So it’s all change at Bloc Bar, the LGBT hangout on Kentish Town Road that opened last year in the wake of the Black Cap’s undignified exit.
Her Upstairs is a new venture on the first floor of the building, the brainchild of friends Joe Parslow, drag queen Meth (the brains behind Black Cap cabaret night the Meth Lab) and George Anthony, whose CV includes managing venues like Dalston Superstore and Madame Jojo’s.
It’s a cabaret bar with kitsch interiors, “camp” drinks (or be butch and sip on a Camden Hells) and the quirky, queer drag entertainment that for so long was synonymous with the Camden LGBTQ+ scene.
On our arrival last night we were ushered upstairs by a super-friendly bouncer, and were pleased that the small room was full with a mixed crowd of young and mature, male and female.
“This is a bar run for queer people by queer people,” says Joe. “Queer, for us, is about a radical togetherness and as such everyone is welcome in our space, as long as you’re not an arsehole. Identity is never a barrier at Her Upstairs, and we welcome everyone and anyone who wants to enjoy our bar, shows, and each other’s company.”And there was plenty of that in evidence last night: as we nurtured our pints, mighty host HERR (pictured), from a new collective called Stage Presents, prowled the room dragging unsuspected punters on stage to reveal secrets about their lives on the spot: hysterical and terrifying in equal measures. And flame-haired, bearded Gingzilla made the handful of straight men in attendance feel just a bit less comfortable with her, um, outrageous routine.
The trio have planned a packed schedule of queer entertainment this autumn, bringing “high-quality, engaging, political, and fun performance work”. They want to encourage and support new and emerging artists, as well as working with the capital’s existing drag and queer royalty. “There’ll be dedicated space and time to Kings, Queens, Queer Performers of Colour, new talent, and London Legends,” says Joe. “Comedy, tragedy – and everything in between.”And their ethics are watertight. “We believe in the value of a local economy and do not want to line the pockets of multinational corporations,” he says. “Our refurbishment work was conducted by independent workmen and small businesses, and our amazing family of queer helpers had their paintbrushes out and lent a hand. Wherever possible our stock will come from London breweries and will be priced at ranges to suit all purses.”
All they need now is a mass of local support. Do it.