King’s Cross in the 1980’s was home to Movements, an LGBT disco run out of The Bell pub in Pentonville Rd. The two DJ’s responsible for running movements, Berni and Martin recount the history of those times and have generously allowed us to showcase a rich collection of posters and flyers which you can see on Historypin here.
Movements: Early years
May Day 1980 a boy from Manchester and a boy from Plymouth arrived in London. They were Martin and Berni of Movements and had met in Plymouth a year earlier when Berni was a student and Martin was a local.
They had been involved in local gay and anti-Nazi activism movements. They also shared a common love of music of all kinds from growing up in the 1960s and 1970s. Motown to the Doors, Black Sabbath to Bowie, Roxy Music to the Velvet Underground and punk.
Once in London, Martin and Berni looked around for the nightclub or disco that catered for people like them (gay, politically active and who loved the same music), but could find nothing.
Later that year, they were asked to play the records at the Hemingford Arms in Highbury where the Gay Workshops group started to hold weekly benefit discos. Nobody else wanted to play DJ, so Martin and Berni fell into it by default providing music for these nights as well as a few Gay Switchboard benefits. The ‘residency’ at the Hemingford ran November 1980 to March 1981
Following a move to the Carved Red Lion off Islington Green in April 1981, the Gay Workshops night was given a proper name – Movements – and started to gain a reputation for a welcoming, mixed environment for those who shared the same political views and valued the more adventurous music played.
Movements rapidly earned the label of ‘alternative gay disco’ and became a home for those who did not fit in elsewhere. The name was chosen to reference dance movements, gay activist movements as well as musical movements/genres.
In May 1982 Movements left the Carved Red Lion and moved to the larger venue of the Pied Bull at the junction of Upper Street and Liverpool Road. Movements at the Pied Bull ran between May 1982 and February 1983 and it was there that the night was attacked by fascist skinheads one Saturday. An endearing memory is that the people in Movements on that night fought back and saw off the fascists.
The landlord of the Pied Bull was due to take over The Bell and Movements was to relocate with him. However, the landlord’s move fell through which meant they were a few months late moving to the Bell where only Sunday night was available. The first night at the Bell was in February 1983. Martin and Berni were also no longer in partnership with Gay Workshops for reasons that are now obscure.
Movements went from strength to strength at the Bell. The ethos was to provide a space for both men and women, play music that mattered and was not available on the mainstream gay scene and to keep the entrance price as cheap as possible to make it accessible to those with little money, 50p was the charge for many years. It also provided a launch pad for two LGBT bands. The Bronski Beat played their first public gig there and Two Big Boys performed at Movements a few years later.
Movements suffered a body blow when it was raided by police in 1984. There are several stories as to why this happened, but the most likely story is that the landlord at the time (the redoubtable Delores) openly flouted licensing regulations at a gay venue making it a target for Thatchers homophobic police force. This meant that for a number of years afterwards, Movements was only able to open from 07:30 to 10:30 on Sundays. Luckily the night meant so much to people that the night continued to be as supported and busy as ever. Later in the 1980s the Bell was able to open until 12:00 on Sundays.
Movements came to an end in 1990 following a row with new management who wanted to take over our space and replace our beloved door staff with their own security and employ us as their DJs. We left never to return.