Keeping it in the room: health, happiness and living in Berlin
Yesterday, New York’s Stonewall Inn was awarded Landmark Status in recognition of its role in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) history. Today, as Pride weekend approaches, Sir Ian McKellen and Paul O’Grady have given their support to a community campaign to make the Royal Vauxhall Tavern – believed to be the UK’s oldest LGBTQ pub and iconic performance space – a listed building for the same reason.
McKellen and O’Grady are among more than 30 performers, producers, local residents, LGBTQ charities, architects, historians and politicians who have written to Historic England (formerly English Heritage) to back the listing application made by RVT Future, against the wishes of the pub’s chief executive, James Lindsay. The new owner, Austrian property development company Immovate, also opposes the listing, claiming it would make even minor repairs ‘so expensive that it would have to close the Tavern’. The company has not given any evidence to support this claim.
Paul O’Grady developed his legendary character Lily Savage at the RVT during a long- running residency in the 80s. ‘I consider the venue to be my very own school of dramatic art,’ O’Grady writes. ‘The Vauxhall Tavern was our village hall’ during a turbulent era marked by homophobia, police raids and the Aids crisis.
He believes the Tavern ‘should be offered protection to withstand today’s developers… Without listing the threat to its future is all too real. With listing I know the community will rally round and ensure it remains an important venue for many decades to come.’
The Tavern was built on the former grounds of the Vauxhall pleasure gardens around 1862, and has been a site of LGBTQ community and culture since the 1950s, if not earlier. The RVT featured in last year’s international hit film Pride, ‘playing itself’ as a hub of community activism.
In the 1980s, RVT regular Freddie Mercury and Kenny Everett took Princess Diana to the Tavern for a night out having dragged her up as a boy so she wouldn’t be recognised.
Historic England makes its recommendations on listing to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, which has ultimate authority over listing designations. The result of the RVT application is expected this summer.
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