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QUEER CITY: THE STORY OF SOHO’S CLANDESTINE LGBTQ+ SPACES

In celebration of LGBT month (and a timely acknowledgement of the success of ‘Turing’s Law’ – which has finally seen thousands of gay and bisexual men convicted of now-abolished sexual offences posthumously pardoned), one of London’s most famous queer-friendly members’ clubs, The Caravan, is being recreated

Queer City: London Club Culture 1918-1967, is a unique collaboration between the National Trust and The National Archives to recreate ‘London’s most bohemian rendezvous’. The recreation, opening on 2 March and running until 26 March 2017, will take place at the well-known Freud Café-Bar on almost the exact site of the original club.

The Caravan, ‘the most unconventional spot in town’, existed at a time when being openly gay frequently led to prosecution and imprisonment. In 1934, it was raided and closed by police. This project seeks to tell the important story of many similar clandestine LGBTQ+ spaces in and around Soho.

The Caravan, ‘the most unconventional spot in town’, existed at a time when being openly gay frequently led to prosecution

‘While the project will be an opportunity to celebrate the partial decriminalisation of same sex relationships, it will also confront the realities of those lives that were fettered, destroyed, or worse, by prejudice of that era,’ says Joseph Watson, London Creative Director for the National Trust. ‘It provides a timely reminder of the importance of side-lined cultures to our national heritage.’

For the National Trust and The National Archives the project forms part of a wider programme that commemorates 50 years since the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality. Photographs, court reports, police papers and witness statements on The Caravan and other clubs of the era will be used to re-create the striking bohemian interior of the underground club.

Selected from The National Archives’ extensive collection, these documents reveal great detail and insights into club culture and the everyday prejudices facing the homosexual community at the time. The reconstruction will form the focal point of a month of tours of LGBTQ+ heritage and queer club culture throughout Covent Garden and Soho.

As well as tours, there will be a programme of themed talks, debates and performances capturing the spirit of The Caravan and wider queer club culture. Evening openings will allow a limited number of ticket holders to enjoy club ‘membership’, where Freud Café-Bar’s expert bartenders will create bespoke cocktails drawn from clubs of the era.

Queer City runs from 2-26 March 2017 at Freud Café-Bar, 198 Shaftesbury Avenue WC2H 8JL. Tours are £12; evening membership is £5. To book see nationaltrust.org.uk/london 


 

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