a love letter to the george & dragon
Legendary landlords, devoted punters, Björk, Beth Ditto and Chloë Sevigny: all the people who made it one of London’s most loved gay bar. Here party promoter, magazine publisher and George regular Richard Mortimer describes the beauty of the boozer.
The closure of the George & Dragon marks not only the end of much-loved boozer, but the loss of a cultural institution that became a beacon of hope in an increasingly sanitised Shoreditch. I had been drawn to the George by the magnetism of its owners Richard Battye and Liliana Sanguino and their radical approach to running a "pub".
To label the George and Dragon a mere "pub", is almost blasphemous. So few establishments carry the accolades bestowed upon our beloved boozer. Part social club, part art gallery, and occasionally, part freak show, the gaping hole left at the end of Hackney Road will be hard to fill. It is often only with hindsight that we recognise how truly special things are. The George & Dragon is now resigned to London's creative folklore, nestling neatly next to the Colony Room and CSM Charing Cross Road. The recent outpouring around the closure of the George has been touching, often hilarious, and occasionally hysterical (there have been many tears shed). While it is a sad day, the spirit of the George and Dragon was not to dwell, but to party. And party we did. For almost 14 years.
So, while we mourn the loss of a dear old friend, it is with great fondness that I recall some ridiculous moments that could never happen anywhere else…There was that one time that Beth Ditto kicked her shoes off behind the bar and casually served the customers, the time Björk turned up at the Halloween party and nobody knew it was her (good outfit), Lavinia Co-op's terrible jokes (nevermind), Jonny Woo cycling up and down Hackney Road in full drag to promote his Sunday night, Radio Egypt. There were the many times Chloë Sevigny would prop up the bar with Alastair Mackie, that Sunday afternoon when the Sugababes popped in, the early days when Jarvis Cocker used to DJ and the times when Prince Nelly would dress as Su Pollard. There are actually too many to list.
The George and Dragon means so much to me, but more than anything, I will miss the warm welcome, the dodgy sound system, the six shots game, the "friendly" staff, the glorious summer days with all the shutters down, the baking summer evenings that turned the pub into a full-on sweatbox, the walk-offs, the dancing on the bar, the air conditioning unit that would frequently spew water on whoever would be sat beneath it, the White Cubicle, and of course, the horse.
It's been a hoot, and few people truly understand quite how much Richard Battye and Liliana Sanguino put into the George. It's been blood sweat, and a few tears. They created a home from home for so many waifs and strays. Unknowingly, they changed lives. Mine for sure, is richer for knowing them.
The George may be gone, but it will never be forgotten.