12th June – DYKE PRIDE RIDE 2022
June is Pride month and as in former years we organised our annual Dyke Pride Ride on the 12th June. Meeting up outside the Central Station gay pub just behind Kings Cross to decorate our bikes before heading off towards the Ladies Pond on Hampstead Heath.
On the way we stopped at various former lesbian venues where Spanna, our Membership Officer talked to us about the history of each place… she has frequented most of them in her time.
1. The Carved Red Lion Pub (now The Winchester)
The Carved Red Lion was a pub that became known as a predominantly lesbian pub, hosting discos in the 1970s and 1980s. Its basement was one of the main places that lesbians could meet in Islington. It also had a ‘no smoking’ night once a week, which was radical at the time.
2. Duke of Clarence Pub (Closed)
The Duke of Clarence pub was a women-only pub run entirely by women from the 1980s until its closure in 2006. It advertised heavily to lesbians, operating as a safe space for women of all sexual orientations.
Although the pub is now closed, the name can still be seen on a sign that still hangs on the side of the building.
3. Sisterwrite Bookshop
Sisterwrite was a feminist collective started in 1979 by Kay Stirling, Lynn Alderson, and Mary Coghill. It consisted of a bookshop with an upstairs reading room and vegetarian café, and it remained open for fifteen years, acting as the epicentre of feminist and lesbian literature in the 1980s. It was praised for being a women-only venture at the time.
The bookshop faced difficulties, primarily from men who were aggressive to staff and defaced the shop. On one occasion there was a brief clash with the police, as the owners of Sisterwrite believed that the police had wiretapped their phones. During the era of Section 28, certain books that discussed lesbians in an positive light had to be kept under the counter for fear of reprisal from the authorities.
4. Hemingford Arms
The Hemingford Arms, which opened in 1855, is still in operation in 2022. It is the oldest traditional pub in Barnsbury. Its first floor was home to the renowed Icebreakers Friday-night disco in the early 1980’s, a hugely popular disco which operated in tandem with the community services provided by Icebreakers. The disco was held here between approximately 1981 and 1983 before moving to the Carved Red Lion. Islington and Haringey Gay Group also made the pub their home in the early 1980s, before moving to the Fallen Angel in 1989.
5. Club Kali, The Dome
In the 1970s and 80s, when a side street in Islington was just another obscure part of inner-city London, the “Hemi” was a rare space where a variety of characters would gather. Lisa Power once described the Hemingford Arms as “a melting pot of everything disreputable. All the subterranean and anti-establishment groupings you could imagine – gays, lesbians drag queens, punks, new-romantics, hard-line politicos, anarchists – you name them and they would congregate at the Hemi, especially for the Friday night discos.”
We soon arrived at the Ladies Pond and settled down in the shade of a large tree where we enjoyed our packed picnics and chat.
Was great to meet so many dyke bikers, both old friends and new, we hope they will come and join us again on our ride outs.