Race is on to revive much-loved London gay pub the Joiners Arms | LGBT rights

Comedians Stephen Fry and Joe Lycett and actor Mawaan Rizwan have joined in a race to raise tens of thousands of pounds to open the UK’s first community-run queer venue.

Campaigners need to raise nearly £30,000 in the next four days to hit their £100,000 target and keep alive hopes of reviving the Joiners Arms, a famous east London gay institution.

The Friends of the Joiners Arms campaign group launched a crowdfunding initiative this summer, selling shares in a proposed new bar and community venue for as little as £25 in a “fightback” against the number of queer venues lost to property development.

The campaign has achieved more than two-thirds of its fundraising target, but the project will not go ahead if the campaigners fail to hit £100,000 by the deadline of 8pm on Tuesday 2 August.

The fundraiser was launched when a property developer stalled on its promise to fund the creation of a queer venue after it forced the closure of the Joiners Arms in Tower Hamlets in 2015. Famous regulars included the late fashion designer Alexander McQueen, singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright, and actor Sir Ian McKellen. Pop star Olly Alexander has also spoken out against the closure.

Alexander McQueen holds statuette at awards ceremony
The designer Alexander McQueen was among many regulars at the Joiners Arms from the world of fashion and the arts. Photograph: Chip East/Reuters

The developer, Regal London, had promised to pay £100,000 to fund a pop-up bar to give Londoners an inclusive place to meet during the demolition and redevelopment of the Joiners. However, it has failed to provide the money because work on a planned hotel at the site has been delayed by the pandemic.

London lost 58% of its queer spaces between 2006 and 2015, according to research from University College London. Eleven boroughs, including Haringey, and Kensington and Chelsea, have lost all their LGBTQ+ bars, the researchers found.

“Queer spaces are hugely important and under constant threat, so when I heard about the Friends of the Joiners Arms initiative to open a new one I was so delighted,” Lycett said. “I wholeheartedly support their campaign and can’t wait for it to open.”

Amy Roberts, chair of Friends of the Joiners Arms, said the campaigners had been overwhelmed by the support shown by the community, but urged people to help spread the word to raise more funds before the fast-approaching deadline.

“We were hoping that by keeping the minimum share price low at £25 we would be able to encourage a broad cross-section of the queer community to invest in our project – but we have been blown away by the number of investors. However, unless we meet the minimum target of £100,000 by the end of the fundraising period, we will have to return all the investment we’ve had so far.

“So we want to ask people to dig deep. You only have a few days left to become a member of the society and have your say in how a new queer venue is run. Whether you want to invest £25 or £10,000, please do it now.”

Roberts said the campaign had received funding and support from the Foundation for Future London, Co-operatives UK and social investment business the Reach Fund.

Campaigners are working with the Greater London Authority’s culture and community spaces at risk team to secure a site for the new venue for at least five years. It is hoped that the space will host regular drop-in events for housing advice, HIV/Aids testing and health outreach, and that it will open by the end of the year … if it achieves the £100,000 fundraising target.

Many of the Joiners’ customers were leading lights of fashion, music and the arts. Besides McQueen, who died in 2010, and Wainwright, regulars included the singer-songwriter Patrick Wolf, designer Christopher Kane, actor Rupert Everett and Westlife singer Mark Feehily.

The pub was also immortalised in Bloc Party’s 2007 track On, which includes the line: “Hidden away in every locked toilet I’ve been waiting for you in the Joiners Arms.”

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