25 YEARS OF LATE-NIGHT LGBTQI GOOD TIMES…

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – 11/10/2017

FRIENDS OF THE JOINERS ARMS CELEBRATES WINNING LANDMARK 25 YEAR REPLACEMENT OF LGBTQ+ VENUE, THE JOINERS ARMS

Tower Hamlets Council today granted a key victory to the Friends of the Joiners Arms campaign, insisting that developers must provide a late-license LGBTQ+ venue in plans that would otherwise see the iconic East End pub demolished without replacement. Councillors voted unanimously to commit developers to grant a 25 year lease for an LGBTQ+ venue, replicating the late operating hours of the original venue [1], and insisting the GLA explore ways for “maintaining a local link to elected representatives, and to the LGBTQ+ community” in selecting an operator for the venue.

Councillor Marc Francis, chair of the TH Development Committee, congratulated campaigners, saying that the Committee “thank you for your input and positive engagement.”

Amy Roberts, co-chair of Friends of the Joiners Arms, said:

“This is an important victory for the LGBTQ+ community, not just in Tower Hamlets, but across the whole of London. What today shows is that dedicated citizens – sharing a common purpose – are powerful and can win big, against overwhelming odds. Together with sister campaigns like We Are The Black Cap and RVT Future, it feels like we are turning the tide of LGBTQ+ closures across the capital, and we look forward to a future venue which can serve our diverse communities.”

Campaigners have been fighting for 3 years to re-establish the much-loved venue, arguing that its closure at the hands of property developers in January 2015 represented the latest example of London’s property sector impacting negatively upon LGBTQ+ culture and spaces which has seen over half of the capital’s LGBTQ+ venues closes in the last decade [2].

With the Council deferring the decision in August on the basis of community concerns, campaigners continued to pile pressure on the developer and Tower Hamlets Planning Committee to ensure their voices were heard. They achieved an agreement that the developer would put £130,000 towards fit-out costs of the venue, a 12-month rent-free period, a 22% extension of the floor-space designated for the venue, and additional commitments to enhancing the sound-proofing of the venue, including for the smoking area.

Campaigners at Friends of the Joiners Arms say their next move is to establish themselves as a fully-cooperative community organisation and get themselves into a financial position to launch a successful bid on the lease of the venue when it goes out to tender. They encourage other communities across the country to stand up and fight to protect spaces that are invaluable to them.

Peter Cragg, campaigner for Friends of the Joiners Arms, said:

Planning officers initially wanted the venue to close at midnight on weekends and 11pm on weeknights. But Councillors shared our concerns that everything fun happens after midnight – and, more seriously, that the late-night nature of the venue provided so much of the benefit to our community.

“In safeguarding an LGBTQ+ venue for the next quarter of a century, and removing proposed limits to opening hours, we are pleased that the council and the developer have agreed with us that the community needs a space to express ourselves, to drink, dance, love and learn.”

Dan Laverick, campaigner for Friends of the Joiners Arms said:

Our campaign shows that it is always worth fighting for the things that are important to you and your community. We have always known that this is part of a much wider struggle over who controls urban space, and have always taken the view that our changing urban landscape should be decided by the people who live, work and socialise in our cities.

“We’re thankful to councillors for their support, which shows that who we elect really can make a difference. We need to apply that lesson on a larger scale and get organised if we hope to address the big issues of our time: adequate housing provision for all, and bringing our cities, our land, under community control.”

  • ENDS –

 

About Friends of the Joiners Arms

The Friends of the Joiners Arms is a campaign group seeking to save and evolve The Joiners Arms. The group successfully secured designated Asset of Community Value status for the venue, 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 LGBTQ+ 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 LGBTQ+ 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.

NOTES:

[1] The former opening times of the Joiners Arms were 4am on weekends, 3am Thursdays and Sundays, and 2am Monday to Wednesday.

[2] UCL Urban Labs Report. – http://www.ucl.ac.uk/urbanlab/news/london-lgbtq-venues-have-more-than-halved-in-past-decade

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A Rush and A Push and The Land Is Ours

It’s been two months since we sat in the council chambers and watched, some of us bent double with nerves, what we thought was the culmination of three years of campaigning.

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It turned out it was just another twist on what has been a lurching, hazardous and at times criminally boring road. The councillors voted to defer the plans because they “did not go far enough.” The proposed venue would have been smaller than the old Joiners Arms, had few protections to guarantee it would be an LGBTQI venue, and would be strangled by early closing hours. As our co-chair Amy Roberts stated, it was “a trojan horse draped in a rainbow flag.”

In the intervening two months, we’ve had a round table meeting with the developers and the council; held a raucous fundraiser at Dalston Superstore; and written so many emails and Facebook messages about the campaign that my phone has started autocorrecting almost everything to ‘Joiners’.

There is good news. The developers have made significant changes to the plans:

  • Increasing the size of the proposed venue, and altering the shape to create something wonkier
  • Proposing protections to create a safe smoking section on Hackney Road
  • Listening to our feedback on the legal document which enshrines the venue as an LGBTQI venue

However, we found out this week that the final proposal councillors will vote on still has major problems

  • Opening hours will be limited to 23.00 on weekdays (midnight on Friday and Saturday)
  • Changes to the legal protections haven’t been completed
  • The venue is only protected as an LGBTQI venue for 15 years

We are putting all our efforts into contacting allies who have supported us throughout this long campaign to put pressure on the council to make the changes we believe are necessary to create something close to meeting the needs of the LGBTQI community: a late-licence, fully-accessible, diverse, sustainable and wonky queer venue & community centre.

The most important thing is that we continue to try to represent the community – with that in mind, we ask that you try to join us and show councillors who we are and what we want.

The meeting starts at 19.00 on Tower Hamlets Town Hall, Mulberry Place (nearest stop – East India DLR). More details here >>> https://www.facebook.com/events/244846092707090

‘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.

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