“Inclusivity is not a box-ticking exercise for us,” says Jonny Woo, one of the co-owners of London’s newest LGBTQIA+ venue, The Divine. “It’s not like, ‘You have to be inclusive, ta-dah!’ I feel like everything I’ve done has always been about bringing people in.”
As a drag performer, cabaret artist, curator and director, Woo has always been at the forefront of the scene in London. His previous venture, The Glory, instantly became a staple in queer nightlife when it opened in 2014, eventually developing a legacy of community and a sense of belonging among regulars. Described as its “naughty little sister,” The Divine is the next bold step forward for Woo, John Sizzle and Colin Rothbart, all of whom were instrumental in making The Glory as impactful as it was.
Located in Dalston, the new venue can hold more than 200 people and is split across two floors “with a bar upstairs and a cabaret space and disco downstairs.” Woo explains that The Divine has “a very different feel” to The Glory, describing the latter as being like “an old school gay bar” in the most “beautiful” way possible.
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“This place is a much bigger space, it’s a little bit industrial, but we’ve softened it with these gorgeous art installations by a designer called Max Allen,” he tells GAY TIMES at The Divine’s launch party. “Downstairs is definitely a step up. We’ve got this amazing lighting and sound system and we’ve got a much bigger stage. The queens are already working out how many of them they can fit on that stage. Someone just came up and said, ‘I think we can do a five person number,’ which you definitely couldn’t do before.”
Like its predecessor, The Divine will continue to platform rising stars through an array of live performances, themed nights and sickening parties. Yshee Black, Sharon Le Grand and Baby Lame are just some of the names set to take the stage there in the coming weeks, with attendees also able to look forward to drag battles such as LIPSYNC1000 and Man Up getting underway in 2024.
“We are non-curated in that if you have an idea or want to start out, you can come to us and we can talk about you putting on a show here and earning money for the first time,” says Woo. “If you’re from a community that feels marginalised, come and use our space and get your mates together and build a community with us and become part of our ‘gang,’ if you like!”
Woo shares that he and the team “always” knew The Glory’s closure “was on the cards” and is hopeful The Divine will quickly become “a beautiful place to meet people in gorgeous surroundings.” He highlights that the team is “seriously” working on making the venue accessible to those with varying levels of mobility so that all LGBTQIA+ people and their allies can enjoy the space.
“There’s a very strong community in East London and it’s a real community, people know each other, people support each other and I think that’s how we are going to be able to grow,” he adds. “But it means we can’t be complacent as well, we can’t just assume people are going to come. It’s exciting that we can do it – you know, it’s sad to leave the space behind – but we want a challenge, we want to offer new possibilities.”
The Divine is located at 33 Stoke Newington Road and you can find a full list of upcoming shows here.