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"Use every man after his desert, and who should 'scape whipping?"

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Property jackals murdering the gay soul of London

There's a massive crime wave hitting London, and the chances are it's happening in a street near you.

All over the city, popular, cheap, accessible centres of community are being snuffed out, suffocated by rising rents and aggressive property speculators. Each day comes news of a new outrage. Last week, for example, we heard that the The Black Cap pub in Camden High Street is to close because the owners of the property want to convert the upper floors into luxury flats.

A little later that day - in that sort of newsroom coincidence that makes you want to scream out loud, what the fuck is going on?– we heard that campaigners are now having to fight to save the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, which would - if anyone asked you - probably be the second LGBT pub you'd name after the great centre of all things drag in Camden Town.

I have fond memories of the Black Cap, spending a few evenings there with my dear friend Phil as she make her first steps into the lesbian world. I've never been inside the RVT but always enjoyed seeing the clientele milling around outside in minimal clothing of a summer Sunday evening as I made my grim way back from Cambridge.

In case you think they're picking on gays - well, probably not, but - who knows? Madam Jo-Jos in SOho has already gone the way of all lovely, anarchic, scruffy centres of joyous everything, to be replaced by wtf hideously expensive flats, god knows.

The sort of property developer we all suspect is doing these things is certainly the type who wants to attract clients who will not be best pleased by all-night partying, loud music and noisy, boisterous clientele emerging from the premises at 4 or 5 am in full voice.

To which the only possible riposte is, if you don't like noisy parties and antisocial behaviour, don't move into any of  London's party districts. Instead, just buy a flat in a docklands high-rise or go to your natural habitat, the Surrey-through-Berks-through-Bucks stockbroker belt.

Early and sustained resistance worked at the Elephant and Castle, where the Ministry of Sound managed to overturn a planning consent for luxury flats close enough for the exhausted traders living there (if anyone would have actually lived there) might be kept wake by the booming bass of the dance floor.

But elsewhere pub after club after music venue has gone dark  - whether in Soho, or Brixton, or Islington, they're all falling away. New Cross and Dalston and Deptford will be next, you can be sure.
Another place fighting for its survival is the beautiful community arts centre in Shoreditch, the Rich Mix, which is apparently losing its council funding. If that happens - and there's every sign a massive campaign will fight this one to the bitter end - then it takes little imagination to work out who the land will go to.

Similar developers are even planning the destruction of the very heart of London's music business, Denmark Streeet.

If, when that happens - and heaven knows what ghastly tribute to the  music industry heritage they are planning to knock up there to keep the council happy - then we'll know it really is all over, won't we?

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