Pride 2021: LGBTQ businesses in London to support now and forever

Show your support for the LGBTQ community this Pride month and beyond by paying a visit to these brilliant businesses.

June is just around the corner (how did that happen?!) and that means, alongside the arrival of official British summertime, that it’s the start of Pride month.

It’s a time when LGBTQ people come together to celebrate the progress made towards equality, raise awareness of current issues facing the community, and celebrate in the spirit of love, friendship and solidarity.  

It’s also an opportunity for allies to show their support for the LGBTQ community. In the present moment, this is more important than ever. The Covid-19 crisis has exposed and intensified systemic inequalities for the community, with LGBTQ people reporting worsening mental health, financial difficulties, increasing risk of domestic abuse, homelessness and isolation.

Although the pandemic has put many Pride festivities on hold (the Pride in London parade, for instance, is scheduled for September instead of its usual booking in early July), and queer nightlife spaces are yet to reopen, the LGBTQ scene remains vibrant and resilient. And even in the absence of parties and protests, there are still a great many LGBTQ spaces around the capital that people can support; and support them we must. These venues are an invaluable resource for the community. They are safe havens where people can be their true authentic selves, if only for a little while.

With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of LGBTQ businesses to visit as you enjoy your post-lockdown freedom around the city this summer. From friendly pubs to independent bookshops, every pound spent at these brilliant venues helps ensure the survival of LGBTQ culture. Use it a starting point to explore London, and if you feel so inspired, seek out more LGBTQ businesses as you go –we promise there are plenty more out there.

Gay’s the Word

Nestled in the middle of Marchmount Street, Bloomsbury, is the beloved Gay’s the Word, the oldest LGBTQ bookshop in the UK. Established in 1979, it stocks an impressively curated range of queer literature, as well as hosting well-attended meetings, readings and community events. 

If the bookshop looks familiar, you might well have spotted it in the 2014 Pride, which chronicled the story of the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners campaign. It’s a safe, supportive space for the LGBTQ community and its allies, welcoming everyone from tentative teenagers questioning their identity to loyal fans who come from near and far. 

Over the years, Gay’s the Word has fought off rent increases, charges of “conspiracy to import indecent books” and acts of vandalism to keep its doors open, but its presence should never be taken for granted.

Dalston Superstore 

Alongside its diverse programme of special ticketed events, its also open during the day for leisurely food and drinks – and if you like your brunch served with a side of games, quizzes, shows and prizes, then Drag Brunch is your bag. While Covid-19 guidelines remain in place, Dalston Superstore are also hosting a ‘dinner drag experience’, where you can enjoy performances from local entertainers in a safe, seated environment.

Sh! Womens Erotic Emporium

The first and only erotic boutique in the UK for and by women, Sh! Women’s Emporium was founded in 1992 as an antidote to the male-dominated sex industry of the time. As it’s rooted in women’s sexual empowerment, it’s anything but sleazy: think well-informed staff, a warm atmosphere, and a soundtrack of the biggest female pop singers past and present.

Not only is the boutique staffed by women, but Sh! also stocks a collection of handmade artisan sex toys, designed and created in their London studio. The team also run a host of educational talks and workshops, allowing women to explore aspects of their sexuality in a safe environment. That being said, everyone is welcome to visit – and if you need further persuasion, it sits within a lovely East London café, so you can have tea and cake on your trip. 

Open Barbers

Haven’t managed to book a salon appointment to tame your lockdown mane yet? Consider Open Barbers, an inclusive hairdressing service welcoming people of all/no genders and sexualities, with any hair length and type. As a not-for-profit social enterprise, prices are on a sliding scale, where you pay what you can afford, starting from just £2. 

The salon space is open to visitors with free wifi, refreshments and a ‘zine library. They also host a range of collaborators who deliver additional services and events, such as massage, therapy, and a range of social groups.

Services are currently by appointment only and bookings can be made up to one week in advance here.

Images: Getty; Instagram

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