As Pride is set to return to the capital for its 50th year this weekend, many Southwark residents will no doubt be among the thousands marching. The area, along with neighbouring Lambeth, has among the highest proportion of LGBT people in the country.
Some of those residents may even return to the borough after the parade to enjoy a night out in LGBT nightclub, XXL.
But the night will be tinged with a cloud. Last week, the club’s owners were served an eviction notice after losing a court battle against the start of an approved development for flats and office space in Bankside.
As things currently stand, it must vacate its current premises, just off Southwark Street within three months. The business owners have said in a statement they feel Southwark and the capital more generally is being cleansed of its LGBT spaces.
Such places are vital, and the fear isn’t without foundation.
According to a London Assembly report in 2017, our city has seen a dramatic loss of LGBT spaces in the past decade – a 58 per cent fall since 2006.
The landlords Native Land have responded not unreasonably that planning permission was granted before it owned the site. It also points out that the club did not object to the plans back in 2014.
Any accusation that the decision to serve an eviction notice were motivated by investment from countries where gay sex is still criminalised was “absolutely not the case”, it told this paper.
Rightly, councillors for the ward have pledged to do all they can to make sure the borough retains its assets for the LGBT community.
Borough and Bankside’s Victor Chamberlain has previously raised fears about the loss of LGBT spaces in the borough, while fellow ward councillor David Noakes also attended a meeting between town hall officials and the club, to try to secure its future in Southwark.
Cllr Johnson Situ, who holds the cabinet’s planning portfolio, told the News the council has had a constructive and positive meeting with the club in a bid to secure its future in this borough.
As one person online responded: “This club is so important to me and all the others who attend. From the first time I went, I felt so accepted.”
The importance of that feeling of acceptance cannot be overstated.
We hope for the sake of Southwark’s vibrant LGBT community that a path is found by the club, the council and by councillors for the venue to remain in the borough.