Leeds pub at heart of LGBT struggle is honoured by Civic Trust

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By Tamara Schofield

A LEEDS pub has become the first in the country to be awarded a Civic Trust blue plaque after serving the city’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community for six decades.

The deputy leader of Leeds City Council and LGBT champion, Coun James Lewis, unveiled the plaque at The New Penny, in Lower Briggate, last Thursday.

Jeff Armitage, manager of The New Penny, said:  “We are extremely happy to be recognised with this honour, particularly as contributions of this kind have not been visibly acknowledged in the past.

“Leeds really does have a thriving LGBT scene, which goes beyond The New Penny.”

The pub is situated in an area that has become celebrated as the LGBT quarter of Leeds.

img_20161027_114450Anthony Woods, a regular at The New Penny for nearly three decades and a member of the LGBT Network, said:  “We were forced down here because we were illegal!

“The people who complain about Lower Briggate and ask why the city needs an LGBT quarter are the ones who have never experienced what it is to be illegal for something that is part of your person, that you can’t and don’t want to change.

“This LGBT heritage is not visible in Leeds as it is in other parts of the world.

“This plaque is a good sign that things might be starting to change. But if Leeds wants to be authentic then it needs to represent its entire history and its entire population.”

Coun Lewis said: “The New Penny’s ever-presence marks the long, and sometimes hidden, history of the LGBT community in Leeds which we should be proud to celebrate today.

“There has been a social and political revolution including the decriminalisation of male homosexuality in 1967, campaigns against section 28 in the 1980s and 90s and the introduction of equal img_20161027_114700-1marriage in 2012.”

The New Penny is thought to be the longest running solely LGBT venue outside London and as a result the heritage organisation, Historic England, is also looking at the bar as part of the Pride of Place project.

Historic England wants to recognise buildings and places that have helped to shape and influence LGBT history.

Professor Alison Oram, Pride of Place team member and lead researcher at Leeds Beckett University, said: “Queer heritage is everywhere, and we hope that Pride of Place will lead to more historic places being publicly valued and protected for their important queer histories.”

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