We look back at over a year of parties, planning and progress
We want to thank to everyone who was a part of our recent meetings. We’ve learnt so much. Above all, we’ve learnt to “not take shit from anyone!” and seen how committed the community is to “gaining back some power and some space in a context where we’ve lost so much”.
So, what happened at the meetings? We have a video and much more to show you, including details of our next meeting on Thurs 17 May…
Sometimes we like to get out of our Hackney/Tower Hamlets gaybourhood and go to somewhere exotic. In March, we travelled far overland to the Oval, where the Sheila McKechnie Foundation were holding their annual National Campaigner Awards. We were very excited to be awarded the ‘Community Campaign of the Year’ award, and Dwayne was there to collect the trophy. Here’s his account…
When random, strange faces approach you while in Vauxhall; singing your praises and thanking you, and you’ve not just stepped out from a nightclub, covered in sweat; well, I guess that’s a welcomed change from the status- quo. And this change, or progress is certainly a positive movement not just for the LGBTQI + community, but for communities in general. With the unrelenting threat of redevelopment led by austere economic conditions, the level of disruption and displacement to small businesses and communities is a reality all too familiar for many. Thus, our victory, this achievement of safeguarding our space through a Condition of Planning must not be understated.
The Friends of The Joiners Arms (FoTJA) formed when a group of people; patrons and friends of The Joiners Arms rejected the idea of losing a community space we felt belonged to us. United in opposition, our primary objective was to prevent the bar/club from closing down. It’s important to recognise that saving the Joiners in its current, existing condition was a challenge that proved all too difficult to achieve. If that were objective No.1, then surely objective No.2 would be what we have. That being, a right-to-return post-redevelopment of the site. Permission to build was approved on this premise and failure to discharge a planning condition ‘ain’t a good look!’ WE did that! Planning legislation governing all development in England & Wales allows for the local planning authority (in this case, the London Borough of Tower Hamlets) to refuse planning permission, to grant planning permission unconditionally, or to grant subject to such conditions as they see fit.
Often the issues with a decision relating to land use are not over the question of whether the development should be permitted at all, but on what terms it should be permitted. For example, there may well be a local need for a new outdoor playground for kids. But building that playground directly alongside a major motorway route might not be such a good idea! A planning condition attached to such a development proposal approved by a local authority may stipulate a significant reduction in the size of the playground, and instruct that a dense bufferzone of trees to further mitigate against exposure to pollutants be planted also. For us then, Towers Hamlets council in their recognition of the general need for new homes also agreed that such new provision should not be at the loss of a space [the Joiners] that caters for a different, but no less important section of the community. YOU!
Such is the level of achievement, our efforts have certainly not gone unrecognized, not least by the Sheila McKechnie Foundation’s National Campaigner Awards, where we were awarded ‘Best Community Campaign’, celebrating our success at local community level. The award ceremony was attended by Dan Glass, Olimpia Burchiellaro and myself, who collected the award on behalf of FoTJA – the same week that David Pollard, The Joiners Arms’ founder and landlord, was laid to rest. David’s passing, at such a moment, to me feels symbolic. His long battle against his illness, a battle that he sadly lost, was not entirely in vain. He held on long enough to lend his support and guidance to the campaign, and I hope our small victory made his passing that little bit gentler.
The runner up in our category was rhe #17DaysOfAction campaign, run by Basis Yorkshire. This was a bold and innovative community-led campaign, which aimed to raise awareness of the prejudices that sex workers face and to change local attitudes. In the run up to the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, the campaign engaged the community in number of different ways, including a spoken word and comedy night, a pub quiz, choir, flash mob and community clear up… Yes, we like singing in public spaces and encouraging all to join. No, we don’t have an official FoTJA theme song, though I hear whispers of the recording taken from a speech delivered to Tower Hamlets Planning Committee being dubbed over thumpin’ Chicago House track…
The award ceremony and the evening in general was an incredibly inspiring and uplifting event for me. Being surrounded by people who have committed tirelessly to something they feel that strongly about, who are of the belief that not campaigning can and does have negative, life changing consequences for people, families and communities. That energy; that collective willingness to achieve social justice is felt and one cannot help be moved and motivated by it. (Or maybe that was the free wine and mini buffet!)
On accepting the award for Best Community Campaign, Dan Glass said:
“Part of the thing about SMK and about the Joiners campaign is seeing all struggles as collective. And one of the most beautiful things that goes on in the SMK, behind the awards ceremony, is the training and mentorship that goes on behind the scenes, to see how we can be effective, how we can strategise, and how we can win our campaigns.”
He went on to say:
“And lastly, we want to say thank you to David Pollard, who was the founder of the Joiners Arms. Not only did he open a legendary queer pub, but it was the first pub that paid the London Living Wage for its workers. He passed away about 3 and a half weeks ago. Behind the bar at the Joiners Arms there was a big sign that said ‘LOVE, LIFE AND LIBERTY’. He really inspired us all. When we found out that the Joiners Arms was being closed by Regal Homes, and we had the first campaign meeting to stop the place being closed, he said ‘when this pub closes, the revolution starts.’ And that dream spurred us on, so we really want to say thank you to David. Rest in peace. ”
For immediate release
Victorious Joiners Arms campaigners launch project to open London’s first community-run LGBTQI+ pub
Public meetings have been announced for Sat 10th March & Wed 14th March (1) to begin work on opening London’s first community-run LGBTQI+ pub (2)
The Friends of the Joiners Arms (3), who fought for 3 years to protect the legacy of the legendary Hackney Road LGBTQI+ pub, are holding public meetings to include everyone who wants to play a part in deciding how to create a radical, community-run venue on the site of the Joiners Arms. This follows the trail-blazing decision by Tower Hamlets council to insist that a new development on this site must include an LGBTQI+ pub, with opening hours mirroring those of the original pub, a 25 year lease, and financial assistance for any operator.
Friends of the Joiners Arms’ (FOTJA) Jon Ward said:
“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.”
FOTJA’s Amy Roberts also said:
“As excited as we were to have won planning protections for a like-for-like replacement of a late-license LGBTQI+ bar in the Hackney Road development, this victory only marked a successful end of ‘phase I’ – not the end of our journey. The doors of our beloved Joiners remain as closed as they first were in January 2015, and we are still without a vital queer space. Now we enter ‘phase II’: creating a radical organisation and working towards opening the doors of London’s first community-run LGBTQI+ bar. That first pint is going to be a good one.”
FOTJA’s Dan Glass said
“There are already existing, successful models of community-run pubs such as the Antwerp Arms in Tottenham, or the Bevy in Brighton, and we want to use this model for the queer community, to fight back against the crisis of closures in London (4) . We are hugely grateful to the support of the Plunkett Foundation as part of their ‘More Than A Pub’ programme (5) which will give us the framework and assistance to create something radical, exciting and hugely necessary.”
Tickets are available online at www.bitly.com/FOTJA
About Friends of the Joiners Arms
The Friends of the Joiners Arms is a campaign group seeking to create London’s first community-run LGBTQI+ pub, building on the legacy of the legendary, radical pub on Hackney Road. In Oct 2017, the group secured protections from Tower Hamlets council covering the future redevelopment of the site.
The group intends to use the popular model of the community benefit society (6) to open a new Joiners Arms as London’s only cooperatively owned and managed LGBTQI+ late-licence pub, whilst developing the community functions of the pub. This will be a space that provides vital facilities and support to all LGBTQI+ 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.
Friends of the Joiners Arms
Peter Cragg 07990 990868 / Amy Roberts 07961 579757
Photos available here: https://we.tl/HBIUAEW3DR
Notes to Editors
The public Press Release – Campaign To Open London_s First Community-run LGBTQI+ Pubmeetings will be held on Saturday 10th March from 15.00 – 17.00, and Wednesday 14th March from 19.00 – 21.00, at Hackney Showroom, Amhurst Terrace, London E8 2BT
LGBTQI+ – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex
According to UCL Urban Lab research, the number of LGBTQI+ venues in London has fallen by 58% since 2006. http://www.ucl.ac.uk/urbanlab/research/lgbtqi-space
More Than A Pub: The Community Pub Business Support programme is a unique two year programme established to help support community ownership of pubs in England. Its value is £3.62 million and is jointly funded by the Department for Communities and Local Government and independent trust Power to Change. It is being delivered by Plunkett Foundation in collaboration with Co-operative & Community Finance, Key Fund, the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), Co-operative Mutual Solutions, Pub is the Hub and Locality. For the first time it will offer the community pub sector access to an end-to-end support programme including capacity building and a finance package made up of loans and grants.
Community Benefit Societies are recognised business structures whose purpose is to serve the benefit of the community (rather than to benefit their members), whereby profits must be reinvested in the business.
Friends of the Joiners Arms invites you to join us in the next phase of our campaign: to establish a venue under queer community control on the site of the Joiners Arms.
We are holding two meetings to allow the maximum number and range of people to attend, but feel free to attend both!
Book your tickets here >>> https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/help-build-londons-first-community-run-lgbtqi-pub-tickets-42872094589
Building on the legacy of the Joiners Arms, we believe there’s no reason a venue can’t throw banging parties whilst also engaging in grassroots politics. A new pub must be more inclusive of all sections of the LGBTQI+ community, more empowering of workers, and more responsive to pressing social issues than venues have been previously.
We want everyone from the community to have ownership over the direction this exciting project takes. These meetings will be facilitated and involve break-out groups, discussions, idea-sharing. The aim is to create a strong, diverse, welcoming organisation which will undertake everything needed to create a queer pub run by the community, for the community!
Hackney Showrooms is fully accessible, but please get in touch with us if you have any questions or would like any clarity.
BSL – if you require a BSL interpreter, please let us know when booking your ticket and we will arrange this! The deadline for confirming a BSL interpreter is 23rd Feb but we will do everything we can to assist if you book after this date.
Childcare/travel costs – If you require support with childcare or travel costs in order to attend either/both meetings, please get in touch or let us know when you are booking your ticket.
Around the time of the first council hearing to decide the future of the Joiners Arms’ site, we hung out with Matthew Woodford – who made this excellent podcast about the background to the hearing.
The podcast is a great overview of both the wider situation, and an insight into the exciting behind-the-scenes glamour of the Friends of the Joiners Arms campaign. What’s not to like?
More of Matthew Woodford’s work can be found here and we are hugely grateful to him for including us in this fabulous podcast.
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 , 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 .
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.
 The former opening times of the Joiners Arms were 4am on weekends, 3am Thursdays and Sundays, and 2am Monday to Wednesday.
 UCL Urban Labs Report. – http://www.ucl.ac.uk/urbanlab/news/london-lgbtq-venues-have-more-than-halved-in-past-decade
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.
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
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.
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.
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?”
Additionally, 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.
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.