As more and more Soho venues come under threat, we're asking London celebs, scene regulars and familiar faces about the changing face of the city's LGBT scene, and what can be done to halt the decline. Here, we chat to actor Andrew Hayden-Smith and scene diva, singer Kelly Wilde, to find out their thoughts about the future of Soho.
Why do you think so many gay bars are closing? Are you sad about it?
It’s very sad. Big businesses are taking the place of smaller, independent ones. We didn’t have that many venues to begin with but now there are significantly less and that’s a real shame. Some of those bars have been around for decades. Freddie Mercury smuggled Princess Diana into the Royal Vauxhall Tavern in drag, for crying out loud! How can you possibly close a place with a history like that? What’s great to see though is the camaraderie and online petitions being put together in an attempt to stop any further closures. It goes to show how well loved these venues really are. We managed to save The Yard recently, which was great news. When The Black Cap closed its doors a couple of weeks ago, there was an impressive turn-out at the protest to save it. I’ve been to The Cap a handful of times but some people have been going there religiously for years. It must be quite upsetting for them to see it go.
What do you make of all the gay bars in London – why do you think it’s happening?
I could take you on a journey back to the time of Quentin Crisp, when it was not "cool" to be gay. Gay bars sprung up, on the quiet, so people could meet in safety. There was even the "Polari" language. Unfortunately, this has become forgotten along with all the other things that the previous generations fought so hard for. The right to belong. Today people take it for granted - rightly so. But the idea of a gay venue being the only place to go is now out of date to most, so they are slowly changing or closing. Where would we be if there were no singers, entertainers or drag artists? By supporting your gay venues, you are supporting the community which once had the name 'family.'
Related: Is Soho over? Read our in-depth feature