We live in a very sad age where four British pubs are closing every day. Thus wiping out generations of our unique high street and village heritage. In our cities, they were once built as ‘drinking palaces’ and represent the best of Victorian architecture and decoration. Those lucky enough to have retained original features, such as decorative tiling and murals, stained glass windows, panelled interiors, etched glass windows and mirrors, booths and wooden bars boast an irreplaceable wealth of unique character to these architectural institutions.
Sometimes it is more about the unique community that has grown up around a pub than the fabric of the building itself. That loyal band of stalwarts that have continued to support their local or favourite watering hole because of the type of crowd it continues to attract. Throughout the ever-changing fortunes of the pub trade through years of socialising, smoking, drinking, eating, dancing and partying, it is their customers who have guaranteed their survival through several lifetimes.
Now it is heartbreaking to watch such public houses suddenly vanish overnight as they struggle to survive in the increasingly impossible current climate. How long can they fight paying the second highest beer duty in the European Union, licensee’s stuck with a tied pub model having to pay increased rents and inflated beer prices, and the vast increase in land and property prices in the capital?
It as if every pub is on the cusp of demolition or development as they are swiftly and all too easily replaced with private flats, betting shops, restaurants or worse.
So you would imagine any city pub to be eternally grateful for an overwhelmingly loyal and supportive clientele in these dark days. When I heard of the incredible support and LGBTQ community loyalty for a Camden pub that was suddenly closed in April, holding weekly vigils outside and leaving heartfelt handwritten messages of support on its boarded up exterior and an 8,000 signature petition demanding it’s reopening , I imagined it would welcome back such a crowd with opening arms.
I understand the Black Cap in Camden has been a gay pub since the mid 1960’s supported by a faithful community of drag queens, cabaret artists and followers whose more recent cabaret and club nights have given the venue a new lease of life.
A campaign group ‘We are The Black Cap’ managed to get the venue listed as a Asset of Community Value (ACV) by Camden Council thus preserving it as an entertainment and performance venue to the LGBTQ community and preventing the owner from demolition or change of use, resulting in it being put on the market.
It seems to me, the perfect solution for this venue to remain a viable performance space to this community is for them to act now to raise the funds necessary in order to buy the property and run it as a co-operative.
I have just written a play, SKYLINE about gentrification and the changing face of London’s housing and the loss of nightlife venues such as Madame Jo Jo’s and The Black Cap and the increasing threat to the LGBTQ communities in central London. If they can secure the Black Cap for future generations to give them the platform to launch into further careers as it did for those famous names in the 70’s- 90’s who went on to become TV personalities, then full speed and best wishes in their earnest endeavour.
Playwright of ‘SKYLINE’
As a lesbian performer, an LGBTQ historian, and a former customer of the Black Cap, I greatly support the current efforts that are being made to keep this venue as a public house and place of entertainment for the LBGTQ and wider community. Safe spaces for marginalised communities within a city are of key importance for those within those populations since they provide places where we can meet other people like us, and thereby confirm and celebrate our own identities in a society where we can still feel, and be treated as, outsiders. In addition, artistic LGBTQ spaces in this day and age need to be preserved and supported by any means possible so that commercialism does not overshadow creativity.
Clare Summerskill, Writer and Performer.
I have no hesitation is supporting the re-opening of the Black Cap and I am proud to do so and stand with others in this fight.
Samuel Pepys described the pub as the ‘heart of England’. I couldn’t agree more.
The pub is a unique social centre, very often the focus of community life in villages, towns and even in our cities. In certain communities, the pub is a lifeline, The Black Cap and the RVT were a lifeline to a community that evolved from bring criminalised, shunned, harassed, to a community that stood proud and vibrant through intolerable bigotry and violence. ‘Our pubs’ stood by us through those difficult years providing a place of sanctuary, a place to be entertained, to laugh, cry and to meet others. This is our history, we are entitled to our history and the landmarks of that history. Of course London, as a major world city has to evolve but we must make sure it evolves with us and our history. Did the Tudors knock down the Norman Castles? Did the Victorians knock down St Paul’s ? No, the Black Cap represents our past, present and future! #WeAreTheBlackCap
Nikki Sinclaire (Former Member of the European Parliament)
‘How many times do I have to have a conversation about the lack of gay bars in London today? People always use the same excuses like “times have changed, it’s all online, now bars are mixed, it’s a sign of the times”. Well great, if you want soulless homogenised bars where Queers are alienated and cannot let express themselves whole-heartedly.
What has evolved is a culture where Gay people can’t kiss in public and are reduced to having anonymous drug fuelled private sex parties while young queers represent a desperately disproportionate number of those bullied or being made homeless. And this in an age of Equality? If you’re telling me there’s no link between extreme behaviour and lack of social support- and yes I am suggesting that gay pubs provide a vital social support network Equality that we won feels more like homogeny. There’s no sense community in that. As a Queer, partnered man I still want (crave) spaces where I can feel a shared experience- sometimes I want to hang out with my people, have a sense of collective- snog my partner, maybe even snog someone else’s partner!
I want the feeling that straight people have always taken for granted. Equality is not about being the same, it is about having the right to be and express who we are as individuals. Never mind the outrageous and false economy of the incessant property capitalisation, exploiting what soul exists and turfing out that which doesn’t turn a sterile profit- and for what? We know what. It is a travesty that going concerns and successful businesses especially within the LGBTQ community are forced to closed, often with no just reason beyond a speculative potential of obscene returns for a very few. These few I like to think have no feelings. They have no soul, no context of empathy, feeling of community, heritage, warmth or idea of what life is, beyond that of money and their own selfish motives.
Bring back gay bars. Make London mean something again, a vibrant mutli-culture reflected in vibrant community spaces which are also successful social enterprises, never mind successful businesses. It’s prejudice through via the back door. Bring back the Black Cap. And the Joiners for that matter… And the George and Dragon!! Let LGBTQI LIVES THRIVE EQUALLY, apparently like the law says…’
“As a frequent visitor to London LGBTQI venues over the past fifteen years whilst living in the Capital, it is a major tragedy that so many of our historic venues are closing due to gentrification of the areas especially in Soho but elsewhere across London. So, that’s why I want to unequivocally campaign to keep the #Blackcap as a thriving local LGBTQI venue and the team have my full support”
Adrian Hyyrylainen-Trett, Liberal Democrat LGBT+ Activist
“The future of The Black Cap is an issue close to many people’s heart. The sense of community that it offers, in addition to the eclectic entertainment, is overwhelming and something I feel privileged to be a part of. The history of this iconic venue is undeniable and something that we should all work to persevere. My upcoming film, ‘The Battle of Soho’, portrays the essence of collectivism that can support and save such treasured venues as these. Together we are stronger. Together, let’s save The Black Cap.”
Aro Korol, ‘Battle of Soho’ The Korol Film Company.
The Metropolitan Community Church of North London(MCCNL) has been worshipping in Camden for over 15 years. Throughout this time the Black Cap has had an important place in the life and ministry of the church and the people who attend the church. MCCNL has a predominantly LGBTQI congregation many of which are asylum seekers. It has been our tradition to continue our socialising and pastoral support after our Sunday evening service by retiring to the Black Cap.
We have also been welcomed by the Black Cap in the past to hold our midweek Bible Study’s on the premises. They also opened their doors to a Beer and Hymns fundraiser for Pride. Many of my congregation use the time spent in the Black Cap to deepen relationships with one another and improve our ability to be real community to people who often travel several hours to get to a church that they know to be a safe place for LGBTQI people.
The sudden closure of the Black Cap was devastating. Many almost felt ‘homeless’ which was not a good experience for a community that has been made to feel this way on too many occasions either because of the laws of their country, their previous church doctrine or social discrimination. Consequently, as a congregation we have been fully supporting the campaign to save the Black Cap and will continue to do so until we can resume enjoying the hospitality of this historical landmark.
Sharon Ferguson, MA Senior Pastor Metropolitan Community Church North London Co President European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups PhD Research Student
A vast number of our members have lost their safe space in Camden. Camden LGBT Forum strongly supports the campaign to re-open The Black Cap and urges as much support as possible from our community and allies.
Fr Bernard Lynch, Chair, Camden LGBT Forum.
To Everyone Involved with The Black Cap Trust, We at The Golden Lion, Camden, Wish You All The Luck and Best Wishes In Returning The Black Cap to it’s Former Glory.
Regards, Dave, Mary, John, Brian, Jess, Helen, Philip and All Our Customers.