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1930s London gay club to be recreated in Soho by the National Trust

By Samuel McManus

London’s West End has served as the epicentre of Britain’s queer scene for centuries, and as the country prepares to mark 50 years since the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales, the National Trust have come up with a plan to transport Brits back in time to an era before the term ‘LGBT’ even existed.

In the 1930s, being openly gay would frequently lead to prosecution and imprisonment, leading to the rise of clandestine queer-friendly spaces that operated in secret and were often raided and closed by the police.

It’s a far cry from the loud and proud atmosphere of Soho we know today, and as part of a new collaborative project with The National Archives – ‘Queer City: London Club Culture 1918-1967’ – the National Trust is about to recreate “London’s most bohemian rendezvous”, The Caravan, to provide an eye-opening insight into Britain’s gay scene in an age of oppression.

The recreation of the club, which was raided and closed by police in 1934, will take place at London’s Freud Café-Bar, which stands on almost the exact site of the original venue, dubbed “the most unconventional spot in town” at the time.

As well as tours, there will be an exciting programme of themed talks, debates and performances capturing the spirit of The Caravan and wider queer club culture at the time.

Joseph Watson, London creative director for the National Trust, says: “While the project will be an opportunity to celebrate the partial decriminalisation of same-sex relationships, it will also confront the realities of those lives that were fettered, destroyed, or worse, by prejudice of that era.

“It provides a timely reminder of the importance of sidelined cultures to our national heritage.”

The Caravan recreation project is just one part of the National Trust’s year-long ‘Prejudice and Pride’ programme, which will tell the stories of men and women who challenged conventional notions of gender and sexuality and who shaped the British properties in which they lived.

‘Queer City: London Club Culture 1918-1967’ is at Freud Café-Bar in London’s Soho from Thursday 2 – Sunday 26 March. Tours and events can be booked at

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