London’s queer club culture has always thrived off states of bohemia, secrecy and elements of exclusivity. From the back streets of Soho to East London’s pre-hipster hangouts, the LGBT+ spaces of yesteryear are to be re-uncovered and brought back to life as part of The National Trust’s Queer City: London Club Culture 1918-1967 programme, exploring a gay London before the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in the UK.
The collaboration between the National Trust and The National Archives will re-create ‘London’s most bohemian rendezvous’, The Caravan, a queer friendly members club. Brought back to life at its original venue, which is now the famous Freud Cafe-Bar just off of Shaftesbury Avenue, the project will re-imagine the gay hotspot before it was raided and closed by police in 1934.
Prior to 1967, gay men were imprisoned for their sexuality. The National Archives 2017 What’s On programme will feature events exploring the 1967 Sexual Offences Act, the changing queer experience across the twentieth century, LGBTQ+ clubs and spaces before the act, and how these were policed.
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.
Joseph Watson, London Creative Director for the National Trust said: “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. It provides a timely reminder of the importance of side-lined cultures to our national heritage.”
The project forms part of a wider programme that commemorates 50 years since the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality for The National Trust and The National Trust Archives, celebrating and championing the queer landscapes of central London prior to the partial decriminalisation.
The “Queer City” project aligns itself with The National Trust’s dedication to the vibrant and often covered up LGBT+ history the UK has to offer as part of their year-long Prejudice and Pride programme.
La Vie Boheme! Thursday 2nd – Sunday 26th March 2017
Tours/events can be booked here.
Image credit: The Caravan club, Crown copyright courtesy of The National Archives