Despite so many gay-friendly venues in London closing in the last few years, queer people have found a new mecca in a corner of Haggerston. For anyone unbeknown, the Glory looks like any other unassuming Shoreditch bar from the outside, with its conservative navy and brick front. Inside, however, is a whole other, more fabulous story.
Stepping inside The Glory on a Saturday night feels like being at the best welcome home party you’ve ever had. The brainchild of queer performer Jonny Woo and his business partners, John Sizzle, Colin Rothbart and Zoe Argiros, The Glory breathed fresh air into London’s LGBT nightlife when it burst its doors open in 2014 and is this month celebrating its 2nd birthday.
Opened to showcase emerging talents and break down conventions within the queer stage (and that’s only on a Monday), the Glory offers everything from drag shows to film screenings and dance parties almost every night of the week.
Woo, 42, who gained a cult following in the East End for his Gay Bingo nights in 2003, insisted recently that the LGBT scene is thriving despite the closure of queer venues such as the Joiners Arms, Barcode Vauxhall, the Green Carnation, Manbar, Candy Bar, Madame JoJo’s, Escape and the George & Dragon (and many more) in the last few years.
“People forget that there was no gay scene in Soho at the end of the 1970s,” he says. “The gay scene will move around – there’s always new blood coming through. There will always be people coming in who want to put on nights and do stuff for their own kind.”
Current nights at the Glory include the light-hearted Muscle Mary’s Gym (a salute to queen of retail Mary Portas), drag club night Femsesh and electro night Homo Superior. There’s the pub’s unique and commendable take on more serious issues such as the recent World AIDs Day awareness parties that included HIV speed dating.
Woo said he loves the ramshackle nature of the pub’s weekly calendar. “There isn’t really a place for new talent to develop and that’s what excited me about the Glory. [It brings together] people with strong personalities showing that you can be and do something different.” Woo and fellow drag artist Sizzle are themselves spectacular to watch and hang out with, but they prioritise inclusivity and don’t hog the stage; everyone is welcome.
One regular told us: “Whether it’s the kids in the Lipsync1000 who’ve spent all week shoplifting their outfits and putting together incredible routines, or Lorraine Bowen flapping her bingo wings at the tipsy crowd, the Glory is exactly what makes London great. Stars can behave like punters and the punters behave like stars. I happily travel an hour to the Glory and I don’t even drink!”
Photography: Holly Revell
Words: Lisa Higgins