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This weekend London’s Pride march returns as we celebrate the end of a month-long programme of Pride events. London hosts the largest and most diverse Pride celebrations in the UK, showcasing our inclusivity and acceptance as well as providing a platform for London’s LGBTQI+ communities to raise awareness of the issues affecting us.

It’s incredibly important that we gather together in solidarity and celebration of our LGBTQI+ communities, in all their diversity. I’m so proud that in London you are free to be who you want to be – it is what attracted me to move here as a young lesbian 30 years ago! While our capital is a shining example of diversity and inclusivity to others, there is still a huge need for our own dedicated LGBTQI+ venues.

Our queer spaces are a huge part of what makes London London – adding to our varied nightlife, supporting the economy and providing a space for true freedom of expression. They are a safe haven where people can feel comfortable and free to be who they are, while also supporting a network of talent including performers, DJs, and promoters.

Before Sadiq was Mayor, the capital lost more than half of its LGBTQI+ spaces over the course of a decade. Venues and spaces were facing pressure from developments, a lack of protection in the planning system, and the sale and change of use of the property by landlords, alongside rising business rates and rents.

The Mayor recognised this problem, and when I was appointed London’s Night Czar, one of my most urgent priorities was to tackle the decline in LGBTQI+ venues across the capital. Many will know this is an issue close to my heart; I led the campaigns to save the Royal Vauxhall Tavern in the 1990s and the 2010s.

Over the years the Mayor and I have worked hard to support venues through a range of measures, including protections in the London Plan, establishing the LGBTQI+ Venues Forum and bespoke support through our Culture and Community Spaces at Risk Programme.

This helped stabilise venues but then sadly the pandemic hit and massively affected them again – as they were among the first to close and last to reopen.

We stepped up to help these venues when it became clear that there were gaps in the support available from Government. This led to Sadiq providing £225,000 of dedicated funding and support to help LGBTQI+ venues survive as part of his Culture at Risk Business Support Fund.

As the long-lasting impact of the pandemic continues to loom over businesses, they are now facing a series of other challenges as they struggle with the impact of the cost of living crisis, skyrocketing inflation, high energy costs and general uncertainty, putting increased pressure on our vital night time businesses.

Sadiq and I are doing all we can to support LGBTQI+ venues. Our Culture and Community Spaces at Risk Programme continues to safeguard London’s grassroots and world-leading cultural institutions, with a focus on working with venues that serve LGBTQI+ communities. If you own or visit an LGBTQI+ venue which you believe is in trouble, please reach out to us before it’s too late.

We also set up the first ever LGBTQI+ Venues Forum, which provides a space for venue operators and owners to come together and discuss their shared challenges. This is helping to build resilience in the sector, and keeps us informed of the difficulties facing the community and businesses.

And I’m thrilled that one of the Mayor’s Night Time Enterprise Zones is supporting iconic LGBTQI+ venues in Vauxhall, an area much loved by our community.

But as we approach the end of Pride Month, the situation for LGBTQI+ venues remains tough and there is still much more to be done.

I’d like to see more support from central Government, and recognition that the value of our LGBTQI+ spaces is measured by much more than just what they contribute to the economy. Developers also have a huge role to play, and I will continue to lobby them to include LGBTQI+ spaces in their plans.

I am proud that London is a beacon of diversity, and I’m confident that by working together in partnership we can not only protect our cherished LGBTQI+ venues from closure, but also ensure more of our community spaces can open and flourish, welcoming generations to come.

Amy Lamé has been London’s Night Czar since 2016.