“FOTJA is a testament to the power we have as queers unified against a common enemy: in a fight reminiscent of David vs. Goliath, the developers expected that they would be able to demolish the Joiners Arms and redevelop the site with one solitary goal – profit. That these plans did not succeed and that Tower Hamlets supported our protests in such groundbreaking fashion demonstrates our collective strength in fighting gentrification. Now is the time to build on this success and rethink what we want out of queer spaces: with particular attention paid to elevating those voices and needs which are usually marginalized, even within our own LGBTQI+ community.”
Jon Ward, Co-chair of Friends of the Joiners Arms, 13th February 2018.
Over the last three years, the Friends of the Joiners Arms have achieved a great deal in our fight to establish London’s first community-run queer pub and community venue. In what can be equated to a ‘David and Goliath’ battle between FOTJA, and the property developers Regal Homes, we have begun to tip the power balance back into the hands of the community. However, work is still to be done.
Back in October 2015 we campaigned to secure ‘Asset of Community Value’ status for the Venue, which gave priority to FOTJA in purchasing the building and determining its use. Subsequently, in August 2017, we successfully pressured the Tower Hamlets Development Committee to reject Regal Homes’ planning applications. Regal Homes’ applications were rejected on the basis that they would inevitably lead to the commercial failure of the venue owing to the early-licensing hours proposed. Further, they proposed minimal legal protections of the LGBTQI+ status of the venue, and by enabling the developer to dictate the terms of the lease with minimal oversight, they undermined its status as a late-night LGBTQI+ pub and community space.
In meetings with Tower Hamlets Council in October, we made a further break through. The council agreed to Regal Homes’ applications on the condition that a pub would be included in the development with a 25 year lease as an LGBTQI+ venue. Additionally, it was agreed that the venue should have late-night licensing hours; physical space that matched the original venue; and that the developer would provide economic concessions to the leaseholder.
From this point FOTJA continues in its last push. We must now establish the financial position to secure tenure over the lease of the pub, and hold more conversations that enable us to collaboratively design a community-run queer venue that aims to represents everyone.
WATCH to learn about the key events that define FOTJA, the driving voices behind our campaign, and how far we have come in our progress.