The iconic Black Cap on Camden High St has been serving the LGBTQ+ community (as we’d now call it) for more than 50 years – since the days when gay sex was illegal. In 2015, the site’s owners tried to turn the upper floors into luxury flats but were denied planning permission – so they closed the whole pub.
A community group sprang up to defend this irreplaceable venue and has been fighting to reopen the Cap ever since, campaigning online, holding lively ‘vigils’ outside the pub on Saturday afternoons, fighting off schemes to convert the Cap into a cafe or shop, and developing partnerships and plans to reopen it better than ever to serve today’s community.
This year, the Black Cap site passed to new freeholders, bringing new hope of a breakthrough but everything is still to play for. QX reporter, Daniel Frost, made contact with the group to get an update.
1. After 6 years of staging ‘vigils’ every week and creating #Wearetheblackcap on social media, what has kept you all going for so long?
Knowing the Black Cap is too important to let go! It’s a positive campaign – we support each other and get so much love from Camden locals too. Every week people tell us how much they want the Cap to reopen, from longtime regulars who miss it and locals who see it as a vital part of Camden to young people and new arrivals in London who feel the lack of queer space in the city today. And the campaign is very much a group effort – over time some members come and go and we take turns with heavy lifting.
2. After standing empty for so long, when do you think you will be able to reopen The Black Cap?
We just don’t know! Maybe next year? Things are looking more positive than they have in a long time. The new freeholder is more open to discussion – we’ve been able to get back inside the pub, which was inspirational and helpful! And our relationships with credible, experienced backers and operators, as well as the council and Mayor’s office, are stronger than ever. But even if we reach an agreement, there’s loads of work to be done on the site before the doors open.
3. Your years of campaigning for LGBTQ spaces has given you a unique insight into how developers operate. Do you have any tips for others who want to save our spaces?
In terms of dealing with developers, it’s often about understanding dry stuff like council regulations, restrictions and protections, and where plans for your space sit within developers’ bigger strategy. More generally, you need a carrot and stick approach – robustly defending against erasure but also having a vision of the future you want to see.
4. How can we, the public, get involved to Save the Black Cap.
For now, follow our social media to keep up to date and sign up to our action form at cutt.ly/blackcapcation. At the moment we’re also looking for someone to revamp our social media, and specialists in financial planning, conveyancing and project management, so if that’s you, get in touch!
We also want to make sure a re-opened Black Cap serves the whole range of LGBTQ+ communities, including women, trans people, QTBPOC, disabled people and migrants – many of whom are currently under-represented in our team, so we would especially like to hear from people with relevant backgrounds, experiences and connections.
5. Do you think the tide is turning on developers and the gentrification of London ?
That’s a huge question as there are so many complicated factors and the situation is still so uncertain. Some aspects of the property-development speculation bubble that claimed so many queer spaces do seem to have cooled off, but the fight to have our own spaces is still urgent.
In any case, the need for more varied LGBTQ+ space is clear – not just loud, crowded, intoxicated dancefloors (as great as those can be!) but also spaces that are quieter, open during the day and accessible, safe and nourishing for the whole range of London’s LGBTQ+ communities. That’s the vision of the Black Cap we want to see.
Sign up to the Black Cap Community action form at https://cutt.ly/blackcapaction
If you can, please wear a face-covering and take a lateral flow test before coming. More info on health precautions, accessibility, travel, etc. on our website at https://t.co/BU0MySkkjb
— #WeAreTheBlackCap (@weareblackcap) November 7, 2021
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