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Why a secret 1930s gay bar raided by police is being recreated in London

It's based on old police pics, and we're so going

Why a secret 1930s gay bar raided by police is being recreated in London
Twitter/ChloéNelkin/The National Archives
The 30s bar will open in March for the Queer City: London Club Culture 1918-1967 project

It sometimes feels like a different gay bar closes every day.

But a new London pop-up is bucking the trend – while reminding us, not so long ago, queer spaces in the city were closing for a very different reason.

The Soho bar will be a recreation of The Caravan, an underground LGBTI space raided by police in 1934.

Once ‘the most unconventional spot in town’, according to organizers, it was closed 83 years ago. This was years before the legalization of homosexuality in Britain in 1967.

Furthermore, the venture will be based on police documents on London’s ‘most bohemian rendezvous’, formally located on Shaftesbury Avenue.

Is this the coolest news ever? Possibly.

Its new incarnation will be at Freud Cafe, a stone’s throw from the original location. Doors open from 2-26 March.

The project is a collaboration between the National Trust and the National Archives.

The project’s named Queer City: London Club Culture 1918-1967, remembering Soho’s forgotten clandestine queer spaces.

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Police photographs, papers, witness accounts and court reports will all inform the recreation. Some will even be on display at the bar.

Talks, debates, performances and events will also take place over the opening.

Joseph Watson, London Creative Director for the National Trust commented on the news.

‘While the project will be an opportunity to celebrate the partial decriminalization of same sex relationships, it will also confront the realities of those lives that were fettered, destroyed, or worse, by prejudice of that era,’ she said.

‘It provides a timely reminder of the importance of side-lined cultures to our national heritage.’

Rowena Hillel, Education and Outreach Officer at The National Archives also commented: ‘The National Archives holds a wide-ranging collection of documents offering important insight into the experiences of LGBTQ+ communities throughout history.’

‘We are delighted to be collaborating with the National Trust to tell the story of Soho club culture with a recreation of the bohemian Caravan club so very close to its original location.’

July 2017 marks 50 years since the decriminalization of homosexuality in Britain.

 

 


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