Crowdfunding the UK’s First Community-Run LGBTQI+ Venue

by Tom Wood | Jan 11, 2024 | Community & citizenship, Community Shares, Equality, Events, Stories

Crowdfunding the UK’s First Community-Run LGBTQI+ Venue

With a dream of reviving London’s LGBTQI+ community, Friends of the Joiners Arms (FOTJA) embarked on an ambitious crowdfunding campaign, successfully raising £127,735 with 2260 investors in just 70 days. This achievement, realised on the 16th of August 2022, marked a significant milestone in the journey towards opening the doors of the UK’s inaugural community-run LGBTQI+ venue.

“Friends of the Joiners Arms (FOTJA) are an award-winning campaign group who formed in 2014 in response to the closure of the Joiners Arms, a late license LGBTQIA+ venue in East London, at the hands of property developers.” said Amy Roberts, Chair of Friends of the Joiners Arms. “We came together as a collective who were passionate about the importance of LGBTQIA+ spaces and the need to fight back against the mass closure of our venues across London.”

London had witnessed a significant decline in LGBTQI+ spaces, disproportionately affecting marginalised groups. FOTJA recognized the importance of these spaces, echoing the sentiment shared by performer and FOTJA member, Don One, who in a video uploaded to the organisation’s crowdfunding page expressed, “Queer spaces are fundamental to our wellbeing. They are spaces in which many of us have memories of our first kisses, our first dances. And they can be empowering spaces offering sanctuary, self-discovery, and employment.”

FOTJA envisioned a venue that not only addressed the void left by the closure of LGBTQI+ spaces but went beyond by creating a space run by the people who used it. The organisation emphasised inclusivity, diversity, and accessibility, with the goal of inspiring the creation of truly radical queer spaces.

In a comment about what inspired the organisation to run a Community Share scheme, Amy continued, “Since the very beginning of the campaign, we have been inspired by other communities who had used the community share scheme to save their local pubs and venues, such as the Ivy House in Peckham and the Bevy in Brighton. We love the democratic nature of Community Benefit Societies, which gives every shareholder equal say regardless of how many shares an individual has, and we feel it was the best model for us to act with the community as our focus.”

Credits: Alex Janaszewski.

The organisation hosts events like the fabulous Lèse Majesté nights, featuring performances by talented individuals like Prinx Silver and Bee’Jamming. These events not only provide entertainment but also serve as vital components of a safe and supportive community space.

FOTJA operated as a Community Benefit Society (CBS), offering Community Shares. This model not only allowed people to contribute financially but also granted them membership in the society, providing a voice in decision-making processes.

Credits: Henri T.

The campaign also introduced Pay-It-Forward shares, ensuring that financial constraints did not hinder anyone from becoming a member. For those with the means, purchasing a Pay-It-Forward share alongside personal shares was encouraged to support inclusivity.

On the question of what drew Friends of the Joiners Arms to Crowdfunder to run their project, Amy talked of the Crowdfunder’s strong reputation and a sense of trust in the platform. “We felt the strong reputation of Crowdfunder would be an excellent platform which would offer added security to people who were investing in us, particularly those who hadn’t heard of our work before.”

Amy continued to talk about the present and the future of the organisation, “Having secured the finances needed we are now searching East London for the right venue to bring our vision to life. Alongside this, we continue to run our bimonthly drag cabaret events, Lèse Majesté. Each event has a BSL interpreter and live-captions, and they are now hosted at the brilliant RichMix – a wheelchair accessible venue in East London… FOTJA are a group of people who dream about making positive changes to society. Opening night at the venue is going to be a well-earned party after a lot of hard work – and it will also be the beginning of bigger things to come!”

The successful crowdfunding campaign was a testament to the community’s resilience, determination, and shared commitment to creating a space that celebrated diversity and inclusivity. Friends of the Joiners Arms had made history, transforming a vision into a reality that would continue to impact and empower the LGBTQI+ community for years to come.

To find out more and enquire about community shares offers, check out our community shares page.

Ready to raise funds for your idea?

Over £200 million has been raised from our crowd to support the projects they love! Plus tens of millions more unlocked by our partners.