Famed South London LGBTI venue, the Royal Vauxhall Tavern (RVT), has become a Grade II listed building – against the wishes of its owners.
Today, RVT Future issued a press statement saying: ‘As of today, the RVT becomes the first building in the nation to be listed for its place in LGBTQ history and heritage. It’s a brilliant recognition of the Tavern’s unique role in our country’s story, and also a vital protection against radical redevelopment.’
A statement from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport confirmed the decision, saying: ‘The Royal Vauxhall Tavern (RVT) has been listed Grade II by Heritage Minister, Tracey Crouch on the advice of Historic England.
‘The first listing of its kind for a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender (LGB&T) venue, the iconic London location has an international reputation as arguably one of the most inclusive LGB&T venues in England, built on a tradition of hosting alternative, transgender and drag performances.
‘Standing on the historic site of Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens in Lambeth, the Tavern was originally built between 1860-2 and boasts an eye catching mid Victorian curved façade. The landmark location is not only of architectural significance, but has also become an enduring symbol of the confidence of the gay community in London.
Tracey Crouch, Heritage Minister, said: ‘I am thrilled to be able to list the Royal Vauxhall Tavern as Grade II – the iconic cultural hub in the heart of London is of huge significance to the LGB&T community. Not only of architectural interest, the venue has a longstanding historic role as a symbol of tolerance and alternative entertainment.
‘Residing in Lambeth since 1860, the landmark venue has been the springboard for so many of our loved UK entertainers. I am delighted that the listing will preserve the history of this venue for future generations to enjoy – I hope that it continues to be filled with laughter and joy.’
Amy Lamé is the chair of RVT Future and co-founder and host of Duckie – the venue’s long-running Saturday night club promotion. She welcomed the listing, saying it was, ‘A fantastic milestone for our community and a victory against the odds for our beloved pub.
‘We look forward to continuing our work to ensure the RVT remains a vibrant space of LGBTQ community and culture for generations to come.’
When it bought the venue, Immovate retained the RVT’s previous co-owner, James Lindsay, as the venue’s Chief Executive. He has insisted that Immovate wish to help him to continue to run the venue as an LGBTI venue.
Immovate has consistently turned down requests to speak to Gay Star News about its plans for the RVT.
Campaigners concerned about the venue’s future submitted a detailed bid earlier this year to Historic England to have the building listed. A listing would make it more difficult for the owners to change the building in any way – particularly if they wanted to close the bar and turn it into apartments.
London has seen several of its LGBTI venues close in recent months, partly due to escalating rents and property prices. Recent closures have included the Joiners Arms and Black Cap. The George in Dragon in Shoreditch is also due to shut in the next few weeks.
When the bid for an Historic England listing was launched earlier this year, Lindsay counteracted by launching a petition against the proposed listing, warning that if the building was listed, it may be forced to close due to ‘unforeseen costs’.
‘Listing the building would be a disaster, the last thing we need,’ he said at the time.
Responding to today’s news, Lindsay issued the following statement.
‘Historic England have accepted the building probably should not be listed on its architectural merit alone, but more because of its use. The use of a building can change and gay venues across the UK have recently been closing at an alarming rate and there is good reason for this.
‘This listing attacks the commercial viability of the RVT and the future of this fantastic gay performance venue has now been put in doubt. We need a period of time to reflect and study the listing report in detail.’
‘This statement reflects the views of Royal Vauxhall Tavern. Immovate will make their own statement in due course.’
Immovate have been approached for comment.
RVT Future campaign manager Rob Holley said: ‘We’re now calling upon Immovate to finally talk to us, so we can all ensure this special venue continues to flourish at what it does best: serving the community.
‘If Immovate don’t think they can make the Tavern work as a listed pub, we invite them to open discussions about a community buy-out. Sell it to a group of people who actually have faith in the commercial viability of this phenomenal venue. We have the means to do this and some exciting ideas about how the RVT could be improved for everybody.
‘Meanwhile, we invite everyone who cherishes the Tavern to join us at the bar to celebrate!’