On Sunday, 7th February, Central Station entered its 30th year as an independent bar in London’s King’s Cross and a safe space for members of London’s LGBT+ community and its varied artists and groups. Over the last three decades Central Station has helped raise thousands for HIV and AIDS charities and has played host to LGBT+ theatre and numerous community groups from footballers to faith groups, as well as funeral services for four customers whose families were unknown. You can now donate to Central Station’s ‘GoFundMe’ campaign to help keep this unique LGBT+ venue in business and alive.
The venue owners Martin and Duncan have been through some tough financial times, but nothing like the current pandemic. With annual rent of £95,000 and other bills continuing to mount, Martin and Duncan are now in desperate need of financial support in order to stay in business and to keep this unique venue alive. The Coronavirus pandemic has shut The Underground Club (30% of last year’s income) and reduced the B&B occupancy by over 90% (currently closed – last year was 20% of income) and this has meant that when the venue came out of lockdown in July, more than 50% of their revenue was no longer available.
Here’s what Duncan told us:
“Like most of London’s pubs we will have been only open for about five of the previous 13 months when we re-open in mid-May, add to that the complete closure of the clubs and bed and breakfast income and it is clear that, even for the weeks we were open, we were operating at a loss.”
Duncan’s business partner Martin added, ”Being an independent venue, we have no reserves, yet many bills still come in for utilities like winter heating to prevent frozen pipes, lighting for security cameras, replacement of out of date stock (3 times!), BT to maintain contact with customers and a huge rent bill of nearly £100,000 p.a. – even though we have had no income”.
The bar launched its appeal for £70,000 just two months ago and this has passed its first milestone of 25% of the total a few weeks ago.
Duncan added: “We are really grateful to everyone who has rallied round to donate and those who have helped spread the word, including Lord Chris Smith who was our local constituency MP, but would appeal to Boyz readers to donate and to help spread the word.”
Please support the GoFundMe page at: www.gofundme.com/f/support-central-station
Central Station’s contribution to London’s LGBTQ+ history
by Duncan Irvine and Martin Mason
Central Station opened its doors as an independent LGBTQ venue in February, 1992 in King’s Cross, London.
In those days King’s Cross was well-known for drugs and prostitutes and many of the streets surrounding the venue were derelict. The bar attracted a large following of mainly gay men from all over London and it had cabaret several nights of the week.
Not long after opening the bar was attacked by a gang who broke windows and threw CS gas canisters into the bar. The customers rallied round to help board up windows and look after others who had been affected. The show went on as advertised!
Shortly after opening the bar the LGBT Centre in Farringdon closed its doors and many of the social and campaigning groups who met there found a new home in Central Station. These included The London Blues (gay men into leather and denim), The North London Gay Bridge Club, New Beginnings, Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, early committee meetings of GMFA, socials/meetings of Stonewall F.C., the formation of King’s Cross Steelers R.F.C., Outrage, London Friend, Rubber Men’s Club, the founding of Countdown on Spanner (campaign to change the law on consensual S&M), the founding of Rank Outsiders (campaign to give recognition and equality within the armed forces), the Gay Muslim Group, the founding of Graces’ cricket club, SM Dykes, The Monday Group, FTM (Female to Male).
These were just some of a host of organisations that used the venue and contributed greatly to its emergence as a hub for the community.
We were proud to hold the first public debate between Stonewall (represented by Angela Mason) and Outrage (Peter Tatchell) which was chaired by Chris Smith MP, and held a series of debates and Q&A’s over AIDS.
The opening of The Underground Club allowed many fetish clubs to provide a safe space for their supporters to enjoy. These attracted many visitors, not only from London, but from all of the UK and overseas, often using the B&B facilities which Central Station developed. Sweet Wednesday have met twice monthly for many years at the venue, giving TV, TS and others a safe space to be who they want to be in an anonymous setting.
Over many years, Central Station raised many tens of thousands of pounds for charities, especially to combat AIDS, which, of course affected many customers. It was a leading member of The Pink Angels weekend, held annually in Islington in support of various AIDS charities. At least four funerals were held in the venue for individuals whose family connections were not known.
From the opening of Central Station we have kept numerous press cuttings, letters, photographs and mementoes of the venue’s history and have combined with Islington Council to show some of these at exhibitions.
We believe that this history gives Central Station a unique place in the history of London’s LGBTQ over the past 29 years.
Please support Central Station’s GoFundMe page at: www.gofundme.com/f/support-central-station