June is Pride Month, and London is a wonderful place to celebrate all things LGBTQ+. With its rich history and plethora of LGBTQ+ spaces, we asked some of our staff and former students to reflect London's top spots, past and present.
Richard Maguire (Arcadia London Faculty) remembers the Bell, King’s Cross
The Bell was legendary, and I heard rumours of it 50 miles away in my hometown while I was still at school. One night in 1986 we decided to get the train up to London to see if the stories were true. King's Cross was a seedy area in the '80s, and we spent ages looking for it. Once in we only had an hour before the last train back home again. When we left there was a queue of people waiting to get in. The queue was full of the most diverse queer people I'd ever seen; gay men, lesbians, drag queens, gay skinheads, leathermen, punks, Bell Boys and Bell Girls. Even then I knew it would be my future home.
During the late 80s and early 90s I must have been in The Bell, four or five times a week. It's where I met my friends and my lovers. It gave me a sense of community that for queer people in 80s Britain was hard to find. When it closed down a little piece of London (and of me) was lost forever.
Maddie Wallace (Earlham, 2019) recommends Bar Wotever
If you’re looking for a way to spruce up a Tuesday night in London—a task sometimes made difficult by the sheer number of choices—you must check out the uplifting, affirming, and inclusive space at Bar Wotever, hosted by the Royal Vauxhall Tavern. The Tavern has its own impressive history, having served as an integral part of London’s LGBTQ+ community, and particularly the drag scene, since the mid-20th century.
Every Tuesday night, Bar Wotever extends the venue’s long and excellent history of LGBTQ+ performance by offering an eclectic and dazzling show from a talented lineup of queer artists. Each evening offers something different, and you’ll never know exactly what combination the lineup includes—whether dance, spoken word poetry, music, or otherwise.
The result is inspiring and renewing; the bar crackles with the electricity of its art and the energy of the crowd, creating a space that’s utterly unique to London. If you’re drinking, the beverages are affordable for London—but if you’re not, rest assured, Bart Wotever is just as positive, welcoming, and fun!
Gather a group of friends and make your way to the Royal Vauxhall Tavern! Due to Covid-19 restrictions, tables must be purchased in advance—and you’ll get a sneak peek of the incredible host!
You can find the next event here
Polly Penter (Student Life staff) recommends Gay’s the Word
As an undergraduate student at King’s College London back in 2003 I took a module on Queer Studies which remains the highlight of that degree programme. Through this course, and via the recommendation of my wonderful tutor, Professor John Howard, I discovered Gay’s the Word, which anyone who has seen the film Pride will know is more than just a bookshop. For many it’s a safe haven, a community, a teacher - through its resources (its books but also people I met there) I learned more about identity, and especially the complexity of having many sometimes competing, sometimes complementary, identities which make each of us who we are. Opened in 1979, it’s the UK’s oldest LGBTQ+ bookstore and stocks everything you could want from fiction to travel to history, as well as hosting talks, book groups and signings. A short walk from the London Center, anyone with an interest in LGBTQ+ issues should take the time to drop by.
Mandy Wall (Sarah Lawrence College, Goldsmith’s 2019) fondly remembers the Fat Walrus
It’s not an explicitly LGBTQ+ space but the Fat Walrus pub in New Cross means a lot to me because one of my favorite memories from my semester abroad is attached to it. I went to the Goldsmiths Students’ Union to work on a paper and I somehow ended up at a lecture about the history and transnational nature of the pink triangle before going to the Fat Walrus with 90% of the Queer History department faculty and my best friend. The conversations ranged from academic to casual and even though I had just met these people we felt like old friends catching up. All of us were LGBT and not British and that experience really spoke to the power of community and finding that community in a foreign country.
India McFarlane (Arcadia, FYSAE 2020) Talks About Jamie
When remembering all my adventures around London, I really loved that during our orientation week our group of students was exposed to the diversity and inclusion shown throughout the UK and its culture. We went to see the play Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, in which the story explained how Jamie, a secondary school student, was on a journey in finding himself and fighting against his trauma to achieve his dream of becoming a world renowned Drag Queen. Throughout the play, it really resonated with me because I had gone through similar trauma, and like Jamie I have a really supportive mum who lets me be open to exploring my identity and appreciates my growth in my own right. Honestly, this play was also very crucial to bringing out my intense love of the theater scene in London.
Reflecting on his overall experience in London, Jacob McCrea (Arcadia, London Internship 2019-2020) says:
I am a gay man, and I loved my experience in London. I had plenty of good times, for example, I got to attend a conference hosted by Pink News for young LGBTQ+ leaders. At that event, I had an opportunity to network with many adults that were in various professional fields that may have identified somewhere in the LGBTQ+ spectrum. Beyond that, I had an opportunity to have an internship in the House of Commons with an MP by the name of Luke Pollard, a Labour Party member who is the Shadow Environment Secretary and is also gay. It was beyond words to see a gay man in a leadership role in a national government with such an important role. Beyond the professional, I got the chance to make friends with lovely LGBTQ+ students and got to know some of the staff in London that is LGBTQ+ as well. London is an amazing place, and a great place to be if you are LGBTQ+.
You can find out what's on during Pride Month and beyond here.