The Shoreditch venue is the latest in a long line of London gay clubs to be faced with closure – here’s why it matters
If you like going out, it’s a confusing time to be gay in London right now. New venues and club nights are opening on regular basis but in contrast to the newness, we seem to be losing the city’s established queer venues.
News broke this week that Shoreditch pub The George & Dragon is up for sale due to increased rents – heard that one before? If there’s ever been a boozer that acts as a home for East London’s creatives, designers, party monsters or drag queens, The George would be the one.
Current owners Richardette and Lilianne took it over in 2002 and since then it’s become an LGBT legend, as well as for many from outside the gay community. Naturally, space has to be made for new history to be made. Performance artist Jonny Woo is doing this with Dalston venue The Glory and East Bloc owner Wayne Shires has the Bloc Bar in Camden. But we don’t want to let The George go – here are the reasons it deserves to stay.
DRAG ACTS AND PERFORMANCE ART
If there’s one thing the George is known for, it’s drag queens wigging out on the bar and insane performance acts on Friday nights. Jonny Woo, prior to opening The Glory, wasn’t just a regular here – he brought some of his performance guises and shows to the venue too. Fellow East End legends Jeanette and John Sizzle have also made regular appearances. More recently, drag queens Jon Benet Blonde and Jacqui Potato have been hosting packed out weekend nights.
MERRY FUCKING CHRISTMAS
Christmas at The George was legit a thing. From early December right up to Christmas Eve, gathering around the fantastically camp Christmas decorations was tradition for many of us East London gays. The snowflake shaped tinsel hanging down from the ceiling was kind of like getting a shit present from your grandma. You looked forward to it every year.
TAKING AN ARTY LEAK
For those who don’t know, The George isn’t just a pub. For years, it has doubled as an exhibition space too. Its toilets were always adorned with club night flyers, but in 2005 it officially became The White Cubicle Toilet Gallery thanks to curator Pablo Leon de la Barra. The single toilet cubicle, which remains in use even when work is on display, has exhibited artwork from Julie Verhoeven, Wolfgang Tillmans, Tim Noble and Sue Webster and Terence Koh. Magazines and zines like Butt and P.i.X have also made cameos in the now very famous loo.
TASTEFUL TACK AND NEW TALENT
The George has introduced the idea of considered camp to many a youngster. Its sometimes kitsch, sometimes eccentric décor is a lesson in pop cultural moments bothold and new. Each ornament or poster tells a story. The deliberately lo-fi posters and flyers that promote the venue’s DJ nights or parties have become collectables over the years, acting as a reminder of the many good nights its punters have had there. Then there’s its support for new artists or DJs. If you’ve got an idea, The George might just support it.
There was a Friday night back in 2004 when a London stylist was working with Britney. Around 5pm, gossip spread across East London that the stylist in question might bring Britney to the George. She didn’t FFS, but The George has had a fair few celebs through its doors. Chloë Sevigny, Jean Paul Gaultier and Kate Moss have all popped in for a tipple. More importantly though, the pub has been a trusted haunt for the city’s visionary talents.