The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is to invest £10,000 in a research project that is exploring why LGBTI venues in the capital are closing and what might be done to help the remaining venues stay open.
The news was revealed today by his recently appointed ‘Night Czar’, Amy Lamé, at a round table Q&A session she held with members of the LGBT press.
The event took place at gay bar The Yard in Soho: a venue that has itself successfully fought off the threat of redevelopment.
Lamé was appointed to the part-time position of Night Czar – a one-year, fixed term role – last month. Beside a background in broadcasting and comedy, she has successfully run the LGBTI club Duckie for the past 21 years.
She revealed that Khan is to pledge £10,000 to University College London to help it continue its research into LGBTI spaces in London.
Last month, UCL’s Urban Laboratory, in conjunction with Queer Spaces Network, released an interim report into the LGBTI club and bar scene in London from the mid-1980s to the modern day, exploring the reasons why the capital has seen a large number of closures.
‘Sadiq has just put aside £10,000 to fund research by UCL into LGBT venue closures. UCL have done an interim report but we wanted to boost the data and get more detail.
‘The Mayor of London is funding that so we get a proper picture: what went wrong, why did we lose all these queer spaces, and what can we do to ensure that it doesn’t happen in the future.’
High profile names to have been lost include the Black Cap, Joiners Arms in Shoreditch, Bar Code, Queen’s Arms, Candy Bar and Oak Bar. As exclusively revealed by Gay Star News last month, the Hoist in Vauxhall is due to close this weekend.
The capital has also lost many live music venues and spaces which hosted big-name events, such as the Astoria, Turnmills and The End. In total, around 50% of nightclubs and 40% of music venues in London have been closed since 2008.
Concerned about these closures, the Mayor’s money will help UCL continue its research.
‘It’s always going to be more profitable in the short term to build luxury flats than it is to pull pints for gay people’
One of the major factors forcing the closure of venues is London’s escalating real estate prices. Asked about this, Lamé conceded it was something over which the Mayor’s office had limited control.
‘It’s a difficult one.
‘I think property values in London going through the roof has definitely had an impact, not just queer venues but also live music venues. It’s always going to be more profitable in the short term to build luxury flats than it is to pull pints for gay people.
Lamé also talked about her new position and what she hopes to achieve.
Although she can not order specific changes, she said her role was more about highlighting issues, listening to concerns, and bringing people together around a table to work on solutions.
‘The big overarching goals are turning London, which has a vibrant night-time economy, into a truly 24-hour city. I actually think that is realistic.’
To further help venues, she also talked about ‘Agent of Change’, part of the Mayor’s cultural infrastructure plan.
‘Agent of Change’ will address concerns from venues that they are facing pressures from the arrival of nearby luxury flats. For example, hip venues will often boost an area’s appeal. The downside is when new neighbors move in to that area, they then complain about noise and late-night licenses.
‘Developers will build a block of flats next to a vibrant club,’ she said. ‘They’ll be marketing it as the most exciting place to live in London, and then someone moves in and they realize people are making noise outside their window at 3 o’clock in the morning. They complain and then the club is shut down.’
‘The Agent of Change, i.e. the person who is changing the make-up of that neighborhood, is responsible for bearing the cost of soundproofing.
‘Some of this stuff is not very costly. It might just mean putting the bedrooms on the other side of the flats, or an extra layer of glazing. So, it’s about joining things up… fundamental changes in the law that will make a difference.’
‘London is going to stay open and will always be open our brothers and sisters on the Continent’
She explained that the nightlife economy was not just a matter of bars and clubs – with many people telling her they wanted more late-night coffee options, and others wanting a late-night dentist or nail appointment.
Asked whether she thought Brexit would boost or hinder London’s night-time economy, she said that compared to the rest of the UK, London is ‘an anomaly.’
‘We’ve all seen how the diversity of London has made us so prosperous in so many different ways. The Mayor has made it clear that whatever happens with Brexit, London is going to stay open and will always be open our brothers and sisters on the Continent.’