Lord urges public to help save Islington's oldest surviving LGBT+ bar
- Credit: Sabrina Fearon-Melville
Britain’s first openly gay MP has said it would be "a tragedy” if Islington’s oldest LGBT+ bar fails to survive the pandemic.
Lord Chris Smith, the former Labour MP for Islington South and Finsbury, is urging residents to “do what we can to help” save Central Station in King’s Cross from going bust.
He said: “LGBT+ life in Islington has been through a lot these last 30 years or so. The times have been exciting, turbulent, inspiring, campaigning and above all, fun.
“There have been ground-breaking moments, events and people.
“And through it all, Central Station has been there, welcoming, hosting and helping all of us to do the campaigning and have the fun.”
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Central Station is Islington’s oldest surviving LGBT+ bar and has served as a safe space for LGBT+ communities for three decades.
However, like many businesses devastated by the coronavirus crisis, Central Station has struggled to keep afloat during the past year.
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He added: “It would be a tragedy if it couldn’t keep going through this terrible pandemic.”
Last month, owners Duncan Irvine and Martin Mason created a GoFundMe fundraising page - since then, they have raised nearly £14,000 but said the venue is in “desperate need of financial support”.
Lord Smith is a regular Central Station customer and in the 1990s he moderated the first public debate between OutRage! and Stonewall – headed by Peter Tatchell and Angela Mason – which raised awareness about HIV/AIDS.
In 1984, he made history by becoming the country’s first openly gay male MP.
He served in Tony Blair’s cabinet – most notably as secretary of state for culture, media and sport – and in 2005 was appointed a peer in the House of Lords.
Lord Smith is among several figures backing the campaign to save the pub.
Among them is Christopher Sherwood, publicity officer of Graces Cricket Club - which says it is the world’s first gay cricket club. He said Central Station is “the last bastion of LGBT+ society in Islington and must be saved”.
“It has fallen on the shoulders of Central Station to survive and provide that sanctuary for us that no app or website can come close to replicating," he said.
Islington Pride, an archive focusing on the borough’s LGBTQ+ heritage, tweeted: “We cannot overestimate their contribution to the community, and even to our archive.”
View the fundraiser at https://uk.gofundme.com/f/support-central-station