Tuesday, 18 August 2015

The Linchpin of the gay scene - but for how long?





Following the recent unceremonious closures of such iconic London gay pubs and venues as The Black Cap, the Man Bar, Madam Jojo’s, the Green Carnation, Barcode and the Joiner's Arms, the battle is heating up to save possibly the most important of them all...

From The Guardian:
The threat of closure hangs over London’s oldest gay venue, the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, after its purchase by Austrian property developers.

What is about this spit-and-sawdust LGBTQ south London pub that regulars love so much? Performers including Amy Lamé, Timberlina and Bette Bourne show us behind the scenes at the capital’s home of drag:


Facts:
  • The RVT was built in 1863 on land which was originally part of the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, and started life as a Music Hall; its metal columns are believed to have been salvaged from the original colonnades in the Gardens.
  • Once at the apex of two rows of terraced houses, in the 1970s the Tavern was left standing alone when almost all of the other 1860s buildings were torn down; since then it has survived one attempt to turn it into a backpackers’ hostel and another to demolish it to make way for a shopping centre (including water park and ‘snow dome’).
  • The Tavern was once the site of a riot sparked by a police raid (wearing rubber gloves in case they "caught AIDS") while Lily Savage was performing in 1984; she and ten others were arrested in the chaos.
  • Princess Diana, disguised as a man, allegedly once visited the RVT in the 1980s with Freddie Mercury, Kenny Everett and Cleo Rocos.

Diana Dors with The Trollettes at the RVT

Alongside fellow campaigners Paul O'Grady (the former Lily Savage, who describes it as “the Royal Vauxhall Tavern School of Dramatic Art” and “my spiritual home”), Sir Ian "Serena" McKellen, and director of Pride (which was filmed in part there) Stephen Beresford, the Mayor of London Boris Johnson said:
"The Royal Vauxhall Tavern has been a linchpin at the heart of London’s LGBT community for more than six decades. [In June 2015] New York gave the Stonewall Inn landmark status, recognising its place in that city’s history.

“The RVT’s unique contribution to the vibrancy of London life should also be celebrated. It is a beacon that is known around the world and must be made a listed building so it can continue to shine for years to come.”
And here are just three of the many drag acts who made it "shine" - Lily Savage, Sandra Hush and David Dale on stage at the RVT back in the 1980s:



I urge everyone to lend their support to the campaign to save this historic gay venue!

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