HomePoliticsGay politics1984. Pub: The Fallen Angel, Islington, London.

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1984. Pub: The Fallen Angel, Islington, London. — 46 Comments

  1. Thanks for this – triggered off some find memories!

    The Fallen Angel was one if the first bars/pubs I went to in 1988

    In the 80s The Pink Paper (and latterly Boyz) used to be based upstairs in two small rooms above the bar – back in the days when The Pink was a community paper (before it was taken over by GT conglomerate); I remember fondly reading the Pink on to tape for blind lesbians and gay men

    …. And I used to go dancing at The Bell on a Saturday night too. Trashy and fun

    I also remember The Duke of Wellington on Balls Pond Road on the way up to Dalston. That too was unapologetic. They did have a separate women only space at the back – called The Fish Pond by some of the less politically correct clientele!!

    Memory lane xxxx

  2. The nearest tube was Angel and it really wasn’t far! When I first went it was the Fallen Angel with a horseshoe shape bar. Then it became the Angel cafe bar. They got rid of the bar and it was much more open and bright and served food. I worked for the London Borough of Hackney around HIV/Aids and we with our colleagues from City and Hackney Health authority based at St Leaonards Hospital used to have our health promotion meetings at the Angel on the early 90s. One saturday I was in the area around lunchtime with my girlfriend and we dropped by but we were refused entry as I had my children with us! Later (not sure when) it was sold, still called the Angel but no longer gay. Unbelievable to see it as it is now.

  3. I was there when the Fallen Angel opened and not quite there when it closed. I had lived in this area since the mid-late 70s. This pub was a Mistral of fresh thinking. Contemporary and open (light, cool, airy), dismissing the dark interiors (varnish, flock, black and bling) and camp Victoriana that had so characterised many gay watering holes. There was a sense that we no longer had to apologise at all – the secret and monitored entrances, furtive and gloomy interiors all suddenly a thing of the past. There was good, simple vegeterian food – now unremarkable but then exceptional and innovative. The two men who ran the place were of a different order too; activists, articulate, reflective and involved with gay publishing. Not far away were the Edward and the Wellington on the Balls Pond Road… and a number of other places came and went including a club called Paradise. I wasn’t a great pubber of clubber but it mattered that these places were there and that I knew people who were there when I got there to grab a drink or while away an evening. The AIDS crisis was at its height – we lost too many friends, too many acquaintances. People moved on and away and real estate claimed the desirability of freeholds. But the importance, the touchstone, the contribution to feeling good about ourselves remains.

  4. The closing hours were 3-5 and during that time I would give Richard grass to eat and he would put whisky in mine and Paul’s coffee, sometimes we had ,Guinness, Peroni, Laphraoig and three other drinks on the go all at once. There was a bar man called Johnny who claimed to have been in the harbour restaurant when the Greenpeace ship the Rainbow Warrior was blown up in New Zealand, the mayor of Islington(beard) used to come in wearing his Medallion, Chris Smith was a regular, the owners? were up arse big time, the food was great but took getting used to without meat. All in all it was pretty good. Paul had to go home at 9 p.m. after 8 hours of steamin’ it, I stayed till closing. Oh dear, what a life, liver’s fine and has not had to do overtime for 25 years!! I cycle past the building at least once a month with lods of drug rehab literature, how times change and I see Max(bar man) regularly, in fact I saw him tonight. Life is one der Full!!

  5. I remember going to The Angel when I was a graduate student (from Southern California) studying in London. I stayed at the Walter Sickert dorm nearby & would frequent the Angel as much as I can. When did the Angel change from a gay bar to something else?

    • Happily (for me, anyway) I wasn’t around to see that change Lynette as I was living on the other side of the planet by then. As well as the comments here, there’s also occasional discussion of the Fallen Angel on the ‘Lost Gay London’ Facebook group. Colin

  6. Thanks for this great article, Colin. The pic of the outside is evocative. The rest is in memory … but I want to ask anyone reading if they may have, or know of anyone who has, a photo of the ceiling painting of the Fallen Angel inside the pub. I would be grateful for any leads on this.

    Thanks again and best wishes.

  7. Thanks for the article. I have so many memories of the fallen angel as I worked there for a number of years from late 1985 until about 1988. I was just 21 and had not long come out and looking for a life that included me as a gay man, and I found it here. I can honestly say it was more than a bar job but an education. I became political about gay rights and the rights of other and still am, I marched and campaigned, I attend my first pride march and shouted until I lost my voice, I marched against clause 28 and drank far too much in the process! I really was truly blessed to have had to opportunity to meet so many people from all walks of life and to make friends whom became family to me while I was there. It was a time of change and I am so happy to of been a part of it all.

    • What a great story Ian. I really like it when people add the personal perspective to my posts; it makes them so much more real. Many thanks. Colin

    • I’m writing a book, a novel, and I need some photo/info about the Fallen Angel during march 1988, I have a chapter called “The Fallen Angel pub Agreement”. So, here are some questions. Entering do you immediately understand it is a gay pub? Was it a dark ambience or it was light? The music was loud? Was it like a disco bar, with strobo balls maybe or more like a piano bar or a club? Can you describe the main bar and the people? What I have to know?
      Probably you’ll think are odd or silly question, but I have never been there, I just remember the name I saw passing by in the ’80.
      Thanks in advance to all.

      • Hi Marco,

        sorry it’s a nearly 5 years ago since you wrote this and have most probably published your book by now but, if you’re still interested, I chose and applied the colours for the newly constructed, cantilevered bar for the Fallen Angel.

  8. Dear Colin

    Your blog is wonderful and has brought back so many memories.

    I can confirm that as late as the summer of 1995 the Angel was still open. We used to go there for lunch, and I would marvel at how open and light it was.

    • I remember the FA very well – it was very different to any other gay space – I first went when the place still had that fresh paint smell. Lots of craft beers tasty vegetarian/vegan food and a bright atmosphere with windows you could look out of.
      Soon our neighbourhood campaigning/social group for Islington & Haringey met upstairs on a Wednesday. We had previously used the Hemmingford Arms which was an alternative pub but not exclusively gay and very cold and dirty by then.
      It was less cruisy with none of the sexism that pervaded other venues and of course had the women only evening night on Tuesdays.
      Lots of happy memories.

  9. I used to go there regularly for many years. At first there was a circular bar in the centre ( circa 1988) then it went through various interior changes over the years. There was a very nice woman called Hilda who worked behind the bar and I remember the wonderful notice board where you could find just about anything you were looking for. In the toilets the graffiti was most enlightening and there definitely was a women only night as I attended it weekly.
    I met a (now)lifelong friend at the bar and had one of the best NYE ever in there as well as my thirtieth birthday party. The banoffi pie was to die for and they had a great selection of beers for the time. I will be forever misty eyed about the place as I remain too about the Bell and the duke of Wellington. Ah. So many stories, a lifetime ago it seems.

  10. Thank you for sharing this.

    Anyone remembers the “Performing Oscars – Gay poest going Wilde”? They would meet on the first floor and had some good performances at the LLGC.

    I was one of them.

    I am Andé.

    • hi Andre! I was involved in that performance poet group also! i recall we did an evening recital/performance.
      regards!, g

  11. Great to find this. I worked here for 4 or 5 years in the 90’s. The Fallen Angel became The Angel Cafe Bar which survived almost to 2000. By this time more central cafe bars had opened and people weren’t so keen on the hike anymore.
    The manager at The Fallen Angel/Angel Cafe Bar. Tried very hard to make it a safe place for gay customers and staff alike. It was a pleasure to work with him and all the great staff.

    • Hi Phil,

      I moved out of London to deepest south east Kent in’86 and lost touch with the FA and the rest of the scene as hardly ever came back, except for once in a Blue moon to a West End show. Do you happen to know what happened to the owners by any chance ? If I remember rightly, one was called Jeff but I can’t be certain, and his ( male ) business partner, my memory isn’t as good as it once was, I’m nearly 70 now. I had a free hand in choosing the colour scheme for the initial bar, it was around the time the singer Andy Bell worked behind the bar.

  12. Visited this place in the early 90s with my girlfriend,my friend George Pittis did a spot on the guitar & sang,he felt that he got stitched up by the sound engineer (female) the other girl groups got a better more up front sound I remember a young lady singing Big Yellow Taxi by Joni Mitchell,went down a storm,prob because of the deep voice bit,lol

  13. I was one of the readers at the marathon reading of Tales of the City mentioned in the article – it was a fundraiser for Gays The Word who were facing charges of “importing indecent material” (including TotC, if you can believe it). I read Mona and Elizabeth Taylor. Chris Smith was indeed a regular and the night that he first came out publicly on a demo in Rugby, the proprietor had a “lock-in” so that we could greet him on his return – we cheered him to the rafters, a standing ovation. The Mayor of Islington, Bob Crossman, also used to drink there with Martin his partner and my girlfriend would moor her narrowboat on the canal outside the pub (they let us use their loos) and we would party there. We were so rowdy one night that a resident came across to remonstrate with us. “I’ll call the Council” he threatened. “Call the Council?” roared Bob. “Call the f****** Council, then – I’m the f****** Mayor.”

  14. I was one of the men “picketing” across the road after the ruling against the Tuesday women’s nights. We were quite successful at persuading men not to go in. I don’t remember there being that many, maybe about 10 per night. I think I saw one man go in despite our arguments and another slip in because we didn’t see him in time. I heard that when a man went in the women stood around him, slow-clapping, until he left. I still don’t understand what satisfaction a guy gets from going into a situation like that.

  15. An icon pub as cliché as it sounds so so lovely memories love Maggie X DIVA long live in our hearts xxxx

  16. I was also a regular at the men’s picket, along with Mark Ashton and a few other Lgsm’rs. The number of men who went in was usually very low and most left quickly , particularly if they had been foolish enough to use the gents as they would have been followed on by a gang of dykes who would crowd round the urinal pointing , laughing and jeering .

  17. I do recall the ‘Fallen Angel’ but I was always uncomfortable (at the time) with politics being intertwined with my sexuality. If I remember rightly it was a mainly Lesbian bar with a scattering of male political activists. More of a Uni students meeting place than an actual pub. But it most definately served its purpose at the time, even if you didn’t want to buy a copy of the Communists Workers weekly rag. I also seem to remember it selling amazing homemade cakes – for me – that was more than likely why I would visit, whereas —- The Duke of Wellington . A pub that changed my life forever- now a local Spar supermarket I believE. Even if it was a local Waitrose, I could not bring myself to ebter its hallowed doors. The year- 1997. Just returned to London after 10 years in Ireland. Found myself a nice little flat in Mildmay Grove, and was quickly told oh, you have a gay pub right round the corner. In that ere – that was a massive plus for the quality of your social life. 2nd night in-off i trot- Friday night. Told at the door i had to pay to get in. h,mmm, ok, said i- was then handed black plastic bin liner and told to strip off except underpants and return the bag. This was a first for me. and a revelation. I would have been late 30’s regular gym goer even before todays fashion necessity, so I would regard myself as fit! But, boy was i nervous. but of course fascinated. Come the end of the night an american approached me as he was leaving and handed me his phone number. saying lovely things at the same time. I called him the next day and the rest is history and not for this post- but lets just say he did not come from an average everyday american family. Neither was he average. I had never watch SKY television and was unaware that he appeared weekly nor that he came from one of Americas richest family’s. little did I realise that popping into a sex night bar would lead me to sitting around a table with George W Bush Jr so, from one left extreme to one right extreme- (the guy became my long term partner – and i should just say – he was not related to the Bushes – but prettty close) Not an expected post on Lost gay history – but most definately an important part of my gay history

  18. Does anyone remember the Australian manager Laurie who used to run it? He did fabulous food and really turned the place around.

    • Laurie was fantastic for the place. You’re right he really turned the place around and was/is a great person. Still one of my closest friends to this day.

  19. I just came across this post researching the history of 65 Graham Street, which is today… our family home. I loved reading your stories, the memories you have of the place, its political significance for the LGBT community in the 80s and imagining what it must have looked like at the time!
    We have been living here for the past 7 years – a lot of great memories.

  20. This brought back a lot of memories for me, too. I worked at the Fallen Angel somewhere between 84 and 86. I was in my 20s and had led a fairly cloistered life in the States. The Fallen Angel and the North London gay scene it connected me to really opened my eyes and had a huge impact on my sensibility and my politics that persists to this day. My fellow bar staffers were intimidatingly smart and witty but also a lot of fun. I fondly recall Max, Richard (“Lady G”), Paul and Gordon most vividly. The owners, Kelvin and Geoff were a painfully middle class Orton and Halliwell-lite. No one who worked there liked them much. We used to call Geoff “Miss Management.” They were pretty cynical about their enterprise, far less committed to their patrons’ politics than to making bank filling a niche those patrons had created. Geoff was genuinely hostile to Gays and Lesbians Support The Miners, and bemused by the linking of gay liberation to other causes generally. I recall Kelvin rigged up a system that automatically updated inventory every time a drink measure was poured. It’s my understanding he got rich selling this worker surveillance system to other pubs. We used to just pull the bottles out of the system and pour for ourselves. For all their faults, Geoff and Kelvin were pretty good sports about all the stolen booze. Good times.

    • Hi Mike,

      I moved out of London to deepest south east Kent in’86 and lost touch with the FA and the rest of the scene as hardly ever came back, except for once in a Blue moon to a West End show. Do you happen to know what happened to the owners by any chance ? If I remember rightly, one was called Jeff but I can’t be certain, and his ( male ) business partner, my memory isn’t as good as it once was, I’m nearly 70 now. I had a free hand in choosing the colour scheme for the initial bar, it was around the time the singer Andy Bell worked behind the bar.

  21. Surprised no one’s mentioned the time the Fallen Angel was held up at gunpoint yet. If I recall the patrons were told to lay on the floor while the till was emptied. I’d left London by then so I only know of this from what friends had told me.

    • It is true. The Angel was held up at gunpoint. The contents of the tills and safes stolen. No body was injured but it shook us all up.

  22. Sorry for the multiple posts. I just recalled that co-owner of the FA when I was there was named Kelvin, not Colin. If the blog moderator could update my original comment — assuming you intend to publish it — I’d appreciate it.

  23. I may have recalled the gun story incorrectly. Your version also fits with patrons being asked to lay on the floor. It seems unlikely that there were two separate gun incidents.

    Many thanks for this website, btw. I discovered it by way of a Twitter thread about Paud Hegerty from Gay’s The Word. The 80s were a very interesting period in queer history and well worth your effort. Glad they’re behind us, though. I miss my youth and the militancy but not the darkness.

  24. I worked at the Fallen Angel in 1985 at age 17 not even old enough plus I looked about 12! I worked behind the bar and managed the women’s night on Tuesday for a while. I remember there were meetings upstairs for the S&M dykes I don’t remember what day it was. I remember staring at them as they walked through the bar wishing I had the balls to speak to them, they were exciting and terrifying to me. I did eventually speak to them and we started the Chain Reaction club together in Vauxhall…the rest as they say is history

    • I came across this thread looking for confirmation of the armed raid.There was a very funky pillar fish tank in the corner which got shot up by the gang who were part of the outfit running Islington . I was one of the SM dykes who met upstairs every Tuesday and was one of the organisers of Chain Reaction ..I don’t recall any kid from behind the bar being on the crew ?

  25. How sad it is looking around London these days, virtually all of the old 1980s and 90s haunts have gone, such an important era in gay life. London is now sadly jus way too expensive for regular working folk to live so the lgbt communities have gone. I know life has changed but looking back now, it is like another world compared to today.

  26. Thank you so much for this article. Walking down memory lane now. My very first time in London in 1987 from Berlin. This place was so different from all the others. The food was something you had to get used to, but the atmosphere was unique. Met a lot of very fine people there, some of them are still friends. Not far away was The Bell, great on Saturday nights. I do really miss those days. Anyone remember a German guy called Reinhard ? He used to go there almost every day. Wonder if he is still around.

  27. 23/03/21 My partner John and I re visited 65 Graham Street today, of course once the location of the Fallen Angel but today a private residence. A previous post in this thread by Julia said that she had lived there for years. A bit tucked away, it was a bit of a trek for me, I was then living in Greenwich. It brought back many, many good memories, the ambience, the food, the music, the some times exhibitions. A lovely safe and exciting venue. Gone now, like so many other iconic pubs, venues clubs of the 80s and 90s.

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