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…

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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.’

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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.

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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.

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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.

Tower Hamlets LGBT+ Heroes Awards – We Won!

We were honoured to be invited to the inaugural Tower Hamlets LGBT+ Heroes Awards on a rainy Monday night in East India Quays, and even more honoured to find that we had romped to victory in not one but two categories. The cherry on the top was the promise of free refreshments, although this disappointingly turned out to be some juice and a jammy dodger in a boardroom.

We finally made it
We finally made it

The awards were presented by our new mayor, John ‘Biggie Smalls’ Biggs, who gave a short speech about the importance of diversity in the borough, and regaled us with his struggle to get Pride held in Victoria Park back in the 1860s. For a man who has worked in local politics since Winnie Churchill was First Lord of the Admirality, who must have to deliver speeches to various worthy community groups on the reg, he did it with good humour and the self-deprecation crucial to maintaining goodwill, so props to him for that.

I won’t bore you with a complete list of winners, but I will tell you that I accepted awards on behalf of the esteemed landlord of the Joiners Arms, David A. Pollard (for his ‘Outstanding Contribution to LGBT+ Community Life or Culture’), and the original Chair of the Friends of the Joiners, Dan ‘Leverick’ Laverick (for his ‘Exceptional Work or Support [Paid or Otherwise*] to LGBT+ Culture Community’).

The Mayor presented me with David’s translucent perspex star and made a point about how sad it was the Joiners had closed, and how the council was committed to doing “something” about it. He asked me to give a brief update on the situation – I don’t remember the exact words I used but rest assured it was radical, shocking, rousing and witty (something along the lines of “closed now, might get better though right mate”). I don’t think it’s fair to take his kindly smile and head nod as a firm guarantee that he will personally storm the venue and re-open it for us, but it certainly seemed that way to me.

Thank you, thank you - y'all are so wonderful
Thank you, thank you – y’all are so wonderful

Dan’s award was presented by Councillor Joshua Peck, who spoke briefly about how there was still work to be done in the borough, and how even with the privilege of being a white, middle-class gay man he was still sometimes afraid to kiss his husband goodbye on the tube. Coming up to collect a second award for someone who wasn’t there, I had started to feel a bit like Michael Jackson at the MTV Awards accepting a non-existent award for Artist of the Millennium.

It’s hard not to be slightly cynical about these things, but at least the council is showing its commitment to recognising diversity in the borough, and spending some time in showering us with the awards and certificates we so richly deserve. So thank you to Tower Hamlets Council for putting this on, and for giving the nod to all the winners. We’ll see you at the Brits.

Peter

*In Dan’s case, this has been very much ‘Otherwise’

Closed House Weekend – 8 & 9 August 2015

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Closed House Weekend calls for support against London property developers  

The first Closed House Weekend is to take place as part of Stop the Blocks, a new campaign aimed at uniting support against the sale of London’s East End.

Running Saturday 8 and Sunday 9 August 2015 in Tower Hamlets, the weekend will offer a guided tour of ‘development’ hotspots and a forum to discuss ways to challenge ongoing urban re-development.

The first day’s guided tour will include the Bishopsgate Goodsyard, the Joiners Arms queer pub on Hackney Road, the No.w.here artspace on Bethnal Green Road and the former Queen Elizabeth Children’s Hospital on Hackney Road. Events at each location will range from street parties and stalls to art installations and protests.

Sunday will feature a public assembly near the site of the London Chest Hospital in Victoria Park.

The weekend aims to highlight the impact of rapid gentrification in east London – the social cleansing of housing estates, the destruction of historic sites and closure of public services and social spaces – and to promote the campaign groups fighting the replacement of public space with private profit.

Amanda Bentham, a member of the East London Teachers’ Association, said: ‘Closed House weekend will give the public a chance to see the full scale of changes being threatened in Tower Hamlets, to get involved in small scale actions and to give a sense of fighting back. Because we don’t just want people to turn up and look at how bad things are – we want them to get excited about fighting to make them better.’

The weekend is the first action by Stop The Blocks, a collective of campaign groups in Tower Hamlets. Members include Tower Hamlets Renters, and campaign groups working to protect sites such as the Bishopsgate Goodsyard, the Holland Estate and the London Fruit & Wool exchange.

John Foster, Protect the London Chest Hospital campaigner, said: ‘Stop The Blocks is a way to link up single-issue grassroots campaigners under a broader banner, so that we can share ideas for resistance, raise wider awareness and support for our groups, and develop ideas of how Tower Hamlets – and London – can grow without harming the communities we are part of.’

The guided tour will meet at 11am on Saturday 8 August outside Whitechapel underground station. More details can be found on Twitter (@stoptheblocks), by searching ‘Closed House weekend’ on Facebook, or at https://stoptheblockslondon.wordpress.com/

Property Awards, Mayfair, April 2015

When we heard an action was being organised to protest outside the Property Awards (a swanky industry bash to celebrate and award “individuals and companies who have significantly impacted the property market”), we knew we had to get involved.

The awards were held at the Marriott Hotel in Mayfair, which has three entrances of varying degrees of glitziness. So we set up shop in front of the two main entrances, and proceeded to greet the rather embarrassed looking chieftains of property development. There were megaphones, chants, a counter awards ceremony handing out trophies to activists (sadly these were only made of cardboard and didn’t come with a raft of free wine), and an increasingly amusing cat-and-mouse game as the Marriott security re-directed punters to the back entrance, then back to the front, and over and over.

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One agitated attendee came out to angrily inform us that his firm had “created over 500 jobs and built on brownfield sites”, a spirited defence which saw him roundly booed. It raised the interesting point that not all property developers are evil crooks; but the spectacle of hundreds of people patting each other on the back for a job well done in the midst of what is widely accepted to be the worst housing crisis since World War 2 was a little too rich to ignore.

Huge thanks to Sam Awad for taking the photos, and to all the other campaigners who made it such a success – Sweets Way, Focus E15, Digs, Occupy and everyone else. And to Property Week for setting up the awards – we’re looking forward to our invite in 2016.

Update – July 2015

We recently had a meeting at the Chesham Arms (in Homerton) – a pub which won a lengthy battle to be taken into ownership by a community group. It’s now got an exciting collection of beers, a beautiful garden, and more community spirit than you can shake a stick at. As well as being an inspiration for what the Joiners could look like, it also provides some important lessons on how to get there – as the manager pointed out, it took one thousand days of fighting to get the pub re-opened. So as we enter our eighth month of campaigning, it’s heartening to know these things don’t happen overnight.

As you’ve probably noticed, the Joiners remains closed, although there seem to be people inhabiting at least part of the building. No formal plans have been submitted or approved for the future of the building. But we have plenty to occupy ourselves… Here’s a selection:

– The Closed House weekend (8/9 August) will feature a walking tour of various sites across Tower Hamlets (including the Joiners), and a public assembly on the Sunday. We’re involved in this, along with other campaigns such as Tower Hamlets Renters, the More Light, More Power campaign, Save Norton Folgate, and the artists behind no.w.here on Bethnal Green Road. More information can be found here: https://stoptheblockslondon.wordpress.com/press-release/ and https://www.facebook.com/events/813693865372090/

– We are working with David Shenton, the incredible and inspirational artist behind the infamous Joiners mural to try to document and preserve the legacy of his work, which formed such an important part of the visual impact of the Joiners. Attempts to contact the creator of the wavy clock behind the bar have so far come to nothing…

– We are planning a joint fundraiser with Shafted (the unashamedly deviant HIV cabaret and activism movement) in October, and hope to be able to share details with you soon

– David Pollard, the legendary landlord of the Joiners, has set up a new bar in Sitges (south west of Barcelona) and has this update: “Joiners Arms Sitges has now been open for a month, from 28th June. It is still a little slow but each week is better than the last. We are now more confident of survival, and feel less ‘breast high mid the alien corn’. There doesn’t seem to be much of the more substantial – or militant gay scene here, but we provide condoms + lube. Sadly there isn’t anything like the discussion provided by Pat Cash, Dean St. and Act Up. And of course Dan Glass. We are working on a Facebook here, about to be launched. Joiners Arms Sitges is at C43 Palisades, open late…

Please get in touch if you want to help out with the campaign, or want more information, or just want to hear more of our beautiful voices.

Love, Life and Liberty!

Peter

Public meeting, March 2015

FRIENDS OF THE JOINERS PUBLIC MEETING

When: Wednesday 31st March 2015
Where: Common House Clinic (see map)

Find out more

London is experiencing rapid and ruthless gentrification that is making people homeless, is ripping the heart out of our diverse city and is threatening safe spaces for vulnerable, disadvantaged groups. Whilst we understand that preventing the demolition of social housing is absolutely crucial, we see the destruction of important cultural and community spaces as part of the same, ugly beast – mass gentrification.

Our campaign and this event aims to bring together other groups and campaigns that are resisting the mass gentrification of London, to share experiences, tactics of resistance and how we can better support each other.

Speakers include Defend Council Housing (DCH), Squatters Action for Secure Homes (SQUASH), and Focus E15 Mothers.