When one door closes, another opens — quite literally in the case of legendary LGBTQ+ club The Glory, which says goodbye, just as its successor The Divine launches. Co-founder of both clubs, Jonny Woo writes here about fond memories, plans for the future, and the importance of proper glassware.
Myself and John Sizzle were already "gay famous" on the east London scene, touring the world with our ironic party 'Gay Bingo'. Together with pig-nosed drag queen Ma Butcher we were an unholy trinity. I met TV producer Colin Rothbart while making a documentary called Dressed As A Girl, and we became boyfriends. During this time we came up with the idea of opening a gay bar. John Sizzle was an obvious addition to the team — and the fourth original founding member was Zoe Argiros, a former bar manger of Dalston Superstore and Glastonbury's Block9. Together we opened The Glory in 2014 and an exciting new queer chapter of London nightlife was born.
The Glory mixed the spirit of the raucous party scene that all the partners had been part of in Shoreditch in the 00s, with a more sophisticated cabaret-edge, drawing on my theatrical leanings. John Sizzle used his creative eye to build a visual world around The Glory that tied into east London's fashion and art scene while also referencing past decades — everything from vintage Hollywood, to the 1980s, to glam rock, to electroclash. The Glory became a merry-go-round of ideas. We booked top whack DJs and offered good quality drinks (served in glassware with ice and a slice — not a given in east London!). Competitions like LIPSYNC1000 and drag king contest Man Up equipped The Glory with an entire generation of exciting new performers.
A plethora of queer celebs and allies came through the ranks. Comedian Jayde Adams used to host a night with comedians Joe Lycett, Shazia Mirza and Mawaan Rizwan all making appearances. Drag Race names like Ginger Johnson, Just May, Jombers, Crystal, Bimini and Le Fil are all Glory royalty — while big DJ names like Grace Sands (Adonis), Princess Julia, and newer acts like J. Aria, Fannar and Milk Shandy have all graced the decks.
One of our most iconic nights involved a tribute to George Michael with a jacuzzi inside the venue. There was also a festival weekender when the entire pub was covered in real grass turf, and an Easter party when the whole venue was wrapped in gold foil. One particular New Year's Eve lock-in with Keira Knightley and Chelsea Clinton got a bit wild, while many will remember The Glory's alternative "male beauty" pageant Mr Glory which involved a notorious "special talent" round. Say no more!
London's an ever evolving city and the Glory's building has been sold and will be developed, for flats, maybe. Whatever the plans, they will make operating too difficult, so we pre-empted the disruption and found a new space which will give us all the things we have now, with added security to stay there for the next decade. When one door closes another door opens — and we're excited to launch a brand new venue called The Divine in nearby Dalston.
Most of the current programme of drag and queer performances will re-locate to The Divine and we hope The Glory community will make The Divine its new home. Expect some great parties and exciting bookings. I'll be developing my show Suburbia there on the 9 and 10 February.
The Divine is a different space to The Glory, in terms of aesthetic. It's still over two floors but more modern; some amazing collage artworks of queer icons by design studio Allen and Adcock will dominate the ground floor space. We've installed amazing lights and sound downstairs ready for club nights and shows, and the street level offers a bright airy space for drinking and meeting earlier in the day. We're already thinking of exciting ways to shake up the scene like they did with The Glory.