If there is a silver lining to the demise of Madame Jojo’s, it is that it managed to bring the cabaret community together – and well before gin o’clock.
A violent incident involving the club’s security staff just over a month ago led to the suspension of its premises licence subject to review. Acting on submissions from, amongst others, the police and club owners Soho Estates, Westminster Council denied the appeal. In effect, this kills Madame Jojo’s stone dead, ending the venue’s existence after over half a century.
The cabaret community’s reaction has seen it set up a petition which currently stands at over seven thousand signatures and a protest march-cum-vigil which took place earlier today (more about which below these pictures).
Starting out in Soho Square, the protesters carried a coffin and signs reading “Save Our Soho” down Greek Street to the offices of Soho Estates. Quite what role its advice played at the appeal is unknown but the closure of Madame Jojo’s has led to unprecedented bad publicity for the firm with many looking with renewed vigour into its plans for the gentrification of the Brewer Street/Walker’s Court area.
The parade then set off for Madame Jojo’s, wending its way through Soho. The coffin was carried aloft by pallbearers The Double R Club’s host Benjamin Louche, circus performer and producer Ed Gosling, Madame Jojo’s light and sound technician Andy Louder and Luscious Cabaret co-producer James Lee. The procession was led by, amongst others, Finger In The Pie producer Alexander Parsonage, performer Abigail O’Neill, The Correspondents’ Mr Bruce and the Soho Hobo Tim Arnold.
A multitude of the London cabaret scene’s most prominent figures came to pay their respects. The broad spectrum of performers defied those who label cabaret as some kind of “niche”. Burlesquers jostled with contortionists and fire breathers while musical comedy folk chatted to jugglers and drag queens. Promoters, producers and industry press were there too as were a plethora of photographers.
Superfans Simon Reeves and Bryanne McIntosh have followed the scene for decades; the latter was there at the preview openings for Madame Jojo’s and attended a dinner party held by the eponymous lady. Howard Raymond, the son of the “King Of Soho” and original Madame Jojo’s owner Paul Raymond, was there too. When his father died, he received nothing from the will – the £650m Raymond estate instead went to Howard’s nieces Fawn and India James.
Quite what this all means for Soho and the cabaret community in the long term is unknown but this much is sure: neither will ever be the same again.
All pictures (c) Franco Milazzo