Less than a week after the shock closure of the Black Cap – one of London’s oldest LGBTQ venues, with a half-century history as a pub, cabaret space and community hub – more than one hundred people gathered outside the venue on Camden High Street in protest under the banner We Are The Black Cap.
The peaceful assembly yesterday afternoon (April 18 2015) attracted people who had been regular or occasional users of the pub at various points over the decades, representatives of Camden LGBT Forum, members of campaign groups related to other small London venues under threat – some queer, others also managed by Black Cap operator Faucet Inn – as well as concerned Camden residents and curious passersby.
There was also a surprise appearance from a double-decker bus bearing the slogan ‘Save the Black Cap’, a rainbow flag and the campaign’s hashtag, #WeAreTheBlackCap, courtesy of Red Routemaster bus hire company. The company told me on Twitter: “we came under our own accord, so was a surprise. Wanted to help out, raise more awareness. #lgbt Community”.
The event was a striking success on several counts. It unambiguously demonstrated the deep and widespread love for the Black Cap and anger at its sudden closure.
It demonstrated that those feelings were shared by large numbers of Camden residents who weren’t themselves users of the venue.
And it reaffirmed the strength of the constructive relationships between the Cap’s devotees and the police, who facilitated the event with friendliness and efficiency, and the council, who have expressed their concern at the closure and were represented yesterday afternoon by Labour, Conservative, Lib Dem and Green councillors.
Special thanks for organisation of the event must go to Spike Rhodes, whose Drama Queens group used to use the Cap; Joe Parslow and Meth of the Familyyy Fierce, which produced shows there over the past 18 months and whose members were out in force yesterday; Nigel Harris of Camden LGBT Forum; and Steve Binks, who oversaw logistical issues including arrangement of stewards and stage management.
Titti La Camp hosted the event with verve and passion, compering speakers who described the venue’s importance and linked it to other threatened spaces around London, including other Faucet Inn pubs such as the Dartmouth Arms and Sir Richard Steele, and other LGBTQ venues such as the Joiners Arms and the Royal Vauxhall Tavern (I spoke about the RVT Future campaign).
Father Bernard Lynch also spoke in defence of the venue’s community value. There was a performance from the Pink Singers. And the crowd were invited to join in a Regina Fong singalong to evoke one of the venue’s most legendary performers.
Titti emphasised the need to direct anger at the venue’s owners rather than risk infighting within the LGBTQ scene. Meth powerfully reaffirmed the need for concerted action, and described a growing realisation of having been manipulated by Faucet Inn while working at the Cap.
To say no support was voiced for Faucet Inn during the event would be an understatement.
There’s a detailed report of the protest at the Independent and various galleries of pictures, including an overview at This Is Cabaret and some stunning images by Paul Grace. It was also featured on ITN news. Some of the speeches can be seen at Rainbow Hamlet’s Facebook page.
The protest showed clearly how, over just a few days, Monday’s shock and grief had turned to anger, which was channelled into action. Many are now asking the question ‘what next?’ – a question to which I plan to propose some answers in a subsequent post.