed with this assessment and made the decision to defer on the basis that the proposal does not provide a viable replacement for the much loved East End LGBTQI+ venue.20794972_10211935841003669_1819859488_o.png

Friends of the Joiners Arms (FOTJA) who’ve been campaigning tirelessly for nearly three years to return the venue to the LGBTQI+ community, spoke first in opposition to the proposed development. FOTJA sought independent advice from existing LGBTQI+ venue operators, the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), planning experts and specialist lawyers who all came to the same conclusion: that the proposed A4 unit was neither viable as a public house, nor did the heads of terms offer adequate safeguards to the LGBTQI+ character of the venue.

Amy Roberts, Co-Chair of FOTJA said in submission to the planning committee:

“Councillors, you are fully aware of the Trojan Horse tactics employed by developers to gain local authority approval, whereby a pub is promised but fails to materialise. In our view this is nothing more than a Trojan Horse draped in a rainbow flag.

“936 days after it’s closure, we want nothing more than the Joiners to re-open. We want nothing more than the queer community to witness the establishment of an LGBTQI venue that will replace just one of the dozens that have been shut across London. We want nothing more than to end nearly three years of campaigning with a victory for our community, after we’ve endured countless cuts to our vital services and an ongoing rise in hate crime. We want nothing more than a safe, fun, liberating space where we can meet, make friends, fall in love and dance.

“But this must have the diverse voices of our community at the front of any proposal. The Joiners Arms has served communities in Tower Hamlets for over 150 years, 20 of which served the queer community, what is another 6 months or so to get this right?”

20786596_10211935840883666_1674324095_nAdditionally, Amy Roberts highlighted that with no basement storage space, no off-street smoking area, no ancillary accommodation, and a condition that the venue closes early seven days a week, there would be no hope of establishing a space resembling or replacing the highly-popular, late-license community pub.

A representative of the New Joiners Arms Shoreditch also spoke in opposition to the proposals. It was highlighted that the lack of appropriate fit-out by the developers would place unsustainable costs on any potential leaseholder or operator. They estimated the fit-out would cost £130,000 in total, on top of an estimated £100,000+ annual operational costs. They also insisted that any proposed unit should be placed on the corner, which would cover the historic Joiners Arms site.

Councillors expressed severe reservations about the suitability of any A4 venue to serve the communities affected by the proposed plans, as well as the high outlay costs for any potential operator. Councillors requested a site visit, further information and revisiting the plans within the next month, where the planning committee will then consider any changes to the proposals.

Dan Laverick, FOTJA campaigner, says:

“Tonight’s result demonstrates what can happen when grassroots communities organise together and stand up for their rights in the face of those who have the resources to place profit above the concerns of local communities.

“We’re incredibly proud of our campaign and we encourage other communities and minority groups, across London and the UK, to fight for what matters to them, to fight for what matters in their local areas and to fight for what matters in their lives. The outcome today shows how worthwhile these struggles are.

FOTJA are holding a public meeting on 23 August 2017 at Limewharf and the next Tower Hamlets Development Committee will be on 6 September from 7pm.

NOTES

ABOUT ‘FRIENDS OF THE JOINERS ARMS’ CAMPAIGN

LGBTQI+ campaigners fighting to save an iconic East London venue, the Joiners Arms, from demolition are to make their case to Tower Hamlets Planning Committee on 9th August 2017. The Friends of the Joiners Arms, who have fought for over two years to save the venue, successfully had the building granted Asset of Community Value status shortly before its closure in January 2015. They are now calling upon councillors to reject the property developer’s planning application, which involves building mostly office and retail space with no adequate replacement for the LGBTQI+ venue, and work with them to re-establish the venue under community control. They are inviting members of the LGBTQI+ community to attend the committee meeting and show their support for the campaign.

 

WHY THE ‘THE JOINERS ARMS’ IS IMPORTANT FOR LONDON

The Joiners Arms was the first pub in the country to pay the London Living Wage, and tried to put its maxim ‘Love, Life, Liberty’ into everything it did. It was debauched, hedonistic, fun and accepting – but it also worked outside the scope of being ‘just a queer pub’, running outreach sessions, HIV testing, and hosting community groups. As London has lost nearly 60% of its queer spaces, we want to re-open a venue that has at its heart the diverse community – a place we can all drink, dance, socialise, learn, organise and love.

 

Press Release – “LGBTQI+ community reject ‘landmark planning condition’ in defiance of property developers”

On Wednesday 9th August, Campaigners are asking Tower Hamlets Council to reject a planning application (1) that could see the iconic East London LGBTQI+ (2) venue Joiners Arms demolished.

The Friends of the Joiners Arms (3), who have fought for nearly three years to save the venue, are now calling upon councillors to reject the property developer’s planning application and work with them to re-establish the venue under community control. The application, which is the first of its kind to include a clause for the developers to give right of first refusal to LGBT operators, also limits opening hours to 11pm (12 midnight on Friday/Saturday) and a smaller total space than the historic Joiners Arms pub. Friends of the Joiners Arms are inviting members of the LGBTQI community to attend the committee meeting and show their support for the campaign outside the building.

‘Friends of the Joiners Arms’ (FOTJA) co-chair Amy Roberts said

“With no basement space, no off-street smoking area, no ancillary accommodation, and a recommendation from the officers that it closes early 7 days a week, we cannot possibly hope to have a space resembling or replacing the important role the Joiners Arms played in our community. The proposed planning clause also allows the developers to ‘mark their own homework’ in terms of selecting an LGBTQI+ operator. Tower Hamlets has lost 70% of its queer spaces in the last decade, and we believe this application will guarantee we lose in our aim to re-provide a late-licence, community-focussed LGBTQI+ space.

We appreciate the commitment Tower Hamlets council and its councillors have made to saving and protecting queer venues in the borough. We – as the LGBT+ local community – ask you to continue to listen to our voices, and reject these plans. The development will not end with a queer venue opening its doors in Tower Hamlets. The council has a chance to change that.”

James Watson (Campaign for Real Ale) said:

“As pub campaigners and lovers of pubs, our starting point is always to resist the unnecessary loss of pubs. The Joiners Arms was a sound, viable business which was profitable and fulfilled a community social role as well as being an important part of the London LGBTQI+ scene. It appears that it fell victim to developer greed when the freehold was sold to the present applicant who promptly shut the pub.

It is almost unthinkable to believe that a future pub would be granted the late licence which the pub previously enjoyed. In our experience, when developers offer “new A4 space”, there is no intention of ever realistically being used as a pub. Our view is that you should resist and insist that the existing Joiners Arms is saved. You will never see anything like the equivalent venue on that site and I should be surprised if you get any practical A4 use at all if this scheme goes ahead.”

Night Tzar Amy Lame said

“In order to stem closures of LGBT+ spaces the Mayor has instructed me to make protecting LGBT+ venues an urgent priority by acting as a mediator between venue owners, and developers and pub companies, and reaching out to venues in trouble to offer support from City Hall. I hope that Tower Hamlets is able to enable the re-opening of The Joiner’s Arms as an LGBT+ venue that can act as a catalyst for the local economy and the wider borough.”

About Friends of the Joiners Arms
The Friends of the Joiners Arms is a campaign group seeking to re-open and develop The Joiners Arms, Hackney Road. The group have secured Asset of Community Value for the pub, which will give the community a greater say in the building’s use and have priority in purchasing it.

With the building, the group intends to transform the Joiners Arms into London’s only cooperatively owned and managed LGBTQI Community Centre, while maintaining its functions as a pub with late license. This will be a space that provides vital facilities and support to all LGBTQIA individuals and allies who wish to stand up for minority communities, support one another, and proactively engage in building a future free of hate and insecurity.

Contacts

Friends of the Joiners Arms – https://thejoinersliveson.wordpress.com/ / joinersliveson@gmail.com / Peter Cragg – 07990 990868 / Amy Roberts 07961 579757

Photos available here: https://we.tl/LuFLEv6njx

Notes to Editors

  1. London Borough of Tower Hamlets Development Committee is meeting on Wed 9th August, starting 19.00. Venue is Council Chamber, 1st Floor, Town Hall, Mulberry Place, 5 Clove Crescent, London, E14 2BG. NEAREST TUBE/DLR – East India or Blackwall. Friends of the Joiners Arms will be hosting speeches and performances outside. 
  2. LGBTQI+ – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex
  3. Friends of the Joiners Arms – https://thejoinersliveson.wordpress.com/

Has the Joiners Arms been saved..?

No doubt you’ve heard that Tower Hamlets, the GLA, and our good friends Regal Homes have all decided to do the right thing and save our LGBT+ space. We don’t want to spoil the party – and we are very glad to see the crisis that is London losing 60% of its queer spaces in the last decade being taken seriously – but we want to stick our oar in:

  • The planned development has been independently reviewed by the Campaign for Real Ale who agree this is not a viable pub: opening hours will be restricted to 11pm (midnight Fridays/Saturdays); storage and working space will be compressed into the ground floor; queuing and smoking will be combined outside the front of the venue; there is no protection against noise complaints

 

  • The proposals give Regal (or whoever eventually buys the development) the opportunity to set their own “selection criteria” to decide who should run the space, and only requires them to submit choices to the GLA for “comment”

 

  • The queer community has been fighting the closure and proposed demolition of the Joiners Arms since November 2014, and arguably without this the council would have accepted Regal’s initial plans for a multi-storey block of flats with no pub – our voices matter!

 

We have been consistently arguing that the diverse LGBTQI+ community have been attacked for years, and that we are best served by a late-licence pub that is run by the community, for the community. Whilst it’s truly great to see the council, City Hall, and developers engaging with these arguments, the proposal on the table does not go far enough.

We’d love to hear your views on this – so please add your comments; email us at thejoinersliveson@gmail.com; join us at the council meeting on Wed to make your voice heard; or sign and share our petition for a community-run, late-licence Joiners

PS You can read the draft agreement between the council and Regal right here – or see pictures below

The Time Has Come… To Show Your Love!

On Wednesday 9th August, Tower Hamlets Council will decide whether or not to approve a planning application that will see the site of the Joiners Arms demolished. Friends of the Joiners Arms, with its allies, will be there to demand the application be rejected and that the venue return to the community.

So WE NEED YOU! Please join us outside Tower Hamlets Council Chamber on the evening of Wednesday August 9th to say loudly and queerly – ‘Bring Back the Joiners Arms and protect LGBTQIA+ spaces!’ This is our chance to show the people who make decisions on what our city looks like what WE want!

A dark future for LGBTQI+ venues

 

Whether you’ve been involved in the campaign before, regardless of whether you ever went to the Joiners, never mind where you’re from – this is our chance to come together and stand up to the people who think only they make decisions about our cities and our lives.

The Development Committee will sit from 19.00 to 21.00, so we want to be outside from 18.00 to welcome the councillors in, and to celebrate when the result of the decision is made.

Afterwards we’ll be heading to the White Swan (http://www.bjswhiteswan.com/) to party the night away…

Additionally, we are looking for

WITNESSES – 20 people who would like to sit in the public gallery who are actively involved in maintaining London’s queer culture.

PERFORMERS – 10 performers / speakers for outside the Council building who would like to share a 5 minute piece on why the Joiners Arms is important to you / why LGBTQIA+ spaces are essential for London.

DOCUMENTORS – 2 videographers / photographers

So if you’re able to help fill any of these special positions, please email thejoinersliveson@gmail.com to register interest!

ABOUT ‘FRIENDS OF THE JOINERS ARMS’ CAMPAIGN

LGBTQI+ campaigners fighting to save an iconic East London venue, the Joiners Arms, from demolition are to make their case to Tower Hamlets Planning Committee on 9th August 2017. The Friends of the Joiners Arms, who have fought for over two years to save the venue, successfully had the building granted Asset of Community Value status shortly before its closure in January 2015. They are now calling upon councillors to reject the property developer’s planning application, which involves building mostly office and retail space with no adequate replacement for the LGBTQI+ venue, and work with them to re-establish the venue under community control. They are inviting members of the LGBTQI+ community to attend the committee meeting and show their support for the campaign.

WHY THE ‘THE JOINERS ARMS’ IS IMPORTANT FOR LONDON

The Joiners Arms was the first pub in the country to pay the London Living Wage, and tried to put its maxim ‘Love, Life, Liberty’ into everything it did. It was debauched, hedonistic, fun and accepting – but it also worked outside the scope of being ‘just a queer pub’, running outreach sessions, HIV testing, and hosting community groups. As London has lost nearly 60% of its queer spaces, we want to open a new venue that has at its heart the diverse community – a place we can all drink, dance, socialise, learn, organise and love.

FURTHER DETAILS

You can read our full summary of objections here (under Friends Of The Joiners Arms Representation) >>> https://development.towerhamlets.gov.uk/online-applications/applicationDetails.do?activeTab=documents&keyVal=DCAPR_120786

NOTE ON ACCESSIBILITY (from the Council website)

“The Town Hall is accessible to people with special needs. There are accessible toilets, lifts to venues. Disabled parking bays and an induction loop system for people with hearing difficulties are available. Documents can be made available in large print, Braille or audio version. For further information, contact the Officers shown on the front of the agenda.”

Any queries about accessibility we are happy to speak to the council – please do let us know, or we can put you in touch with the relevant officer directly!

LOCATION

Town Hall, Mulberry Place, 5 Clove Crescent, London, E14 2BG

Nearest Tube/DLR – East India or Blackwall

Testifying – Two Years Gone – Protest, 21st Jan 2017

It’s been a long while since any of us has stood outside the Joiners, and even longer since any of us actually went in. So on Saturday 21st Jan, we decided to mark the two year anniversary of the closure of the pub…

joiners20170121-03

Our friends from We Are The Black Cap campaign group – who hold a vigil outside the shuttered Black Cap every Saturday – came down to lend their support and show us how to make a scene. This entailed shouting ‘WE’RE HERE – WE’RE QUEER – WE’RE NOT GOING TO DISAPPEAR’ and enjoying the range of reactions from passers-by. Facial expressions varied from a puzzled ‘what is Joiners?’, to a bright ‘I used to go there’, via ‘get the f— out the f—ing bus lane.’

joiners-20170121-02

Standing outside the building was a good opportunity to look at how the area has changed in the last two years. New residential buildings have sprung up, seemingly designed to be as individually repugnant and collectively incoherent as possible, creating a noisy, unfinished and crowded rodeo from what was once a relatively cohesive and charming (if that’s not a dirty word) area of architecture. The new buildings don’t seem to have done much to add to an already vibrant commercial and residential area; in fact few (if any) appeared to have occupants yet. The looming threat of further “developments” hangs heavy, in cleared, fenced-off spaces on both sides of Hackney Road and – perhaps most terrifying of all – the defunct Mecca Bingo, which will be replaced with a 10 storey carbuncle.

joiners-20170121-01

It was also a good opportunity to consider what hasn’t changed: there are still people passionate (or deluded) enough to think that getting together and fighting for spaces to live, socialise, and make mistakes in is worth doing. This campaign group has been together for over two years now, and we are still finding new ways to make our voices heard – whether that’s through joining forces with other campaigns, or bothering our local and metropolitan reps, or nagging away at the developers and owners. Our message remains:

We’re here.

We’re queer.

We’re not going to disappear.

Shout out to the We Are The Black Cap campaigners (Alex, Aoife, Rob, Jamie, Lazare and Chris), to London Live’s cameraman-on-a-bike (and his viewer(s)), to Richard, to Max, and to Calvin for joining us.

joiners20170121-04

Two Year Anniversary – Press Release

A demonstration will be held outside the Joiners Arms, Hackney Road, on Saturday 21st January. The demo starts at 1.30pm and is being held to mark the two year anniversary of the legendary LGBTQI venue’s closure.

The demo is organised by the Friends of the Joiners Arms, a community group founded in 2014 to save and evolve the Joiners Arms pub. The group aspires to bring the pub into community ownership, so it becomes London’s first cooperatively owned, LGBTQIA community centre, with the pub a central part of its operation.

The venue was forced to close in January 2015 as the owners – working with property developers – planned to bulldoze the venue to make way for luxury flats. The Joiners has remained empty ever since, with no plans submitted by the owners for development.

Friends of the Joiners Arms will be linking with other campaign groups, such as We Are The Black Cap and Stop The Blocks, and members of the LGBTQI and east London community to show the owners of the site that the fight continues to win back the venue.

The closure of this popular queer venue hasn’t happened in isolation. In the last decade, London has lost 50 per cent of its nightclubs [1], 40 per cent of its live music venues [2] and 25 per cent of its queer venues [3]. In east London alone, three LGBT+ venues have been forced to close due to unaffordable rents and/or owners planning to develop commercial space into luxury flats [4]. Due to Crossrail, Soho has lost several notable grassroots live music venues and LGBT+ venues [5].

Beyond the queer venues that have been forced to close, several iconic LGBT+ venues have been threatened with closure; mainly due to owners wanting to develop venues into private, luxury flats [6].

The mass closure of LGBT+ venues comes at a time when homophobic and transphobic crime is on the up [7] and LGBTQ+ specific services have been disproportionately cut [8].

A survey of over 300 LGBT+ identifying individuals revealed that the decline of queer venues in London is having a detrimental impact on the health and well-being of the community. LGBT+ venues are crucial for the safe enjoyment of socialising and building community, in a way that is open, liberating and empowering for people who experience oppression from wider society [9].

Jon Ward, co-chair of the Friends of the Joiners Arms, says:

“The Joiners was one the few late night LGBTQIA venues in the east end, and its closure has left a massive hole in queer night scene and in our hearts. The venue closed because of greed and nothing else – why should such an important queer space be left to rot when it could be such an asset to the community?”

Amy Roberts, co-chair of Friends of the Arms, says:

“We invite everyone to join us at 1.30pm on Saturday to show the strength of feeling that remains – the Joiners Arms is our space, and the community wants it back!”

 

– ENDS –

 

NOTES

 

About Friends of the Joiners Arms
The Friends of the Joiners Arms is a campaign group seeking to resist and save The Joiners. The group have secured Asset of Community Value for the pub, which will give the community a greater say in the building’s use and have priority in purchasing it.

With the building, the group intends to transform the Joiners Arms into London’s only cooperatively owned and managed LGBTQI Community Centre, while maintaining its functions as a pub with late license. This will be a space that provides vital facilities and support to all LGBTQIA individuals and allies who wish to stand up for minority communities, support one another, and proactively engage in building a future free of hate and insecurity.

 

https://www.facebook.com/Friends-of-the-Joiners-Arms-859212550775984/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

 

http://thejoinersliveson.com/

REFERENCES:
[1] http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/6-great-lost-british-nightclubs-6260159
[2] http://www.citylab.com/housing/2016/03/the-endangered-uk-music-venue/475647/
[3] http://hollowayexpress.co.uk/sohos-gay-nightlife-still-feeling-crush-of-the-recession/
[4] i. Joiners Arms, Hackney Road
ii. The George and Dragon, Hackney Road
iii. Nelsons Head, Horatio Street
[5] i. Madame Jojos
ii. 12 Bar
iii.Candy Bar
[6] i. The Royal Vauxhall Tavern
ii.The Yard
[7]http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/figures-reveal-a-shocking-rise-in-homophobic-hate-crimes-a6692991.html
[8]https://www.theguardian.com/housing-network/2015/may/20/lgbt-housing-devastated-austerity-cuts-homeless
[9] Research conducted by Friends of the Joiners Arms, 2015 – data available upon request.