Wherever you are, you’re never (too) far from a gay bar. So tune in every week for the inside track on why your local queer venue loves you, and why you should love it right back, as we get the low-down from the people who know best – the owners, the barmen, the DJs and the fabulous performers.
First up, it’s The Glory on Kingsland Road in London’s East End, which will be celebrating its second birthday this Saturday (7 January) Hooray! Unpretentious but quietly tasteful, The Glory has a bar and stage upstairs and a nightclub in the basement at weekends.
They stage critically acclaimed plays (such as The Tell-Tale Heart ), they create silly parties (like Bjork Scratchings, FemSesh and Night Of A 1,000 Beyonces) and they also host fierce drag competitions (LIPSYNC1000 and Man Up) giving out fat wads of cash to skinny transvestite teenagers who flash promise.
The Glory also exports itself. Last year they took over the National Theatre for a weekend, put on a mixed revue at Latitude, hosted a matchmaking festival in Ireland and they supply an army of drag queens and “butcher boys” to Glastonbury’s notorious gay club NYC Downlow. We caught up with two of The Glory’s owners, drag legends John Sizzle and Jonny Woo to find out more…
What five words would you use to describe The Glory?
John Sizzle: Inclusive, Retro, Forward, Safe and Daft!
Jonny Woo: Unexpected! Friendly! Fun! Home! Vibrant! God, I feel like Mary Portas again.
What’s The Glory’s crowd like?
JS: From 20 year olds to 60 year olds, which is something I’m really proud of. It’s a local pub and also a destination spot for radical fairies, old-school poofs, lesbians, the “new queer guard.” Anyone who likes to put on a bit of a show, either by performing or just dressing up.
JW: It’s a mixed bag, The Glory. Sometimes you can’t move for beards entangled in each other, next you are dancing with someone’s mum, then its wall-to-wall hot women, always a smattering of drag, occasional cross-dressers, transgender performers, the odd muscle man or off-duty pop star, at least two radio or TV presenters at any one time, and tons of drunk people.
Why do people love The Glory?
JS: I think it’s because it feels lived in. That it’s been there for years. It’s safe and cosy one minute, then someone might fall out of the sky in a jockstrap. There’s an element of surprise here.
JW: Yeah, The Glory feels like your lounge. It’s home-like and familiar, with curtains, random music, people stripping, drag kings. Don’t all lounges have those? People love that we are truly diverse. You get the whole lot here!
What’s the weirdest thing that’s happened at The Glory?
JW: Someone buggered a pumpkin at Halloween, to put it mildly. Recently, Christeene pee’ed on my foot as part of her performance. I was very composed about it. She’s barred for a year.
JS: Weird is our normal at The Glory. I’ve had to deal with a few blocked toilets – while in full drag – and also being harangued by angry strangers, who have accused me of invading their safe space, when I’m dancing on my own bar. It’s very safe here though. I quite enjoyed being bummed by the devil while dressed as Mia Farrow in an improvised rendition of Rosemary’s Baby. It was meant to be Halloween but it’s Halloween here every night.
So many gay venues are closing down – what would you say is the secret to your success?
JS: Constantly striving to put on innovative nights, ploughing any money we have into creating fun shows that people want to see after a long day’s work. Delivering quality service and proper drinks: Zoe can’t stand shit drinks, we only do proper drinks. There’s no sitting still here for a single second. It’s fun but it’s really hard work.
JW: There is no secret. Just hard work as John says, and also continual questioning of what we are offering. Bar owners need to challenge themselves and ask what it is they’re offering. I feel we have a duty to push the boundaries on what can be done in a venue – we try to raise the bar. Between the four of us we have 80 years of experience of running nights and putting on shows. We can remember some of it and we learn from that.
Describe your ideal night out:
JW: A lot of my ideal nights would be at The Glory, that’s what I try to do – make an ideal night out for myself, have a performer who I adore, such as having Diane Chorley or Lavinia Co-Op perform with excellent comedy like Mawaan Rizwan and then a good mate like Fee Doran or Hannah Holland to DJ. If I’m not at The Glory I’m probably off to the theatre to catch the latest musical theatre revival!
JS: Yeah, because we have access to people such as A Man To Pet and Fannar and Ma Butcher, we can create the perfect night. We have Jacqui Potato on tap basically. But for me – a perfect night away from The Glory would be a night with some mates, not in drag for once, and NO SMART PHONES, maybe abroad, ripping the shit out of each other, having a shimmy, not having to review any dodgy pictures on social media afterwards! Enough with the constant tagging kids, I know how good I look – thanks.
What events have you got coming up next?
JS: We’ve got “Club Tropicana”, a George Michael two-floor extravaganza on Thursday, 12 January. I’m putting together a Kate Bush cabaret for February, and there’s something really naughty that we’re hoping to pull off around Easter. I can’t say any more than that. It’ll be gloriously inappropriate and wild as usual.
JW: Every Saturday is Glory Lates, where I persuade a massive cabaret star to give the pub a full-length show for free. I’ve programmed an amazing line up for the next few weeks with Bourgeois & Maurice, and Myra Dubois coming down. Gay sketch comedy troupe Sex Shells have got a run in Feb – anyone who’s been to a gay sex party needs to watch Sex Shells. And we’re currently in talks with Princess Julia about creating a live TV chat show from within the pub… but that’s a few months away.
JS: Also LIPSYNC1000 is back next month. Basically you create an outfit yourself and lipsync to one pop song of your choice, and the pub goes mental and somebody wins £1,000. It gets very competitive but it’s also completely random.
The Glory’s 2nd birthday party is this Saturday with a line-up of 10 East London drag queens performing. Free entry before 10pm. Club Tropicana: Celebrating George Michael takes place on Thursday. theglory.co
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