GT’s Eurovision correspondent and RVT Future campaigner Rob Holley has been running Push The Button at the Royal Tavern for 5 years, and has been a punter since he was a teenager. Here’s his update on what we can do to save one of the UK’s most iconic LGBT venues.
Like you, I’m a massive fan of Conchita Wurst – but the biggest drag to emerge from Austria that year turned out to be a Vienna-based property development company called Immovate. In 2014 we learned that they’d bought the iconic Royal Vauxhall Tavern and potentially had plans to develop the site.
A battle between RVT Future (a campaign group set up to protect the Tavern, which includes myself and a troupe of performers, promotors and punters) and Immovate commenced, and a plan was hatched by us to bring the Royal Vauxhall Tavern into community ownership.
We’d seen so many of our queer spaces disappear across the country, that we sure as hell weren’t going to let them take this one for the sake of more fucking flats that no-one can afford.
The biggest weapon in our armoury was the potential to have the RVT listed and protected by Historic England, and after a battle even longer and tenser than the new Eurovision scoring format, journalist Ben Walter’s 10,000 word HE application was approved and rubber-stamped – by a Tory government no less!
Boy, did we party when we heard the news. It was a huge landmark, and one that every single campaigner and RVT patron is proud of. We’d always known that our beloved little pub was adored, but now it had the type of international recognition that is really, truly deserved. It’s on par with New York’s Stonewall Inn, and rightly so!
Hooray for the gays! We’d managed to stop Austrian property developers… Albeit temporarily.
The Grade II listing we fought so hard for protects the fabric of the Royal Vauxhall Tavern – from its iconic frontage to the pillars inside. However, the listing doesn’t protect the way the building is used, and so while we still don’t own the pub, it’s still in danger. If there’s a chance that Immovate can make lots of money from the absurd London property market, there’s also a chance they’ll find a way to unload the Royal Vauxhall Tavern on to a company that won’t care about it’s rich history or its 60 years plus use as an LGBTQ+ pub and performance venue.
But there is something we can do to add a further layer of protection – and it’s something we need YOUR help with.
RVT Future are now working to add another layer of defence to the RVT – ‘sui generis’ status. Latin for ‘of its own kind’, this classification (granted by Lambeth Council) would unequivocally specify the RVT’s use as an LGBTQ performance venue. This would make it much, much harder for a prospective buyer to alter the use of the venue, and would help us to fend off potential bids from chain pubs that have no interest in the LGBTQ community.
Lambeth Council opened a public consultation period on Friday 10 June, which will close 21 days later on Friday 1 July.
We need to raise our collective voice as loud as possible during this consultation period, and everyone who’s been to the Tavern has a role to play.
Lambeth Council are looking for evidence of the Royal Vauxhall Tavern’s continuous use, for at least the last ten years, as an LGBTQ pub and performance space. We need at least one piece of evidence for each month since February 2006.
Sounds absurd, right? Of course we all know the Tavern’s been rocking it since before most of us were born, but the council need to create an unquestionable formal record of this, and we want to fully support them in this endeavour.
It’s time to delve back into your Facebook photos, emails, pinboards and wallets…
We need to hear from punters, promoters and performers who can testify to the Tavern’s use as a performance space. Performance is key. We want evidence of as many shows and performances as possible over the years. Best of all would be contracts or emails confirming you hired the venue, were paid to perform there or tickets/receipts for events that included performance.
We urgently need the following:
- Tickets / stubs for shows
- press articles
- experiences and testimonies – from performers and punters
- photos of shows
- ticket receipts
- flyers and promotional materials
- personal stories backed up with data…
…anything that can we date to a particular month in this ten year period.
Here’s the science bit – concentrate:
Please email your evidence, along with an explanation of your involvement with the Royal Vauxhall Tavern to Rowena Folkes at Lambeth Council – RFolkes@lambeth.gov.uk and make sure you CC in firstname.lastname@example.org before midday on Friday 1 July.
This case number should be included with all submissions: 16/02418/LDCE
Remember, this is a public consultation – so any evidence you submit will be within the public domain.
Together we can create a definitive record of what we all know to be true – that for the last decade and waaaaaaay beyond, the Royal Vauxhall Tavern has been a fabulous, sweaty, culturally important performance venue and home to the LGBTQ community and its friends, and it deserves to be so far into the future.
Of course, the Tavern will only be completely safe once we bring it in to community ownership (so if you fancy buying a pub with us – do get in touch!) – but this is another hugely important step.