Following an eight-month campaign by the Future of the Royal Vauxhall Tavern group, the iconic LGBT venue has today been announced as a listed venue by Historic England.
The RVT becomes the first building in the nation to be listed for its place in LGBT history and heritage. It’s a brilliant recognition of the Tavern’s unique role in our country’s story, and also a vital protection against radical redevelopment.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport confirmed the designation, which had been recommended by Historic England (formerly English Heritage).
Chair of RVT Future group - and co-founder of long-running RVT night Duckie - Amy Lamé said:
“The listing is a fantastic milestone for our community and a victory against the odds for our beloved pub. We look forward to continuing our work to ensure the RVT remains a vibrant space of LGBTQ community and culture for generations to come. The RVT now joins New York’s Stonewall Inn, home of the gay liberation movement, in being officially recognised for its contribution to social history. We thank our many, many supporters from across London and further afield.”
Numerous public figures wrote to Historic England to support the listing application, which was submitted in January by RVT Future’s Ben Walters.
Supporters include Mayor of London Boris Johnson, Sir Ian McKellen and RVT veteran Paul O’Grady, as well as local residents, charities, architects, historians and politicians.
However, the announcement hasn't been universally praised. The Tavern's owners, Immovate, have been against the campaign, arguing that the costs associated with managing a heritage-listed building will make it harder for them to keep the RVT open - in effect, putting its future as an LGBT venue at risk.
James Lindsay, Chief Executive of the Tavern, issued the following statement which he said reflected the views of the tavern:
"Historic England have accepted the building should probably not be listed on its architectural merit alone, but more because of its use. The use of a building can change and gay venues across the UK have recently been closing at an alarming rate and there is good reason for this.
The listing attacks the commercial viability of the RVT and the future of this fantastic gay performance venue has now been put in doubt. We need a period of time to reflect and study the listing report in detail."
RVT Future campaign manager and Push The Button promoter Rob Holley said:
“We’re chuffed to bits but our work isn’t finished! We’re now calling upon Immovate to finally talk to us, so we can all ensure this special venue continues to flourish at what it does best: serving the community.
“If Immovate don’t think they can make the Tavern work as a listed pub, we invite them to open discussions about a community buy-out. Sell it to a group of people who actually have faith in the commercial viability of this phenomenal venue. We have the means to do this and some exciting ideas about how the RVT could be improved for everybody.
RVT Future organisers say they are planning a party at the venue to celebrate the win.