THE LOG BOOKS
Season 3 Episode 5 - “They do mean us harm”
Presenters: Tash Walker, Adam Zmith
Contributors: 1 (Diana James), 2 (Rebecca Swenson), 3 (Jeremy Adams), 4 (Elaine), 5 (Lyn), 6 (Julian Hows), 7 (Clare Truscott), 8 (Judith Skinner), 9 (Tony Whitehead), 10 (Monty Moncrieff), 11 (Richard Desmond), 13 (Anne Howard), 15 (Rita), 17 (George Hodson), 19 (John Sizzle). Note: No contributors #12, 14, 16 and 18
Producers: Shivani Dave, Tash Walker, Adam Zmith
Music: Tom Foskett-Barnes
Artwork: Natalie Doto
AZ: This episode contains homophobic language and stories of hate crime and violence.
Log book reader 1: This is a log book entry for March 17 1995.
'Combat 18 found a gay, I've made report to this the local police station, as this seems to be a direct threat to our building.'
This is a log book entry from April 30th 1999.
'At 9:30pm. A bomb exploded in the Admiral Duncan pub in Old Compton street three hours ago. So far we don't really know exactly what has happened. We have heard worrying reports that two, three or seven people have been killed and about 40 injured. There were two people down on the rota for this evening. But Carey and Boo had been very quick to phone round and other volunteers have rallied around and we now have about eight people taking calls.'
TW: I remember reading that log book entry all these years later and still being so terrified about what was written there. You know, this bomb going off in Soho.
AZ: It really is scary. It was the third of three bombs that April and I remember the one that went off in Brixton, because I remember on family holidays to London, we used to get the bus through Brixton and we used to go past the Iceland and that's where the bomb was.
TW: I remember the Brixton one and the Brick Lane too, but I don't remember, at the time in 1999 I don't remember anything about a Soho bomb going off attacking a gay club.
AZ: You’re listening to The Log Books, stories from Britain’s LGBTQ+ history, and conversations about being queer today. In partnership with Switchboard, the LGBT+ helpline.
TW: In this season we’re reading through the notes made by the volunteers who took calls between 1992 and 2003.
TW: I’m Tash Walker.
AZ: And I’m Adam Zmith.
Episode Five: 'They do mean us harm'.
TW: We're going to be talking about the nail bomb attack by David Copeland on the Admiral Duncan gay pub in Soho. One of three bombs he planted, the others being against the black community in Brixton and the Asian community in Brick Lane.
We're going to be hearing from the volunteers at switchboard who were there at the time, who were part of that first response to the bombs and memories of other people who remember where they were when this all happened.
Log book reader 2: This is a log book entry from 3:48am on 6th September 1994.
'A guy just rang to say 'We're going to do an attack on your people tonight at Horton Mansions'. I rang the police who said they'll deal with it and phone back. He was really threatening, I'm really glad about the lock on the door.'
Contributor 1 (Diana James): You walked into this space, we had secure doors. They were these metal doors, you felt secure, you felt safe to be in there.
Hi, my name is Diana James and I am 62 years old. I was a volunteer at Switchboard from 88 to 94. When you came in too late at night, or you're doing a night shift, or when you left in the morning, you felt safe, you felt secure. And that was really important after coming out of Housmans where you didn't, you came out of there or you came in there late at night. You were always wondering whether right Combat 18 or another fascist group were waiting to kick your head in.
Log book reader 3: This is log book entry from 22nd July 1994
'I had a call at 2:30am from a man with a heavy Scottish accent. He said many varied things about fucking queers, corrupting children and other social niceties.
When he said the best place for gays was the gas ovens, I was ready to hang up. He then said what I was wearing described me as I am now and said I had just been downstairs which I had then went to say he was going to kill me and make the world safer from AIDS. He hung up.
I took a deep breath and took another call about two to three minutes later the door buzzer went off for about a minute. The person was not visible facially then this happened again. And I, well I'm not that brave I faxed GAY radio and got them to phone me. What exactly is the procedure for this? I'm honestly not happy that this has happened. I feel threatened and scared.
Thinking about this? What if our mail deliveries, supplying companies etc. know who and what we are, including thousands of post office workers. It's a horrible thought and I've gone all sweaty. The fact that got me was he described my top, my glasses and my hair. Sure, sounds incredible, it does to me too but it's happened and it's not nice. We are possibly being watched, just after the door buzzer went off after time number two, someone went on the staircase next door, my heart literally stopped. I'm babbling now, totally ruined my shift. Every noise and I'm looking at the door
Contributor 2 (unknown): Switchboard has always been a safe space, actually, we talk about communities, but where is the community? What's tangible about it? Other than 'the scene' where you pay money, a lot of money for drinks to access something. Where do we have that space and that's Switchboard. And I think it has been a hub for so many people in so many different ways. I mean, at the time in the nineties, it was a very sensible decision not to have a sign on the door and there was something very anonymous about it. They always used to be talk that it was bomb proof, but I was a bit thrown by the letterbox in the front that had a bomb proof front, but a letterbox, which spoilt that illusion for me.
But yes, it felt like a safe space and maybe that was heightened by the fact that we were so aware that it was not safe. There were so many unsafe spaces outside there and we even had a letter from Switchboard solicitors by the door that if ever we had a police raid, we would show this letter. So it was always this sense that there was a boundary there between safe and unsafe and how grateful we were for that space and how quickly it could have been taken away.
Log book reader 3: This is a log book entry from March 20 1995.
'On Combat 18 threatening calls. Combat 18 are a deadly serious fascist terror group. They do mean us harm and they have the resources to harm us. They have attacked, fire bombed, several organisations, including freedom press in Whitechapel, the Morning Star in Islington, as well as Asian families in Gravesend very recently, we should not panic, but we should seriously prepare and let the anti-fascist groups know ie: Searchlight, Anti-nazi League and Anti-fascist Action. Every volunteer should know where and how to use fire extinguishers. What to do if the building is under physical attack. Phone the police. Be careful leaving the building, an attack could happen any time. And we can't rely on being able to call the police or the police arriving on time. An attack will be very well planned and very quick. They will want to get whoever is here and smash and torch the building. I'm very tired, but we should take their threats seriously.
TW: When you're part of an organisation that supports any marginalised community, there's always always a risk, which is why Switchboard registered address is still a PO box.
AZ: Yeah, and organisations are just made up of individuals, right? When you threaten an organisation, you threaten the individuals within it.
TW: Yeah, so a threat to any individual queer person is a threat to all queer people. Like what this caller experienced.
Log book reader 4: This is a log book entry from March 14 1995.
'Just had a call from an upset man who was a victim of an obscene phone call from a group called Combat 18. They said they knew about him and his flatmate and would out him at work. He dialled 1471 and got their number. He also reported it to the police who said they were an unknown fascist group. Perhaps we should let Capital Gain and Pink Paper know about their existence and monitor calls about them.
TW: Sometimes threats like that turn into reality.
AZ: So we need to tell you about the nail bombs that took place in London in April 1999. Brixton on the 17th in a busy Saturday shopping area, and Brick Lane on April the 24th. And then this
Log book reader 5: This is a log book entry from April 30th 1999.
'We're getting lots of calls related to the incident. Many people, including some of those here are worried about friends of theirs, who may well have been in the area this evening.
Carey was himself only in Brewer Street when it happened. He came straight to Switchboard to organise the effort along with Boo. Calls received so far; John Peel of the BBC called to offer his support towards any fundraising or benefit for the victims. Gays Against The Nazis phoned to tell us about the demo tomorrow. Black Jewish gay man from Israel phone to offer his support. Kudos bar manager searching for missing employee. I gave casualty's number hope he's okay.
Log book reader 6: This is a log book entry from May1st 1999 at 2am.
'Boo and I have just come back from New Scotland Yard. Having had a briefing on tonight's bombing. The response was that we should encourage everyone to be vigilant. Please make a note of all calls dealing with the bombing in this book and be prepared to take information for the police. Thanks, Carey.'
Contributor 3 (Jeremy Adams): My name is Jeremy Adams and I've lived through many things.
I was working at the Queen's Theatre which was just off Old Compton Street. And I remember there was a time when we just heard this noise and nobody was quite sure what it was but knew that something you know there's a kind of sense when you hear something like that that something is not right and then I came out of the theatre and just walked into Old Compton Street and just walked into devastation, people bleeding people on the floor, police everywhere. It was sort of horrific. It was sort of terrible, and people were doing all they could to help and I did what I could to help and then I had to go back to the theatre.
[news opening theme tune]
News archive clip: ‘A nail bomb went off tonight in a crowded pub in central London.'
[sound of crowds]
News archive clip 2: ‘The device exploded around 6:30. People there have spoken of individuals being thrown 30 feet across the road by the force of the blast. Eyewitnesses spoke of hearing a loud explosion, like a clap of thunder.’
Contributor 11 (Richard Desmond): I joined Switchboard in 1993 and I've been in Switchboard since then. We got our act together incredibly quickly, we staffed the phones. That's what we do. We're able to put extra phone lines in the basement. We listened to our community grieve.
I've got no idea what call reports are like from that time, I've not looked at log book for all these years now. I don't know what I wrote but we got through it because our volunteers pulled together and actually did the work. I'm always proud of Switchboard but that was a particularly proud moment. I think that there are people who called us at that point who remember us and again are grateful that we were there. We know about how our community survived HIV. We know it, we know it, we know about grieving and death. This wasn't like this was a very specific, very nasty attack on us.
Contributor 4 (Elaine): We had a friend that was a really fantastic singer and she had a gig at the Back Bar in Soho. So we would come home from work on a Friday night, have a light supper, go to bed, set the clock for half past ten at night, get up, drive up to Soho and spend the early hours in the Back Bar with all of our girlfriends and friends generally and it was a really happy time. I think people have started to feel that there was a confidence back in was lovely to be gay. The Admiral Duncan was right down one end of the end of Soho and the Back Bar was down the other end next door to Madame Jojo's. So it was fairly close, too close for comfort. When that happened at the Admiral. I think we felt we were so close that it could well have happened in Madame Jojo's or the Back Bar and I think it did strike a terror in all around that time.
Contributor 5 (Lyn): Did we stop going up there for a while I think we probably did?
Contributor 4 (Elaine): Knowing you I would say definitely, which is ‘scaredy cat from the North’. Yes, of course.
Contributor 6 (Julian Hows): I'm Julian Hows. The night of the Soho bombing. I was not in Soho. I actually think I was at home. I think I was a home, at dinner and we started to see that and news of the other two bombers on the news and we immediately thought, 'Oh my god, what is going on?' I thought to myself, well, I hope that my god, the people from Switchboard are going to be getting an awful lot of calls. And indeed they were, they went back to, you know, 24-hour more phone lines on, people who I knew that were volunteering the time like Richard Desmond, immediately sort of thought, not going into the backstreet tonight, I'm getting on the bus to Switchboard and I think that was the that was something that Switchboard volunteers did.
Contributor 7 (Clare): I remember when it happened, phoning around my friends to make sure that they were okay. People who I knew who regularly went out in Soho. A friend of mine who was nurse was on duty at the hospital that day, treating people from the bombing.
Afterwards, I found out that I knew various people who were in the bombing. A few years later, one of our local bar men here in South London, told us his Admiral Duncan story. He'd been in the pub when the bomb went off, he'd been in the gents loos, the ceiling come down on him and he'd walked out of it unscathed and covered in dust and presumably a bit dazed and ended up just walking off to a local bar in Soho.
Contributor 8 (Judith Skinner): I remember the the Admiral Duncan bomb pretty clearly.
My name is Judith Skinner. I was a volunteer at Switchboard from 1990 to 2001. At the time it happened I was on holiday in the Scottish Borders with three friends, all of us lesbians. We were walking, we were on a long distance path. We got up one morning in this village, passed by the village shop and saw headlines about the Admiral Duncan bombing. And, I remember just the utter shock and the terrible feeling of this outrageous attack that had happened in London, where three of us lived. It was hideous, it was hideous.
TW: Listening to those stories from all those people who remember where they were when they heard about the bomb, no matter where they were or what they were doing. You can just hear how they're all impacted because they know they're part of that community.
AZ: Yeah and Tash and I think the way that we can relate to this is when the gun attacks happened in the Pulse nightclub in Florida in Orlando in 2016. I remember just being horrified and I remember being at work on the Monday immediately afterwards, texting friends through the day, just about how awful this was. And deciding to go to Soho that night for what became this huge impromptu vigil for the victims of that attack.
TW: Yeah, and I remember the emails flying around at Switchboard saying that we need to get more people on the phones, because the calls are increasing because of the impact of those attacks all the way across in the US but we felt it here in the UK because we are part of that community.
AZ: Yeah, and it's times like this when you really see a community pull together no matter where people are in that community. As we can see in this log book entry, with this person who just wanted to help
Log book reader 7: This is a log book entry from May 2nd, 8:30am.
'Caller phoned to see if there was anything practical he could do following the bombing Compton street eg hospital visits, told him about blood donations, possible future demonstrations, etc. And just to go to Soho with friends to raise profile.' The volunteer adds 'I went to Soho last night and although busy, it wasn't as crowded as usual.'
Contributor 9 (Tony Whitehead): It would have been some days after but not long, the streets were absolutely packed. Some people were crying, most were standing, heads bowed. I mean it was completely packed. All of that section of Old Compton Street plus some of the side streets were, were just full and it was full of the full LGBTQA and just people with our social conscience, people who care. It was London, or my London, put it like that, standing in honour of people and in anger who had done it.
Some people said some things I can't remember anything that was said publicly, I just remember being part of this big crowd of people and it felt very big because it's quite enclosed and the determination that there is no way we are going back into the shadows. The world is changing and we are a very big part of that change.
Contributor 3 (Jeremy Adams): Through Switchboard we organised counselling trucks that we put outside the Prince Edward theatre, what we did at switchboard, it's not just the people who were affected, but it's the people who this triggered something that happened to them before or whatever. But we were there, so the police were saying to us something, even to the extent of like, 'Oh, we have all these flowers outside the Admiral Duncan, the flowers have to be moved because we've got to start doing the work that we need to do at the Admiral Duncan. How do we do it? What do we do? We do not want to be the people picking up the flowers and moving them up the road.’
So Switchboard came in, I think it was the Gay Men's Chorus. The Pink Singers, I can't remember which one, organised a sort of vigil late one night that we, with some volunteers, just went and we picked up the flowers and we moved them up to Soho Square. We sort of did that with the police supporting us but not, again I think they were just so nervous about being seen to do anything wrong. So it was an extraordinary it was a complete reversal of everything that we've come to think about the police, we were actually, London Lesbian and Gau Switchboard was actively working with a police force to manage this situation.
The awful thing about tragedies is it brings people together, I think to you know, you're there to not solve the problem, but to how to deal with the problem. So I think it was on a very, I mean, I just be, not giggling, but I'd sort of, with Boo, I'd be going in every morning going 'Can you believe this? Can you actually believe what we're doing?' That there were times when it would actually save them? There have been many, many bombings before in London, we've been used to bombings before, the IRA bombings and all that kind of thing. But you're acting as if this is the first time a bomb has ever gone off in London, you must have things that you have in place that you know what to do, so let's help you but don't, I don't know. They'd say to us things like ‘How long do you think the van needs to be up?’ You know, the counselling van. And we'd go 'I don't know. We don't know. We put it there as an immediate response to help people there but you must have done this stuff before. We're not the experts on this.’ It was a sort of an amazing time.
Log book reader 7: This is a log book entry for May 3rd 1999.
'At midnight tonight all the flowers from outside the Admiral Duncan will be moved to Soho Square by members of the London Gay Men's Chorus and London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard. This move is endorsed by the families of the victims. It is requested that all future memorials go to Soho Square, which will be open all night tonight. Boo Armstrong.
Contributor 10 (Monty Moncrieff): I was in central London in Soho the afternoon of the day of the bombing at Admiral Duncan and I had left to go home maybe about an hour and a half earlier. We changed the plan to go out for drinks that evening.
The Admiral Duncan was also quite close to me because I worked as a pub manager for five years when first coming to London, and I worked for the same chain that ran the Admiral Duncan at the time and I had discussed moving into an LGBT venue and the Admiral Duncan was one of the venues that had been mooted as a potential move for me to go to. In the end I didn't move into an LGBT venue because of the management opportunity that arose where I was, but it just struck me because of that kind of peripheral connection really.
We heard that there was a rally being organised on the Saturday because not in immediate response to the Soho bombing but in response to the Brixton and Brick Lane bombings the two weeks before. And then of course this happened on Friday night so it all became much more meaningful. So we arranged a group to go down to join that rally, which was in Brixton the day after, on Sunday, so two days after the nail bomb attack, I remember being part of a group from Switchboard who went down to Soho Square and we assisted with a collection on there, there was a rally and speeches. And at that rally, it was announced that the police had caught David Copeland. So obviously, there was a huge sense of relief happening there but I remember standing on the gates coming out of that square, holding our Switchboard buckets and collecting money and people were so generous. You know, there were so many notes going into those buckets, it was astonishing. I think that that collection, which wasn't Switchboard collecting, it was just mobilising with a collection, I think got about 20,000 pounds in Soho Square on the day, which was astonishing. And so I was involved as a representative of Switchboard on the April bombings appeal, which was set up, I think, by Ivan Massow and his company managed it and that's where all of that donation money went and there was a wider appeal to support victims and their families.
Contributor 11 (Richard Desmond): Switchboard responded as it always does, very immediately and I remember that Boo and Jeremy, our co-chairs at the time went on the BBC, they spoke, we became a point of contact and it was so important that we were there, and certainly the calls that we had for weeks afterwards reflected that need. So yeah, I think it's something we should be really proud of at Switchboard
Contributor 3 (Jeremy Adams): Because of the Stephen Lawrence case that had just gone on, where the the police had been perceived as handling it so badly, I think they were ultra aware of having to handle this properly and the fact that it was a very prominent gay pub in Soho, the gay district if you like of London as it was then, how do they do it? So Switchboard is one of the first organisations that they reached out to for help and then myself and Boo Armstrong, who was the co-chair with me, at the time, we were the first co-chairs of Switchboard, a man and a woman. We would spend every morning at New Scotland Yard at about eight o'clock in the morning for the briefing. And there would be other LGBT organisations, but we were there. It was sort of terrifying really for a person of our age and everything to actually go into New Scotland Yard, to be asked to be at New Scotland Yard and having to spend... from the whole of the previous decades of the police always being the enemy always being the terrifying, always being the kind of people that you were scared of, to suddenly be asked to be and sit in their rooms and asked about how they should be handling things was sort of extraordinary, was completely extraordinary.
AZ: The nail bomb attack at the Admiral Duncan pub happened in 1999 and it led to a shift in the police attitude towards Switchboard and the LGBTQI+ community. You might remember in season one, we covered the police persecution of men having sex with men in episode four. Now this time, things unfolded differently.
TW: So often with these types of attacks on our community. You see a backlash, people contacting Switchboard with rising levels of hate, with so many more threats and the Switchboard volunteers have to deal with that.
Log book reader 8: This is a log book entry from May 7th 1999.
'An awful man called and ranted at me down the phone for a good minute, telling me how sick I was and how much we, as a community, my word, deserve this. Not wanting to reciprocate with hate. What do you say? Never have I been so insulted by such sickness and hate.'
Volunteer E writes, 'I feel for you'.
Volunteer A writes, 'I have a few ideas about this from the counselling course I'm on, talk to me if you want.
Volunteer F writes, 'Isn't this a sure sign that the bombs may be triggering further homophobia? Should we not prepare for it?’
Contributor 13 (Anne Howard): Around the late nineties. A lot of calls would come early in the morning, our early shifts or very late at night, and they would be abusive calls and we would log them as abusive calls. And they would range from a string of expletives in a very angry voice to someone trying to engage you in conversation by asking about you as a volunteer and then getting very angry if you wouldn't tell them any information, and then again, abusing the volunteer and getting very cross about the whole situation, sometimes hanging up in the middle of a sentence, which is very frustrating for the volunteer. Often they would be with a group of friends and you could tell that they'd been possibly drinking and they were egging each other on and then the phone would be passed around amongst the group.
Log book reader 9: This is a log book entry from 9th May 1999.
‘Caller from Stockwell reports, constant homophobic abuse from a gang of youths ever since the bombing. Police apparently are not taking the case seriously and the caller is in a constant state of fear and spoke to me in a highly panicked state. Gang is constantly attacking his flat and he is currently in a state of siege.’
AZ: Tash you've got to wonder about the reasons for this kind of attack, right?
TW: If we go back to where we are at this moment, it's 1999. We had HIV and AIDS hitting the community in the eighties and nineties. We saw societal attitude at that time and all of the difficult, complex media propaganda that was stirring things up throughout that period of time, then suddenly that starts to dip and we're going into the late nineties, things feel a bit calmer, we feel a bit more rooted, we feel a bit more part of society and then suddenly out of nowhere, bam.
AZ: Yeah, and I think that the new government that started in 1997, the new Labour government, which had a specific focus around human rights. I think that was making everyone feel things were getting better. And yeah, you're right, then there was this bam, which just shows that there's always underlying hate.
TW: Yeah, definitely. We know that the Admiral Duncan pub was bombed on Friday 30th, but it was planned for the Saturday like the other two in Brixton and Brick Lane, but the bomber brought it forward because he saw a news story that the police were closing in on him.
Yeah and from the moment he was caught, he said that he was attacking Black, Asian and gay people because he hates them.
But we don't need to give him more time, i t's always more useful to think about how and why these things actually happen.
Contributor 9 (Tony Whitehead): Yeah, I was shocked, I was shocked. But, I wasn't surprised. I've never underestimated the great tides of anti anti-gay and racism and the all the the horrible things in our in our society. So almost expecting the more public, the more out there, the more gay people are 'out and proud; to use cliche, the more somebody's going to want to kick back. So I guess I was shocked, yet not 100% surprised. Touch wood, I fear that, you know, these things can happen again, what they do, we know the tragic stories of gay people being targeted and hurt and beaten up and, and happening all the time. Just not as public as blowing up a pub in the middle of 'the gay village of Soho'.
Contributor 15 (Rita): So, when I saw the news about the nail bombs, I think like many people, I was in shock. I thought, 'this can't happen in a city like London. I'm just starting to live my life here. I'm getting it together. I'm starting to flourish here. I feel at home.' And it was shocking and I actually just stopped going into town, but for me, maybe the impact of it was slightly more muted because I was already dealing with my identity as a South Asian woman was already dealing with aspects of racism. I was dealing with gender, sexism, and misogyny.
I'd just got sacked for coming out at a job in a refuge and I was like, you know, that doesn't happen, but it did. So having carved out my life in London, I was dealing with a lot of other stuff and then this happened, and in a way it was like, 'This is my space;. It was my physical space, because I used to love going down to Compton Street and Soho and I'd go out there and hand out flyers to the club and I'd chat to people, that was my community. So when that happened, I just felt like, 'Kali, are you messing with me?' What's going on here? I think I was just in a state of shock. But then I thought, You know what, I'm still going to keep going, I'm going to keep going in the same way that I kept going when I left home, in the same way it kept going on, I moved to London and then I said 'Look Kali, I'm going to keep going.' So I didn't wait too long, I just started going back into Soho and started to reclaim what I felt was my space and I thought, no, that's just another aspect where the world is trying to take something away from me and I'm not going to let it. I guess I didn't get too much into it, a lot of the coverage was around imagery of white men drinking at the pub and I wasn't too impressed with the way the media reported it as well. But I thought whether it's white men or not, it's still my home, that street, that space is still my space. And so yeah, I just went back out and started reclaiming it.
Contributor 6 (Julian Hows): So I thought to myself, well, that stands to reason, doesn't it? And it stands to reason that we are people in exactly the same way that racism equals sexism, equals homophobia, all those things are so intimately joined, in that one cannot be one cannot be surprised in some ways. Yeah, horrible and regrettable.
How many times over how many years I've been there where a group of thugs or anti gay people had been outside a lesbian or gay venue, or a suspected lesbian or gay venue, and decided to beat the shit out of people. Things like the Admiral Duncan thing happening, gives permission for people who are homophobic to phone something like Switchboard up and turn around and say, 'Well see, it's all your fault.'
I think also, there's even something deeper than that. There's something deeper than that, the little boy who phones up from the telephone box and starts off by saying, 'You fucking puffs. You lot are fucking puffs, aren't you?' And you're saying, 'What are you saying that for?' And then eventually, it's them overcompensating for the fact that they have fears about their own gayness, for example.
Yeah, to a certain extent, we are there to take the shit about that. But also, a lot of the time, it's about that person venting and then actually getting through to talking to them about their own fears, their own insecurities, their own upset.
I won't say that it's welcome, but I will say that the reasons that people do this, are because we're always there with the kind words and support which can actually turn that around, and at least help somebody to disentangle some of the height of fear that they feel is about them.
Contributor 17 (George Hodson) : A lot of the men who were in the Admiral Duncan that night, I knew from my local which was The Coleherne. The two were very much sort of kissing cousins. So, I knew in bar terms, a lot of the people in that bar that night. But I wasn't going out regularly and the Admiral Duncan wasn't my thing. I'm afraid I was tempted up to Hampstead Heath. I like the rather wild open air nights under the moonlight.
Sitting in a bush pulling up his knickers, fabulous. But of course, as soon as I heard it, my mind flashed back, it's been like this for us queers forever. We're always under attack from some group or other who find us just too beautiful and different to deal with. My mind went straight back to far right Nazis and of course, what happened in the concentration camps to our queer brothers, just gassed and killed along with so many other peoples of difference. And I thought, 'Why? As a group of we had to have to put up with all this attack and death and murder?' Because we've been murdered for years and years, historically and we're still being thrown off the top of buildings and look at Chechnya, the horrors that are going on there. How is it that the world is so vicious that it wants to kill people? Because not only their sex but their colour, and here we're are kissing brothers with our black brothers and sisters, but that we are targets for people of nastiness, people of hate, and it's still happening. We still hear of murders, of queer bashing, of stigma. How have we still got such a long way to go? And again, I would appeal to the younger generation to remember that huge gains were made by my generation, but there are still huge gains to be made.
Contributor 7 (Clare Truscott): The papers which might have been previously rather homophobic, suddenly seem to wake up to the fact that homophobia could lead to direct violence. It was like they've never associated those things before and they'd suddenly noticed that our community was under attack. And because newspapers, journalists, TV had been there, almost instantly, presumably because journalists are quite used to drinking around Soho, a lot of media outlets and things, TV stations were based not far away. Presumably they were on the ground immediately after the bombing quite easily. There was a lot of coverage that was fairly favourable towards our community, and recognised us as a community under attack. You know where as I had been under attack for the whole of my life, it was like the media hadn't really noticed that before.
AZ: Clare's got the benefit of hindsight there seeing that shift in media coverage, becoming more sympathetic towards well, basically just gays and lesbians because of this awful attack.
TW: And I hope in 22 years time, reflecting back on how the media handles trans rights today, it won't take devastation like this to see that shift towards a more empathetic reporting.
AZ: One place we see a lot of empathy and respect is in our amazing queer venues, like the Admiral Duncan and one of our favourite places, The Glory.
Contributor 19 (John Sizzle): I'm John Sizzle, I'm one of the co-owners of The Glory along with Johnny Woo and Colin Rothbart and I'm here today in The Glory
I'm constantly, as a venue owner, constantly trying to gauge the vibe on the street around this venue. I suppose since Trump, in the last five years, we've been going for seven years, since Trump there was definitely an air around the whole world of bigotry, homophobia and just hate, and just a licence for people to to express their distaste for stuff that had nothing to do with them.
So I think that's definitely waned a little bit. But there's always something in the air in a place like London and in a bustling urban area like Hackney, that bombing of the Admiral Duncan, that was on the 30th April 1999, which was the day after my 21st birthday, and I was basically supposed to be trolling around Soho. On the 29th,I don't know what I ended up doing but that was a bit of a close shave, wasn't it? I do count myself lucky to have escaped that one.
So it's what over 20 years since the bombing of the Admiral Duncan in 99 and we're trying to think about if it could happen again. Of course it could, it could anything like that could happen. It does happen, but probably not at that scale. You know, venues like this, The Glory, we have instances all the time where people are kicking the door or doing drive by eggings. There's no reason why that can't be a petrol bomb.
I mean, obviously, the Admiral Duncan was more extreme, that was a 'bomb, bomb'. But it doesn't need to be a bomb to be as effective as what happened there. To make a venue safe for the punters, anyone coming here, you have to spend a lot of money. Basically it's all about the security. You know we have a busy night here where we have three security guards. I don't mind saying that costs me nearly a thousand pounds a week, in security alone. You have to train people up, the managers and the bar staff to, to be attentive to the clientele or what's going on around them in terms of people who might be undesirable, or even threats within our own community, people being too drunk or too druggie or just too messy or just having difficulties with their lives and how they may express that in a venue.
There's also the threat of not just violence but sexual issues as well. But it's really about awareness, we're acutely aware now of everyone that comes through the door. We get abuse in all its forms here, we don't get that much of it. I think we're not in the busier part of Dalston, where it's a bit quiet down here. But what we do have is a local school, who, every month or so there's some kind of trouble from and I've had instances where, they range from people just calling, phoning up, and saying really ridiculous things like, 'They want a bit of cock or whatever' and I tell them to go and ask their mum. To do things like chucking eggs or or scrawling something on the wall. It's not too bad. I mean, kids are kids, but there have been instances where, there was one when I was here and the kids just kicked the front door in, gave it a boot, so it banged open, then all stood outside, despite me going out and giving them a load of grief. And they were just completely in my face, that just the mendacity of it was ridiculous. They scarpered though, when I pointed out the CCTV and told him I'd see them in assembly on Monday.
You just get little things like that, but I don't know these people grow up, don't they? They grow up into dangerous adults sometimes. Yeah of course there's still a need for for safe spaces and The Glory being being a prime example of a space that people can come to, not only perform and hang out, but I think the main importance is for people to get a sense of their own self and grow into more confident, productive, caring, loving adults, that the world at large will benefit from, we're not just a cave of queers that just act queer in the cave and then leave the cave and then go and buy a coffee. We're actually people that are productive to society, you know, queers are still doctors and nurses and teachers and dancers and singers and dinner ladies and mothers and father. We're part of society. The reason we we need a safe space, a queer space, is so that we can come in and breathe some queer oxygen, because all we normally have is the heteronormative type that we're having to live off 98% of the day. So it is really important and this is where good pop culture comes from. This is where good art comes from. This is where good stories and good performance comes from. So yeah, safe safe spaces are the future you know I think without them it would all just be a bit Marks and Spencers wouldn't it.
AZ: Adam, is M&S a safe space for you?
TW: Definitely not. There's too many pleated clothing items, but there is this wider conversation happening around safe or safer spaces, especially with regard to consent.
And it's such a big topic and we're going to be including it as part of a future episode in this season on kink.
AZ: But next, we're going to take a look at the rise in calls to Switchboard from 1992 to 2003, from people who wanted to talk about gender identity.
[piano and string music]
TW: Calls to Switchboard are confidential, so to bring The Log Books to life we’ve changed callers’ details.
AZ: The Log Books is produced by Shivani Dave, Tash Walker, and Adam Zmith, in partnership with Switchboard, the LGBT+ helpline. And supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
TW: If you think other people would like The Log Books, please rate and review us on Apple Podcasts. These ratings and reviews really help others to discover the show. You can send us your feedback and stories to email@example.com, or join the conversation on social media with the hashtag #TheLogBooks.
AZ: Our music is by Tom Foskett-Barnes, and our artwork is by Natalie Doto.
TW: Thanks to…
AZ: Stef Dickers, and the team at the Bishopsgate Institute. The folks at Acast, Content is Queen, David Pye, the staff and volunteers at Switchboard, and everyone who shared their stories with us.
TW: Switchboard continues to take phone calls from 10 am to 10 pm, every day. If you’re affected by any of the issues in this podcast, or need to discuss anything to do with gender identity or sexuality, you can call Switchboard on 0300 330 0630, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or instant message via switchboard.lgbt, where you can also donate money, or time, to help.