On 11 February 2018 Student Pride are teaming up with us at Queer Tours of London (‘A Mince Through Time’) to deliver one of our biggest bus tours to date.
We believe that it is vital that the next generation of (politically and sexually) active LGBTQ+ people are aware of the struggles, campaigns, defeats and victories of the generations that went before us, as well as the laws and institutions which kept our community oppressed, and pushed us underground. How else can we continue to mobilise around contemporary LGBTQ+ issues, in the UK and globally, without first understanding our own journey to the point that we are at today?
Living in Hackney as a younger gay man, I am fortunate to have a choice of queer night-time spaces to visit. Let’s hear it for The Glory, Dalston Superstore or Vogue Fabrics for instance, or the various LGBT and Q nights that pop up at places like the Ace Hotel in Shoreditch or Electrowerkz in Islington. We are (thankfully, mostly) safe in these spaces. Safe to explore our gender and sexual identity. Safe to have a dance and a drink. Safe to, if we’re feeling it, attempt to pull. But we mustn’t take this for granted. What about those brave queer pioneers, who went to similar spaces in London in the 1920s and 1930s, such as The Caravan Club, by Shaftesbury Avenue, raided by undercover police officers in 1934, in which 103 people were arrested, families and marriages broken up, jobs lost and careers over, in which the owner Jack Neave was sentenced to 20 months hard labour. Or Billie’s Club in Soho, raided by police three years later, in which the police report stated that ‘their [gay men] dancing consisted of suggestive movements and was exaggerated more than necessary. They spoke in effeminate voices. On another occasion [one] danced with a halfcaste. After the dance several people applauded.’
Let us use our history to protect our present and our future – QToL are proud to be supporting the successful Save The Joiners Arms Campaign. We need these spaces for our community to thrive.
The bus tour will encourage Student Pride members to be proud in their LGBTQ+ identities. Let us learn from the Gay Liberation Front from the 1970s, and their brand of anti-assimilationist, in-yer-face equality campaigns. And let’s rekindle other forms of queer identity too – such as Polari, the secret gay language spoken by men in the 1940s and 1950s. Let’s build a community of queer individuals who are empowered and emboldened by those who went before them. At QToL we are fortunate to have ex-GLF members as part of our team, and we run Polari workshops.
When the bus reaches Westminster we will learn of the incredible campaigns against the homophobic Section 28 Legislation, such as the lesbians who abseiled down the House of Lords in protest. This in turn inspired a more recent guerrilla movement – The Sexual Avengers – to put up a fake blue plaque to commemorate it. The personal is political. Queer campaigns such as this prove this.
I’m very excited to be the tour guide for this bus tour, and hope it leads to a future relationship between Student Pride and Queer Tours of London, as we seek to use our collective history to continue to educate, empower and agitate.
To book a place on the Student Pride bus tour, please see: https://queertoursoflondon.com/2018/01/13/book-your-tickets-here-for-student-pride-queer-bus-tour-of-london-feb-11th-2018/
By Dan de la Motte
Queer Tours of London.