Munroe Bergdorf issues call to save London nightlife amid closures of queer venues: ‘I found myself in Soho’

Munroe Bergdorf at the launch of Priscilla The Party (Alan West)
Munroe Bergdorf at the launch of Priscilla The Party (Alan West)

Model and activist Munroe Bergdorf has issued a plea to protect LGBT+ nightclubs amid a rise in hate crimes against trans people across the UK.

Having found sanctuary in Soho, the beating heart of London’s gay scene, during the early stages of her career and transition, Bergdorf warned that the shuttering of iconic venues puts LGBT+ people at greater risk.

“Nightlife is a refuge, and we’re seeing queer spaces dramatically fall off the map, especially in London – with the way it’s been regenerated, the way communities are changing, how cuts are happening,” the model said, before blaming the Tories for London’s nightlife decline.

The model and activist shared her views during the launch of the new theatrical experience, Priscilla: The Party, at new central London venue Here at Outernet on Wednesday (1 November). She spoke of her love for Soho, and how it played a pivotal role in the early stages of expressing her trans identity.

“I grew up in Soho at a time when I shouldn’t have been out in clubs – far too young to be in a club, but I was,” she admitted. “And I found myself. I transitioned in Soho. Soho is where I found myself and my community.”

In 2021, it was reported that 58 per cent of London’s LGBTQ+ spaces have closed down, with many being replaced by apartments and transport hubs.

Panellists on stage at Priscilla: The Party, including Munroe Bergdorf (second left) (Alan West)
Panellists on stage at Priscilla: The Party, including Munroe Bergdorf (second left) (Alan West)

“There was a place called the Astoria which wasn’t too far away from here, that got knocked down for the Elizabeth line,” she continued. “But then we got this place. So I think it’s really important that we move with the times, and the places that do replace old institutions provide new ways of telling stories that have empowered and impacted us all.”

According to Home Office statistics published in October, transgender hate crimes increased by 11 per cent in England and Wales in the year ending March 2023. In its briefing, the Home Office admitted that increased discussion and “debate” around trans identity “may have led to an increase in these offences, or more awareness in the police in the identification and recording of these crimes”.

From March 2024, Here at Outernet will host an immersive version of the cult classic musical, Priscilla: Queen of the Desert. Adapted from the 1994 film The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, the stage version tells the story of two drag queens and a trans woman who take a road trip across Australia to perform at a drag show.

The musical has been widely praised for its soundtrack, comprised of well-known camp classics (including “I Will Survive” and “It’s Raining Men”), as well as its themes of love, acceptance and individuality.

Celebrating the impending arrival of Priscilla: The Party, Bergdorf shared her memories of how the film and musical impacted her as a young, queer child.

“As someone who was called camp throughout their life, and when I was younger I used to feel quite a lot of shame attached to that, when I watched Priscilla, I watched the word ‘camp’ be reclaimed in a positive light,” she explained, nodding to the elaborate costumes on display.

Performers at Priscilla The Party (Alan West)
Performers at Priscilla The Party (Alan West)

“It made me fall in love with being camp, and as someone who prides themselves on still being camp, I have always seen fashion as a window to a world that doesn’t necessarily exist yet.

“Fashion is a fantasy, and that’s what I love so much about drag; it’s ‘cranking it up to the max’, it’s asking ‘why not?’. It shows people what it’s like to be free, because the most exciting and most infectious thing about drag is that it’s pure freedom.”

“I think it’s really important that we have more spaces that are filled with love and inspiration that could get people excited about what they could possibly do,” she continued.

“We want to see trans women on stage, we want to see drag performers being paid and having the opportunity to show what they can do. Drag queens can perform just like West End stars – they are West End stars. More drag, more trans people, more queerness on the West End.”

Tickets for Priscilla: The Party are on sale now.