Garrick club membership list revealed fuelling fresh storm over men-only policy

The membership list of the exclusive Garrick Club has been revealed for the first time — fuelling fresh criticism of its men-only membership policy.

Members include Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden, the head of MI6 Richard Moore, and Simon Case who in his role as Cabinet Secretary is one of the country’s most senior civil servants.

The list, seen by the Guardian, also includes judges, barristers, MPs, academics, actors and senior figures in the arts. The Covent Garden club, which opened in 1831, has around 1,500 members and there have been several moves in recent years to lift the bar on women joining.

The row was reignited in 2022 when the lawyer who originally ruled it could bar women changed his mind and said there was no legal justification to stay men-only. A poll of members last November found 51 per cent were in favour of admitting women but club rules require a two-thirds majority to change its position.

Among the names on the members list are actors Matthew Macfadyen, Benedict Cumberbatch and Damian Lewis as well as the chief executive of the Royal Opera House, Alex Beard, and Antonio Pappano, who is now chief conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra.

Jude Kelly, former artistic director of the Southbank Centre, said senior figures in the arts should resign, telling the Guardian: “It sends a very peculiar message if you head a major arts organisation, but you are a member of a club that doesn’t accept women.”

Conservative MP Caroline Nokes, who chairs the women and equalities committee, said: “It’s wrong in today’s society to have places that are still so pivotal to the establishment that exclude 51 per cent of the population.”

The club, named after legendary actor David Garrick, has always drawn members from the arts including actor Sir John Gielgud and writers such as Charles Dickens, HG Wells and Winnie-the-Pooh author AA Milne.

Other members include former England manager Roy Hodgson, Dire Straits guitarist Mark Knopfler, designer Paul Smith, and BBC journalist John Simpson who said he was “profoundly and passionately in favour” of opening membership to women and described the current men-only rule as “an embarrassing blight on an otherwise delightful institution”.