“The LGBTQ community’s history comes from these venues,” says John Sizzle, the co-owner of The Glory. “We don’t have an archive. We don’t have museums. We don’t have libraries telling our story – it’s our social spaces.”
But it only takes a few seconds of scrolling through The Glory’s website to realise something is seriously wrong.
“Postponed: Man Up – drag king contest.” “Postponed: Cabaret lounge hosted by Crayola the Queen.” “Postponed: Trouble with Baby Lame and Johnny Bones.”
Like hundreds of LGBTQ businesses across the UK, the pub in the east end of London – which describes itself as the capital’s “leading queer venue and performance mecca” – has had to close its doors amid the UK’s coronavirus lockdown.
“It wasn’t till I was actually closing it up that I got my head around what it means for the community,” John said.
“Obviously there are lots of people out there who are very confident and stable and sure of themselves – they’re more mature, they’re older, they’re more established in their lives.
“Then there are other people just starting out in their adult life or they’re facing issues relating to their queer identity. The thing about these venues is that they’re very much a springboard for adulthood.”
He added: “It’s where people who are marginalised by the rest of society actually get an opportunity to relax and be themselves. There’s no hatred in there – it’s literally that corny phrase, ‘a safe space’. That is what is being lost.”
The fate of his staff is another serious concern for John. When he shut down the venue earlier this month for what could be the last time in weeks – if not months – he knew he would have to make all of his...