The Joiners Arms is a pub on Hackney Road, just inside the Tower Hamlets border. It’s been a well-known ‘gay pub’ for many years, but its lease wasn’t renewed at the end of January and it had to close. The owners want to sell the Joiners so it can be demolished to make way for the kind of crap speculative property redevelopment we’ve become so familiar with.
A ‘Save the Joiners Arms’ campaign is up and running and I went to one of its meetings last night. They’ve succeeded in having the pub listed as an ‘Asset of Community Value’. This provision within the Localism Act has preserved some pubs and other community facilities, but it’s a bit of a long shot. The hope is that Tower Hamlets Council can use its planning powers to prevent yet another Tesco Metro – there are already over 20 in the borough – with unaffordable private apartments above – there are already thousands in the borough!
Lots of East End pubs have closed in recent years and here I have to declare an interest. I love pubs. I know they can be male-dominated havens for reactionary attitudes and addiction, but they can also be forums of conviviality. But despite their social and sometimes historical and architectural importance, you can knock a pub down without planning permission. This loophole in part explains why so many have become blocks of flats and the Joiners is under threat.
The idea of a pub as a sanctuary seems particularly pertinent to the LGBT community – and here I must declare some backwardness. I wasn’t brought up in an environment that fostered enlightened attitudes to sexuality. On the contrary. Homophobia was a norm that I was slow to reject, but in the words of the Stonewall advert, I’m getting over it!
The closure of the Joiners Arms is yet another example of the reshaping of our cities in the image of Big Money. Within the canon of lies told about corporate-led urban redevelopment is the one that it encourages a more diverse, ‘mixed’ community. In reality, plans to demolish the Joiners Arms are the latest attempt to create an identikit, sanitised, homogonised London in which council housing and gay pubs are unwelcome because they’re not just about making money.
Please sign and circulate the petition and FB link here.