Tomorrow 50 square metres of turf are arriving at The Glory. We’re coating the pub in real grass and decking the walls for our first ever pub festival this weekend – THE GLORY DAYS. The turf idea will help create that festival feel but is actually a homage to The Bricklayers Arms in Shoreditch who did the same twenty years ago to this day. It was the birth of “Gay Shoreditch” as a green-fingered Jonny Woo explains…
We’ve just bought a tonne of turf for the pub, I’m quite excited.
Where’s it coming from?
Online Turf dear.
But twenty years ago there was no internet. What did The Bricklayers Arms do?
Oh I think Pablo flicked through the Yellow Pages and picked up the phone, there are ways around the internet! Zoe was expecting a ‘full laying service’ I told her ‘wrong website’!
What will happen to the turf afterwards?
Someone on the De Beauvoir council estate is going to wake up on Monday morning and discover that their concrete feature garden has transformed over night! 50 square feet of turf complete with stiletto holes and Prosecco corks!
So it’s the twentieth anniversary of “Gay Shoreditch”
Well it’s hard to say. Some would argue the arrival of The George and Dragon was the defining moment and that was about thirteen years ago.
And there was the Kray Twins and what not before?
Oh there’ll have always been gay people in East London, but back then it was more shady and at the same time more mixed too.
What about The Joiners Arms?
No! That was a straight pub for years, it was a meeting place for local businesses before it turned gay. A lot of younger people don’t realise that this “gay bars shutting down” thing was going on for years. I can name ten gay bars in Shoreditch that have shut down since I moved here in the early 90s.
Go for it…
Ok! So The London Apprentice, or The LA as we called it, which had a big dark room at the back. The Duke of Wellington, which turned straight. H20 which used to be a gay sex club but is now a lacklustre Costcutter. The Artful Dodger – that just completely disappeared, there’s a block of flats smothering where it once was. The Bull and Pump, now a sports bar on Shoreditch High Street – Glendora used to work there. The Ship and Blue Ball which was behind it, a tiny little pub with a dark room. The Stepney Pride, great on a Sunday, just vanished one day. The Fallen Angel, obliterated by student accomodation – round the back of McDonalds on City Road. The King Edward in Islington, now some posh house.
The Spiral Staircase. I remember seeing someone being rimmed on the dancefloor there while my friend threw up into a bucket. It’s now Dragon Bar. Then there was The Cock And Comfort..
Ok, ok, stop! So why did they all die?
There’s no one answer. I think Soho sucked them out. Soho just exploded in the 90s. This change is all part of the scene, I kind of like it. And I like gay scenesters who are branching out into mainstream territories.
So Saturday – we’re throwing a party in the middle of Old Street Roundabout.
Yes, a gay Glastonbury reunion with Gideon and Hannah Holland DJ’ing and a load of us dressed up and dancing around on rooftops.
What was your Glastonbury 2015 highlight?
Probably Patti Smith singing happy birthday to the Dalai Lama, which we will of course re-enact on Saturday afternoon.
Is Jacqui Potato involved by any chance?
Yes, and Jonbenet Blonde. The three of us. You have to guess who will play Patti, who will play the Dalai Lama, and who will play a giant cake.
Oh My God. We heard that one of your dancers shouted “Get A Job” at the Dalai Lama while running across the Stone Circle in nothing but a pair of gold heels.
Yes it’s true!
Looking ahead to Glastonbury 2016, what can we expect from you at the NYC Downlow?
I need to think of themes. I’m looking forward to it. Your suggestions on Twitter are always welcome! It depends who’s playing next year too. I think Taylor Swift just started following me on Twitter, but I might have imagined it. Is Taylor Swift watching me? I’ve always been more amused by Miley, she’ll never play Glastonbury.
So twenty years in Shoreditch, gentrification wasn’t a thing then and the pet subject of luxury flats.
Oh I’m sick now of all this luxury flats talk. If people aren’t going to act on it, then they need to shut up about it. No we did have luxury twenty years ago but it meant that – luxury. A Juliet balcony isn’t luxury. A window that opens – that is not a luxury flat darling!
So you’re saying we shouldn’t worry about it anymore?
I’m saying vote for a better Mayor. That’s what you can do. Boris did this to London. Boris needs to go. If you vote for another Tory Mayor in London then that’s it – we’re all done, we’re f**ked. But people who whine about Pret A Manger, they’re stupid. Pret A Manger didn’t plan to take over the world. We went to Pret A Manger! When it first opened I was there all the time, every day, because I like their sandwiches. It’s as simple as that. People like sandwiches.
So do you want Diane Abbot in as the next Mayor?
Yes. Hello Diane. We are going to root for you.
Perhaps we should invite her to The Glory Days festival this weekend?
Diane Abbott can come to The Glory anytime she wants. She can have a bed in the spare room upstairs if she wants. She can have her own chair. She’s been a brilliant MP for Hackney and she’ll be a brilliant Mayor for this city.
And are you genuinely suggesting Taylor Swift is to headline Glastonbury next year?
She is already rumoured to be lined up. I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling twenty two…
The Glory Days festival kicks off here at The Glory on Friday with FROCK N’ ROLL. Make sure to visit the Magic Roundabout on Saturday afternoon for The Glory’s gay Glastonbury reunion party, followed by DRAG INVASION at The Glory, and then the STONE CIRCLE cabaret special on Sunday. All events are free entry until 10pm.
Follow The Glory on Twitter @TheGloryLondon
Image by Mark Butcher
Words and Interview by Jack Cullen