Press Release – 7 Jan 2021 – “‘Joyful Sinners’ celebrate commitments for ‘meanwhile use’ queer venue as temporary replacement for The Joiners Arms”

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Award-winning queer campaigners Friends of the Joiners Arms [1], who have fought proposals to demolish iconic queer venue The Joiners Arms [2] since 2014, announce that they have obtained new commitments for an LGBTQ+ venue to be reprovided in the redevelopment of the site, including a new landmark commitment for developers to pay towards a meanwhile-use space.

As part of new proposals to turn the wider site into a hotel, developers have committed to plans that will include improved protections for the re-provision of a permanent LGBTQ+ venue [3], plus a new contribution of £100k towards a meanwhile use space for the local queer community to be made as soon as construction begins. This is believed to be the first time a temporary queer venue will be created as part of a planning condition, and will be paid to London Borough of Tower Hamlets for the specific purpose of providing a meanwhile-use space for the Friends of the Joiners Arms, to prevent any further delay to the queer community having access to a venue [4].

Amy Roberts, Chair of Friends of the Joiners Arms, said:

“We have always said that the best thing for the local and wider queer community, and existing residents, would be provision of much needed social housing and the re-opening of the Joiners Arms as a unique, wonky, community-run queer pub. If the development goes ahead, we need to ensure the queer community has a long-term replacement venue plus a meanwhile space to compensate for years of enforced closure. However, there are some serious outstanding issues which threaten the long-term viability of the future venue and the well-being of the local residents – and these should not be pitted against each other.”

A representative of the Columbia Tenants and Residents Association (TRA) said:

“The local TRA welcomes the Council’s commitment to bringing back an LGBTQ+ venue to the Joiners Arms site and is looking forward to working with the Friends of the Joiners Arms campaign on this project going forward. However, residents are very concerned at plans to build a ‘party’ hotel in a residential area, particularly given so many hotels have already been built close by in recent years.”

John Sizzle, Co- Owner, The Glory, said:

“The protection of our queer spaces is an ongoing necessity. These venues, buildings and monuments combine to become our churches. These are places where we congregate to love, laugh and cry. Places where we learn & grow into producing loving adults and places where we impart our knowledge pass on that important history. ‘Friends of the Joiners Arms are devoted to ensuring our collective history and our places of worship, our churches, are preserved for future generations to gain strength and wisdom from.”

The application will be voted on at the Tower Hamlets Development Planning Committee 14th January 2021, in a virtual meeting meaning anyone can attend online. [5]

ENDS

[1] Friends of the Joiners Arms won the SMK Foundation ‘Community Campaign of the year’ award in 2018.

[2] The Joiners Arms closed in January 2015 after being purchased for property development. The late-licence LGBTQI+ pub had been open from 1997 to 2015, helmed by landlord David Pollard, who passed away in 2018.

[3] The proposals extend the conditions of the unused planning permission the developers obtained in 2017. These now include: increased developer contributions to fit-out costs; an extended rent-free period of 18 months; operating hours replicating those of the former venue for a limited period of 12 months only; and inclusion of local queer community representatives in the process of selecting an LGBTQI+ venue operator for the new permanent venue, considering conditions relating to community benefit and sustainability. The lease will be offered for a period of 25 years.

[4] Full details of the proposals can be found in the Agenda Reports Pack on the Tower Hamlets website here: https://democracy.towerhamlets.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=312&MId=11368&Ver=4

[5] The link for the online meeting can be found here: Online ‘Virtual’ Meeting – https://towerhamlets.public-i.tv/core/portal/home

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