Gateways Grind, a documentary on London’s historic lesbian nightclub, is set to release to BBC4 in June
BY LUCAN FAIRWEATHER, IMAGE BY GATEWAYS GRIND
The iconic Sandi Toksvig unearths the history of the Gateways Club, a women-only haven for queer folks established in 1931.
Gateways Grind premiered at BFI Flare in March and has since won the Audience Award for Best Feature Documentary at Toronto’s Inside Out Festival. Directed by Jacquie Lawrence, the documentary follows the lesbian venue’s story from its original owner, through to its evolution as a safe space for women loving women until its closure in 1985.
It brings to light the history of lesbian life throughout the decades using accounts of the women who frequented the club. The exclusive and yet also inclusive venue was located on King’s Road in Chelsea, London behind its famed green door leading into a small basement bar.
Ted Ware acquired the club in 1943, supposedly in a poker game, and welcomed patrons from all walks of life as well as allowing the Chelsea Arts Club to use it as a meeting place. Ware’s wife, American actress Gina Cerrato, came to London to pursue acting and eventually took over running the club in the 1950s. By 1967, Gina made the club a women-only venue where behaviour policies were strict and politics had to be ‘left at the door.’
It was the longest-surviving club in the world allowing lesbian and bisexual women to meet openly, often being some women’s first introduction to lesbian life. Doors were also open to other underrepresented groups who were discriminated against elsewhere, such as Black, Caribbean-born musician Chester Harriott who played piano at the Gateways.
The 60-minute film also features a soundtrack inspired by and including gay icon Dusty Springfield who also frequented the venue. So get ready WLW, Gateways Grind is set to screen on BBC4 at 9pm on Tuesday 21 June.
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