Soho is a massive part of my life in London. It’s where I work and spend a lot of my social life. To have the opportunity to interview the legendary Jeremy Joseph for My Soho Times is extremely exciting as Jeremy is a huge part of the London and Soho LGBTQ+ community with years of knowledge.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown restrictions from the government back in late March 2020, G-A-Y and Heaven are shut until restrictions ease later this summer.
London Beautiful Life and My Soho Times got the lowdown from Jeremy during this difficult time.
@londonbeautifullife – Tell me about G-A-Y and the history behind the brand.
Jeremy Joseph – G-A-Y started at LA2 underneath the London Astoria about 27 years ago, and when it expanded went to the Astoria. Then eventually we opened G-A-Y Bar and then G-A-Y Late, then G-A-Y Manchester. When the cross rail happened, they decided to demolish the Astoria, which had so much music history, but at the same time by pure coincidence, Heaven was in serious trouble and we had the opportunity to buy it and move homes.
@londonbeautifullife – G-A-Y is such an important brand in the UK, why do you think G-A-Y is important in today’s generation?
Jeremy Joseph – “I think all LGTB venues are all very important. There are so many issues for people coming out. For people to meet people, you still read news about how many trans people are abused and attacked. Whatever community you are apart of, if you are part of a minority you need to have a safe haven and
somewhere to escape. You need somewhere to meet people safely. There is a campaign at 56 Dean Street [Soho] and we have used our social media and our fan base to promote to them.
“Anyone now having an HIV test if they have stuck to lockdown rules it’s the best time to know your status.”
The campaign is to promote people to get HIV tests, with everyone in lockdown, less people are having sex at the moment. This is the perfect time to actually get rid of HIV and it is the perfect time to test and know your status to move things forward whether you should be on PREP. Anyone now having an HIV test if they have stuck to lockdown rules it’s the best time to know your status. As an LGTB venue we can target a particular audience that 56 Dean Street may not necessarily be able to get too.
@londonbeautifullife – Disregarding COVID-19, do you find time to let your hair down and party in your venues or do you venture out to other venues in Soho or
“Last thing I want to do on a day off is go to a bar or a club”
Jeremy Joseph – I’m not putting a negative view on other venues, but the last thing I want to do on a day off is go to a bar or a club. I avoid them like the plague. If I get days off, I want to be going to restaurants with friends, or theatre or cinema, doing things that isn’t necessarily in the in industry I work, I like the escape. I keep work and private life very, very separate. When I’m not working, I don’t want to be in a bar.
@londonbeautifullife – You are heavily involved in charity work, what are you currently involved in at the moment?
“We have set up our own foundation called the G-A-Y foundation”
Jeremy Joseph – “This year  would have been my eleventh London Marathon, for Heaven’s 30th anniversary with Amnesty International. Then we moved on to the Elton John AIDs foundation until we hit a half million target. Now we have set up our own foundation called the G-A-Y foundation. The idea is to not have money in the bank account and to raise money for whatever it is and then Jeremy with Actress Lindsay Lohan that’s the goal. We are in talks with the council and Westminster to do with homelessness for our next foundation”.
@londonbeautifullife – Your dog, Jacob is famous in the community. Do you and your dog get stopped in public?
Jeremy Joseph – “He gets stopped more than me. I can be walking home and people would shout “Oh my God there’s the Heaven dog”. I don’t really like photos, I have an eating disorder so I don’t really like photos so when I do photos I always have Jacob there as it takes away from me.
@londonbeautifullife – What have your experience been, professionally and personally during this lockdown?
“Food has been difficult for me having an eating disorder”
Jeremy Joseph – I have good days and not so good days. You see the news at the moment and if you are having a bad day you feel guilty as your situation is not as bad as somebody else’s. But it doesn’t matter what situation you are in; you have to embrace the bad days as well as the good days. You should not feel guilty for it. We are all going through this, I have learnt to not feel guilty for having a bad day. Running is important to me, but food has been difficult for me due to having an eating disorder, I struggle to do a weekly shop.
From a business point of view, it has been a journey from hell. G-A-Y is in a good position financially but it’s now struggling with different problems. Furloughing with the staff was a dream come true but it should of happened sooner or been some warning. The hell the government have put businesses through has been awful. I get this is a difficult pandemic but they should have dealt with it sooner. But the biggest stress due to lockdown is the non-stop of bills coming in without income. I am gobsmacked. I have constant bills coming in. Insurance companies have screwed the entire country over and they haven’t paid a penny, yet I still have bills I legally have to pay. The biggest mistake the government have done is they haven’t set guidance for landlords. I have four landlords for four different businesses and there is no clarity or guidance and there should be one rule for all landlords so we know where we as business owners stand.
“I have to call my accountant to ask what are the bills for the week ahead and work out if we will survive or not.”
We need to plan the rest of the year whether we will be open or not and we can’t do that if we have different landlords doing different things. I have one landlord not asking for rent, another landlord asking 50%, another landlord stopping rent until June and a final landlord who wants the rent in full right now. Each week I have to call my accountant to ask what are the bills for the week ahead and work out if we will survive or not. Some businesses get grants but a lot of them are loans, which will get businesses into debt. I think re-opening will be tougher than us being closed.”.
@londonbeautifullife – What would be your advice for people with eating orders?
Jeremy Joseph – It is hard as people go through it differently to others. What I have done is I’ve learnt to live with it and I use running as a positive tool, but I do have a lot of issues for example I only eat big meals a day before a run as I know I will burn the calories off the next day. It is a very difficult time for people with eating disorders as you are at home, you’re bored, you have food in the fridge, everybody is eating more. It is why I struggle to do weekly shops as I would eat it all. I avoid having food in the flat unless I am going to eat there and then. I have learnt to talk about it and people need to find someone they can talk to about it.
@londonbeautifullife – You have had huge names come to G-A-Y Heaven such as The
Pussycat Dolls, Madonna, Lady GaGa, and Mariah Carey to name a few. Who has been your favourite performer and who would you love to have come to G-A-Y Heaven?
Jeremy Joseph – There isn’t one favourite because over the years there have been so many amazing nights. The favourite ones for me are the artist I have
built relationships with and they come back and do it again. G-A-Y was built on starting with artist on their first singles and building a career with them, so when you have someone come back it is exciting as there is a relationship between G-A-Y and that artist.
Kylie [Minogue], Dannii [Minogue], Lady GaGa, Miley [Cyrus], The Pussycat Dolls that’s just a handful of people who we have relationships with. When you see them talk about G-A-Y in interviews and they have a great time, it’s amazing. The Pussycat Dolls we did their first single Don’t Cha at G-A-Y Heaven and then they came back for their latest single React. Idina Menzel from Frozen was so exciting and she has also done G-A-Y twice before. When Miley did G-A-Y she said we won’t tell anyone but we will hint it. So, I got a few people to spread a rumour to say is it true Miley Cyrus is doing G-A-Y tomorrow and we won’t comment but we would retweet it. We turned it around in 24 hours and created a huge buzz. It was so exciting. I also love working with the UK and US drag race girls and the reaction is incredible for them.
We have also had Madonna and Mariah Carey but my dream artist would be Dolly Parton, she would be a dream. Her singing 9 to 5 on stage would be a dream. I would love Olivia Newton John, she is a legendary movie star, I would love Madonna again. I love reuniting groups as it is so exciting. I am also in awe of Whoopi Goldberg. Whoopi on stage would be a dream, I adore her.
@londonbeautifullife – What is next for G-A-Y, would there be another G-A-Y album in store in the near future?
Jeremy Joseph – I don’t actually know to be honest with you. I genuinely have no idea. Like every other business we don’t know how long this will go on for, we don’t know how badly it will affect us and if we will recover from this. I have not planned the future. In this time of need if we plan things, we could be setting ourselves up for disappointment. There is a part of me that doesn’t think we will reopen this year. I need clarity or it will create disappointment. I would love another G-A-Y album though and I have a dream G-A-Y album I would love to do. I am a huge fan of musicals, I want to do a dance version disco album and re-recorded musicals with dance anthem beats.
@londonbeautifullife – How can people show their support for G-A-Y during COVID-19 and lockdown?
Jeremy Joseph – Priority for everyone is to get through this pandemic so we can open again, and for that to happen we need to follow the guidelines. We need people to be safe.
“If you want to support G-A-Y look after yourselves.” – Jeremy Joseph
Photos courtesy of Jeremy Joseph Instagram – @jeremy_joseph
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Written by Kiran Selvakumaran for My Soho Times.
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