Where to, now the sequins have gone?

Lewisham’s lost queer spaces

Image: The Queen’s Arms, Courtwell Road, Lewisham

This project will uncover the histories of Lewisham’s lost gay venues that thrived from the 1970s – 90s by gathering the memories and stories of the people who created informal communities responding to social and political challenges, and the AIDS crisis.

These histories will inspire creative responses to the challenges faced by queer spaces that will document a forgotten past while empowering communities of today.

Background

After partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1967, London’s gay bars were able to legally operate in relative peace. For 30 years, Lewisham’s bars and pubs acted as safe spaces for queer people to meet, be themselves and overcome collective challenges.

Venues like The Castle, Goldsmiths Tavern and The Roebuck hosted regular drag nights and parties throughout the week.

The end of the 20th century saw the steady decline of Lewisham’s gay bars, a loss that had huge consequences for the communities they served. In 2012, the borough’s only gay bar at the time, Two8Six, closed its doors permanently after a disagreement with the landlord, punctuating the end of a string of closures.

Project

This project will revive the memories of the hey-day of Lewisham’s queer spaces and highlight their importance to the borough’s LGBTQ+ community.

Through the creation of a temporary queer space in Lewisham Shopping Centre, the project will invite local people to take part in discussions, interviews and participatory workshops to document the history of this period.

Zine-making, film-screenings, and oral history sessions will be conducted in a safe environment to both reflect on the past and generate creative interventions for the future. These conversations will aid the creation of an interactive map of Lewisham’s queer spaces that thrived post-1967.

The oral histories, photographs, and film clips collected from those who lived through the period will contribute to a prototype mobile ‘queer capsule’ in the autumn, a physical space that will invite participants to develop new ideas for local queer spaces.

The project will conclude with the creation of a toolkit intended to inspire and empower communities to safeguard their current queer spaces in Lewisham and beyond.

Can you share a memory of Lewisham’s lost gay pubs and spaces?

Project team

  • Paul Green, Bijou Stories, freelance Project Manager and Curator
  • Rosie Oliver, Bijou Stories