Sassy by name, Sassy by nature, I write to explode the myths which surround the lapdancing profession - standing up for the clubs, the girls and the customers. Its not always drinking champagne and playing with my tits - it can be hassle, hustling and hangovers. At heart I'm just a regular twenty-something posh cockney living in London who likes taking her clothes off...
Many are puzzled by why East London residents prefer the White Horse as a strip pub, rather than a trendy restaurant, and local residents associations are contesting an application to change the licensing.
As anybody who has ever been to the White Horse strip pub will tell you, the pub was something special. The blacked out windows of this ol’boozer on a Shoreditch corner opened up into a wonderful pub filled with warm wood period features, a mirrored corner stage and a vitality and passion that exuded from the dancers and the women behind the bar. It was the birthplace of the East London Strippers Collective, a fiesty group of activist strippers which has evolved into a movement which throws regular parties and events. Open for over 30 years, and run by three generations of women in traditional Queen Vic matriarchal fashion, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house when it finally shut its doors in August 2016.
But the White Horse didn’t shut its doors because business was bad, or it had problems with staff, or even because the owners wanted a break. It shut because of that classic London tale – greedy landlords and rising rents due to gentrification. The White Horse strip pub was part of the huge Tea Building which is owned and managed by Derwent London property developers. Situated on the corner of trendy Redchurch Street and opposite Boxpark and Shoreditch Overground Station, it truly is a prime location.
With plans for massive redevelopment, Derwent quadrupled the rent all at once, effectively killing the business, and forced the White Horse owner Sue to sign a non-disclosure agreement banning her from discussing the closure with staff or customers.
Property develops versus the White Horse strip pub
Derwent must have known that there would be local opposition for the much-loved local business with long-standing links to the community, otherwise why the NDA? In an area where most establishments are relatively new, the landlords tried to sweep it under the carpet. I’ve spoken to dancers who found out only a few weeks before the eventual closure and were distraught. They found it confusing that the owners and managers weren’t putting up a fight against the landlords, offering protests or media interviews by the East London Strippers Collective as a solution,but by then it was too late.
The White Horse strip pub shut its doors in August 2016, with a subdued countdown with posters within the pub proclaiming ‘2 weeks to go’, ‘1 week to go’ and finally, ‘Last Night at The White Horse’.
“It was absolutely packed… a very emotional night” according to Zoe Trope, a dancer who worked there and performed at the closing party, which featured legendary ex-dancers who had been coaxed out of retirement for one final performance, and had many of the ‘regular’ customers in attendance. “Girls were crying – we felt like it was the end of a golden era for strippers.”
Edie Lamort laments that ‘gentrification of the area has robbed it of local culture and replaced it with craft lagers and fussy food.” Edie later helped the East London Strippers Collective produce ‘R.I.P. Shoreditch’, a jazz funeral for the White Horse.
I marched alongside the strippers, customers, activists and locals as a flower girl in a celebration of the life and history of true East End culture, as we were led by a saxophonist from the White Horse strip pub to the Red Gallery.
It’s clear to see that the striptease culture in London is being eroded, along with many nightlife venues that have performance facilities. Crossrail killed Astoria and the Ghetto in Tottenham Court Road, as well as decimating Kings Cross clubing scene by shutting both Cross Keys and Cargo. Local pubs continue to shut across the capital, or revamped as gastro restaurants. This was the fate of The Flying Scotsman in Kings Cross, which shut its doors after an unruly brawl, and has now become CAMRA’s Pub of the Year.
Even Peter Stringfellow, the granddaddy of English striptease culture, is not immune to property developers. Stringfellows Soho, a pretty successful operation that I worked in for a while, shut down in September 2016. Freshwater decided to redevelop the entire block and made Peter an ‘offer in the millions’ according to City A.M. Whilst this windfall is good news for Peter’s bank balance, lets remember that every venue closure will result in job losses and wage insecurity, even if you do have another club for staff to migrate to.
In all my years of blogging, I suddenly find myself at a loss as to what to say. I feel like I am watching the decimation of my passion in slow motion. Stripclubs are closing, losing dancers, barstaff, waiters, waitresses, DJ’s and security staff – we are talking about thousands of job losses.
I have been blogging for 7 or 8 years, and working with the East London Strippers Collective for three. Dancing for eons longer. Lived in London for my entire life! And it breaks my heart to see so many places that I am connected to struggling. Let’s try and work together as much as possible.
Please continue to read my blog, visit striptease parties held by the East London Strippers Collective, engage in activism, comment and share on newspaper articles and of course please visit your local strip joint.