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friends of the joiners arms
via Queer Garden

The Joiners Arms is coming back... but it needs your help

The East End’s legendary gay pub is returning as a community-run venue

Queer campaigners have launched a fundraising drive to open the UK’s first-ever community-run LGBTQ+ venue, after a property developer went back on its pledge to fund a new queer space following the closure of The Joiners Arms

The campaign group, called the Friends of the Joiners Arms, launched the crowdfunding initiative on Friday, June 17. They’re selling shares in the new bar and community space for a minimum of £25, in an effort to push back against developers diminishing the number of queer spaces in London. Since 2005, 58 per cent have closed in London.

“Friends of the Joiners Arms (FOTJA) are an award-winning campaign who fought to protect The Joiners Arms on Hackney Road. Our fierce campaign forced the developer to agree to build an LGBTQI+ space. Seven years later and we’re still waiting for our new home,” reads a statement on their crowdfunder page. “But recently we secured funding for a temporary space! So in 2022, we will open our own LGBTQI+ venue.” 

Before it closed in 2015, The Joiners Arms was a legendary LGBTQ+ venue in East London. The bar was a regular spot for cultural kingpins like Alexander McQueen and Sir Ian McKellen.

The developer who bought the venue had promised to pay £100,000 to fund a “pop-up LGBT+ bar” to give Londoners an inclusive place to meet while the Joiners Arms was redeveloped – however, it failed to make good on this promise, as work on the site has been delayed by the pandemic. This is why the Friends of the Joiners Arms are striving to raise money for a new, inclusive space for LGBTQ+ Londoners.

Speaking to Dazed, Izzy Lewis, one member of the Friends of the Joiners Arms, stresses the importance of queer spaces. “For many LGBTQI+ people, these spaces are an oasis of belonging and celebration, spaces to be ourselves, dress how we want, kiss who we want, and dance how we want,” they say. “But even more, LGBTQI+ spaces are crucial hubs for organising, they are where protests are born and plans are made to promote and defend the community.”

“In the new space, we will continue our drag king/thing shows, which prioritise trans, non-binary, womxn, black and POC performers. We will also host regular drop-in events for housing advice, HIV and Aids testing and health outreach, as well as providing a platform and fair payment for unrepresented and marginalised performers. Our not-for-profit model means, after paying our staff, we will reinvest money back into the space and be able to offer a wide variety of events for the diverse needs of the LGBTQI+ communities.” 

“This space will be accessible – which not many queer spaces in London are,” adds Prinx Silver, another Friends of the Joiners Arms campaigner. “We have plans to make it wheelchair accessible, with a lowered area of the bar, and have BSL interpreters and Audio Description for nights with performances. The space will be not-for-profit and anti-capitalist which aligns with our queer politics! No one should become richer at the expense of marginalised communities. This will be an intentional space moulded and run by the community and for the queer community.”

If you’d like to support the Friends of the Joiners Arms and buy a share in the UK's first community-run LGBTQI+ venue, you can do so here.