Fundraiser for east London gay bar hits £100,000 target after surge in donations | LGBT rights

A fundraiser to replace a famed east London gay bar that was shut down by developers has hit its target of £100,000 and secured its future with more than 24 hours to go before its deadline.

The Friends of the Joiners Arms (Fotja) campaign group confirmed that it had pulled off the feat – raising more than £30,000 since the weekend for what would be the UK’s first community-run LGBTQ+ venue.

Amy Roberts, Fotja’s chair, told the BBC: “We’re ecstatic and we can’t wait to see the dream become a reality. It’s incredible, we have been so blown away by the support we’ve received.”

The Joiners Arms was once the haunt of leading figures from the worlds of fashion, music and the arts, including Alexander McQueen, Christopher Kane and Rupert Everett.

However, in 2015 the pub on Hackney Road, Tower Hamlets, was closed after it was bought by developers who planned to convert it into flats and offices.

The developer, Regal London, had promised to pay £100,000 to fund a pop-up bar as a stopgap during the demolition and redevelopment of the Joiners. However, it failed to provide the money as work on a planned hotel at the site has been delayed by the pandemic.

This summer Fotja launched the crowdfunding effort selling shares in the proposed new bar and community venue in what was described as a “fightback” against the number of LGBTQ+ venues lost to property development.

The comedians Stephen Fry and Joe Lycett and the actor Mawaan Rizwan got behind the campaign, which had until 8pm on Tuesday to reach its goal, as reported in the Observer.

Fotja said the new venue would initially find a temporary site in Hackney or Tower Hamlets before seeking a permanent space. This new temporary venue would have a not-for-profit bar and host events including film screenings and drag shows.

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Steve Harrington, planning director at Regal London, said the developer would like to “continue to work closely” with Fotja on their future plans.

He told the BBC: “Our relationships with our neighbours and community groups are key, and we’ll do what we can to support this important space to be created.”

Lycett said: “Queer spaces are hugely important and under constant threat, so when I heard about the Friends of the Joiners Arms initiative to open a new one I was so delighted.”

He added he “can’t wait for it to open”.

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