LONDON, July 7 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - More than half of London’s LGBT pubs, clubs and music venues have closed in the last decade, new research commissioned by the city’s mayor shows.
The number of venues for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer Londoners has fallen to 53 from 125, a loss of nearly 60 percent since 2006, according to an audit by the Urban Laboratory at University College London.
London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan said urgent action needed to be taken in light of the “shocking” statistics, as the British capital prepares to celebrate Pride weekend.
“I want London’s LGBT+ community to feel truly valued, happy and safe in our great city and know how important these spaces are to its wellbeing,” said Khan in a statement.
Many LGBT pubs and nightclubs are thriving businesses but rent hikes from landlords and construction for London housing and public transport projects have forced many to close their doors, the report said.
Some of the city’s iconic gay bars, such as the Black Cap pub in north London and the Joiners Arms to the east, have closed down as part of plans to redevelop them.
Ben Campkin, senior lecturer in architecture at UCL, said LGBT spaces remain vital, despite social media making it easier for LGBT people to communicate.
“The ... evidence we have collated disputes unsubstantiated but often repeated claims that LGBTQ+ spaces are no longer needed, or have been replaced by digital apps, which tend only to serve small sections of these communities,” said Campkin.
“Where they have survived, LGBTQ+ spaces are extremely valuable... and the consequences of closures are acutely felt.”
Petitions and protests at the closure of historic central London venues have drawn support from hundreds of patrons, but they have limited power to resist large property owners and off-shore investors leading redevelopment projects, the report said.
Campkin recommends London’s boroughs should recognise the importance of LGBT venues in their local plans and conduct assessments when developments threaten gay bars, nightclubs or music venues.
Amy Lamé, a comedian and performer at LGBT clubs in London who was recently appointed the 'Mayor's Night Czar' will mediate between the owners of venues and developers, Khan said. (Reporting by Matthew Ponsford, Editing by Ros Russell.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org)