Has there ever been a better time to be queer in Hackney? This might seem like an odd question to ask with two LGBT favourites in the area, The Joiners’ Arms on Hackney Road and The Nelson’s Head on Horatio Street, both closing their doors in the past few months. But in many ways Hackney’s queer scene has never been healthier. QX Magazine names Shoreditch as one of London’s “three gay villages“, while That Gay Backpacker calls Hackney his “very favourite London gaybourhood“.
From Dalston to Haggerston, Shoreditch to Stoke Newington, we’ve rounded up for you the best of Hackney’s LGBT hotspots.
1. Dalston Superstore, Dalston
Probably Hackney’s best-known LGBT venue, Dalston Superstore has it all. A diverse crowd, local DJs, all-night parties and tasty food to boot. If a night on the tiles isn’t really your thing, Dalston Superstore transforms itself into a pleasant café during the daylight hours, with coffee and all-day brunch. It also hosts London’s only dedicated trans* night, T Club, bringing all shades of gender together in one glorious melting pot.
Keep an eye on the What’s On page for other delights, from lesbian nights out to fetish balls and DJ guest stars. Arty sorts will be pleased to know that Dalston Superstore also holds regular exhibitions of queer, challenging and provocative art.
Come for the rainborific clientele and night-long party tunes
Stay for the varied drinks menu and seasonal food features
2. The George & Dragon, Shoreditch
Not to be confused with the cabaret bar in Greenwich, the George & Dragon pub is nevertheless a solid place for a pint if you’re LGBT-inclined. It attracts a mostly (trendy, hipster) masculine crowd and can get pretty packed at peak times, so be prepared for ‘standing room only’. The quirky decorations and trashy pop tunes give it an 1980s throwback vibe, and its proximity to various clubs means it’ll fit quite neatly into a longer night out.
Come for the kitschy décor and buzzy atmosphere
Stay for the upbeat music and banter that lasts long after closing
3. Blush, Stoke Newington
If The George & Dragon is a bit too blokey for you, you’ll enjoy Blush, a lady-lovin’ bar in the heart of “lesbian mecca” Stoke Newington. Its look suits its name, with a deep scarlet hue both inside and out. Aptly, a few times in the past Blush has played host to Scarlett O’Harlot, a female-fronted music night with lady artists all night long and a “scarlet or harlot” dress code. The bar is run by Siobhan Cantwell, who in the 90s headed up another girl bar in Stoke Newington, Due South. It’s friendly, welcoming and not pretentiously “trendy” like many places you’ll find in Hackney. There’s also art by local artists on the walls for a community touch.
Come for the local vibe and friendly staff
Stay for the pop, house and oldies soundtrack – and a jukebox with actual CDs
4. Vogue Fabrics, Dalston
It seems like Dalston has all the queer party venues. A smaller spot than Dalston Kingsland, Vogue Fabrics is nevertheless home to a mad, mish-mash crowd of eccentric and fabulous types. It doesn’t have much by way of décor, but its customers are as colourful as the website’s kaleidoscopic front page. (View with caution. And sunglasses.)
Hit up Vogue Fabrics for such delights as ‘Unicorn Disco’ and ‘Naked Boys Reading’, as well as more ordinary fashion talks and open mic nights. Quirky, open-minded and singularly Hackney, this basement club is one the hipsters are hoping you won’t find. And if you can’t make it out of the house, you can always catch a live-stream at home.
Come for the affordable and unique night out
Stay for the madness
5. The Glory, Haggerston
A relative newcomer to the Hackney LGBT scene, The Glory opened its doors on Kingsland Road in December 2014. Still, with Shoreditch drag legend Jonny Woo at the helm, alongside gay scene veterans like Zoe Argiros and John Sizzle, this “newbie” is backed by a wealth of queer panache and experience.
The Glory is pub and performance venue, nightclub and theatre, cosy drinking spot and hardcore party place all rolled into one. You can sit sipping a drink and chatting with mates in the pub at ground level, catch a show on the main floor stage, or head down to the basement for some serious flashing lights and thumping music. The Glory aims to be a hub of counterculture queer performance that will redefine London’s alternative scene, showing off the best talent the capital has to offer. Don’t miss Tuesday night showings of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Jayde Adams’ Thursday night comedy shows and funky Friday night disco The Hole.
Come for the chilled-out pub atmosphere
Stay for the surreal, alternative and hilarious live performances
6. East Bloc, Shoreditch
Last but by no means least we have East Bloc, a trendy-friendly basement nightclub poised on the border between Hackney and Islington. In character, though, it’s Hackney in all its trashy, seedy, queer hipster glory. The drinks are cheap, the décor is fabulous (look out for Keith Haring references in particular) and the club plays host to some of the hottest resident DJs around. Two dance floors and a relentless Electro/Disco/Retro Pop soundtrack will be sure to keep you grinding until the early hours.
Come for the gaytastic party times
Stay for the fab new music talent
So there you have it – our round-up of the best that LGBT Hackney has to offer. If you need a hand finding your way to any of them, check out our interactive map below:
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