XXL, one of London’s biggest gay nightclubs, is being forced to shut down. Like many cultural hubs before it, the club has fallen victim to gentrification and will be turned into yet another residential and retail development. With a community and a voice as loud as it is proud, XXL has promised to not go down without a fight.
The nightclub is the last of its kind in the London area of Southwark, catering to mainly 30-something, bear-identifying, gay males. The LGBTQ+ venue puts on parties like no other where the leather-clad or shirtless can all come together for one big, hairy, and gay dance party.
The Ultimate Boy Party
XXL currently operates with four resident DJs. Alex Logan and Paul Morrell spin contemporary house and dance mixes with some tribal flair in the main room while Joe Egg and David Robson get the crowd shaking to pop, both old and new, dancehall, R&B, and disco in the smaller room, aptly named ‘The Fur Lounge’. Regular guest DJs include The Hoxton Whores, playing uplifting house and thumping electro beats, deep house duo Moto Blanco, tech house producer Sin Morero, and Pagano, spinning a seamless blend of house and techno.
XXL has also hosted a number of big names over the years, including the iconic DJ Fat Tony. Known for playing A-List gigs and his star-studded posse (his best friends include Boy George, Elton John, and Kate Moss), the DJ voiced his opinions on the closure: “London can’t afford to lose another big gay venue. The gay scene has been so crippled over the last few years. We [still] need gay clubs because the world we live in is not going forwards, it is going backwards.”
Sending the Gay Away
Owners, Mark Ames and James MacNeil, claim its closure is due to a ‘social cleansing’ of LGBTQ+ venues in the borough. Southwark has the second highest gay and lesbian population in London. Since 2006, the borough has seen a 67 percent drop in LGBTQ+ spaces with venues. City-wide, open gay clubs have gone from 125 in 2006 to 53 in 2017.
Ames, told The Guardian, “Yet again, London is about to lose something that is unique to its character: the idea of open arms. This is a reflection on our society. There is no room for difference; everything has to be sterilised and the same. This is being done by people who don’t care about London’s community. All they care about is turning a buck.”
The ‘they’ he is referring to is developer Native Land. In three months time, Native Land will turn XXL into a £1.3 billion development consisting of office space, affordable housing, independent shops, and cultural venues.
A Nightclub Under Siege
This isn’t the first time XXL owners have gotten news that they would lose their venue. In 2012, they were informed that Southwark overturned their planning permissions and the club’s venue was in jeopardy. After a 15 month legal battle, Southwark Council reinstated their planning permissions and Ames and MacNeil thought the nightclub was safe.
Bad news struck again in 2016 when Native Land purchased the building. XXL was to finish out its two-year lease. The owners reached out to the Mayor’s office only to be told it wasn’t their jurisdiction. In an attempt to salvage what was left of the LGBTQ+ community in Southwark, Ames and MacNeil proposed an LGBT cultural venue within the development but the request fell on deaf ears. Native Land issued a three-month notice eviction on June 28th.
The Community Fights Back
The XXL community won’t give up that easy. At London Pride Parade this past weekend, dozens marched the streets with “Save Our Scene” protest signs in hand.
A petition had also been drafted to urge Mayor Sadiq Khan and the Southwark Council to take action and is well on its way to the desired 2,500 signatures.
Amy Lamé, the mayor’s Night Czar, claims she is taking necessary measures to save the legendary nightclub. “We have been working with the venue for two years to challenge a planning decision made by the previous mayor and secure the club’s future…I am determined to support the owners of this important venue and call on the developer, Native Land, to meet with me to find a more productive solution.”
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