Since launching the Save JoJo’s Petition (please sign it here) we have been inundated with requests for interviews and comments. I’m afraid we just don’t have time to respond to everyone individually. If you represent national press or broadcast media please drop us a line at email@example.com to arrange an interview. For all other requests please find below a Q&A with Finger in the Pie Artistic Director Alexander Parsonage. Please feel free to pull quotes from it for your coverage.
If you require images to use in your coverage please find an archive here please credit Finger in the Pie and photographers credit in the file name.
WHY SHOULDN’T THE VENUE BE CLOSED AFTER A SERIOUS ASSAULT?
We can’t condone the attack, and even if the victim was a drug dealer and local gang member as is now being alleged, that does not justify the actions of the security staff involved. However one incident in a 50 year history should not be enough to destroy an internationally famous UK brand and Soho institution.
SOHO ESTATES PUT IN PLANNING PERMISSION TO DEMOLISH JOJO’S MONTHS BEFORE IT LOST ITS LICENCE, DOESN’T THIS ALL LOOK A BIT SUSPICIOUS?
Since the revoking of JoJo’s licence it’s come to light that Soho Estates put in planning permission to redevelop the JoJo’s site back in 2013. They also maintain they own the rights to the JoJo’s name. Since they made this public it’s also been revealed that they tried to register the JoJo’s trademark for themselves in 2012 – but the application was successfully blocked twice by the current management. So it would appear that no one currently owns the trademark.It has also been alleged that JoJo’s were only three years into a seven year lease – which was preventing Soho Estates to move forward with their planned development and attempts to reclaim the JoJo’s name for themselves. Since the JoJo’s Management lost their licence this put them in breach of their tenancy agreement, so they have been evicted and Soho Estates have reclaimed the building. So it could well be just one big, and very convenient, coincidence but it certainly doesn’t look good.
WHY DOES LOOSING THIS VENUE MATTER SO MUCH TO THE ARTS?
We need central London Venues that nurture new talent, experimentation, and the cross fertilisation of different communities. Jojo’s has been a home to the LGBT community, the cabaret community and new and independent music for decades. It’s hard to find anyone in the UK cabaret industry that didn’t cut their teeth on JoJo’s stage. With JoJo’s gone there is nothing left to fill that void.
JoJo’s is one of the most famous international brands in UK cabaret: but once it’s gone it’s gone. It’s not something that could be recreated over night or even in a decade. It’s taken fifty years to build it’s reputation, yet it could be destroyed overnight.
The arts are one of the most successful UK industries – offering a four fold return on government investment – it’s a sector worth about £12.5 Billion and generates around £800million in tourism alone. Yet time and again it’s undermined by local and national government.
WHY IS LOOSING JOJO’S SO IMPORTANT TO THE COMMUNITY?
Over the years Madame JoJo’s has been the home for many diverse communities. Most recently it’s been a central London home for the LGBT, drag and cabaret community. But what is important is that it’s never been exclusive. Unlike other venues which provide homes for individual sub-cultures, Madame JoJo’s has always been a melting pot of different groups.
Madame JoJo’s provides a space where groups who otherwise feel marginalised can feel accepted without isolating and ghettoising themselves. A place where subcultures can celebrate their creative achievements with a genuinely diverse ordinance. This is only made possible by Madame JoJo’s central London location – it would be near impossible to replicate this diversity in any other location.
IS THIS PART OF A WIDER PROBLEM?
For 400 years Soho has been the gloriously seedy underbelly of London. A place where subcultures met and intermingled, where class barriers were ignored and where creativity flourished – yet rampant gentrification has put it at deaths door.
This is part of a wider scourge of gentrification we are seeing in the capital. Where both independent creative business and individuals are being pushed out of the centre to make way for high end retail, chain restaurants and property investors. Soho is turning into a playground for wealthy shoppers and tourists.
London is traditionally an very integrated city. With rich and poor living cheek-by-jowl with each other. Yet a series of disastrous policies and balooning property prices are turning it into the kind of ghettoised nightmare we see across north America and Europe – a donut city were the centre is the sole preserve of the extremely wealthy and poorer workers and creatives are driven out to rings of increasing poverty at the margins.
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO HAPPEN?
We want to see Madame JoJo’s reopen with it’s current atmosphere and eclectic programming of club nights, drag, cabaret and burlesque. Our deepest fear is that new management will be found to open a ‘cabaret themed’ restaurant, cashing in on the JoJo’s name and brand to generate tourist dollars much as we see in Paris with the Crazy Coqs and Moulin Rouge. Our nightmare is a venue which is at best a museum piece to its former glory and at worst nothing more than a soho theme park, sanitised of anything that made the original what it was, and an anathema to the numerous subcultures which once flourished there.
For creativity to flourish we need underground, fringe venues in central London. Places were artists can experiment and try out new things. And where audiences who wouldn’t venture out of the centre can be exposed to alternative arts and cultures – we want Madame JoJo’s to carry on providing that space. This is the life blood of the creative industries and there is nowhere else in central London offering that opportunity.
WHAT IS YOUR CONNECTION TO MADAME JOJO’S?
Finger in the Pie have been running our famous cabaret showcase on the first Sunday of the month in Madame JoJo’s since 2007. I know from my own experience of running Finger in the Pie Cabaret in Madame JoJos for the last 7 years how many tourists JoJos attracts to London, how many young artists have launched their careers on our stage and what a melting pot of cultures and sub-cultures it is. Finger in the Pie Cabaret’s facts and figures at a glance:
– Finger in the Pie Cabaret started in February 2007
– Finger in the Pie Cabaret has showcased over 600 individual performances from a total of over 680 different performers.
– Performers who made their UK cabaret debut with us include – Bourgeois and Maurice (winners in the 2012 London Cabaret Awards), Doctor Brown (winner of the Fosters Comedy Award 2012) and Myra Dubois (Winner of Best Drag Artiste at the London Cabaret Awards 2013) as well as many many more.
– Artistic Director Alexander Parsonage won the 2012 Best Artistic Director at the Fringe Report Awards
– Finger in the Pie Cabaret’s stage-management team won a London Cabaret Award in 2013 for their support of emerging artists.