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Denise Spence and Chrissie Joyce

L to R. Denise Spence, Chrissie Joyce
L to R. Denise Spence, Chrissie Joyce. Photos by Rhiannon Adam

 

Chrissie Joyce and Denise Spence first met each other at The Bell, a pub and venue on Pentonville Road during the 1980s/90s. With a shared Northern Irish heritage the two women had left Ireland seeking to escape – in Denise’s words – a climate of ‘drink, violence, religion and hate’. Gravitating to the King’s Cross area in the early 1980s, The Bell became an important fixture in the lives of the two women.

The Bell

‘I was 19 years old. Not long living in London, having left rural Northern Ireland. I bought Time Out as I knew it has a gay / lesbian listing. I lived in N1 and the Bell had the same postcode so I knew it was nearby. I stood outside leaning against the railings, looking at the sign on the closed door in front of me. When I finally plucked up the courage to go in, little did I know that the rest of my life would be defined by going through that scruffy red door’ – Denise Spence

Working as a bus conductor at the time, Chrissie would often come to work dressed ready for a night out at The Bell. Wearing her Red Dr Marten boots and a Dickie Bow tie.  Her manager was not amused;

‘I broke his heart he used to say; ‘You need to wear your black shoes’…. ‘No I’m going to The Bell after work, I am’

Meeting in The Bell for the first time they just clicked;

‘As soon as she opened her mouth and I heard her Northern Irish accent it felt safe, and it felt like home’ – Denise

This closeness has prevailed through years of friendship, and though they ‘had a bit of sex’ once, it was lifelong sisterhood that Chrissie and Denise found that night in the Bell.

‘My daughter would die happy if she thought I would move to Swansea to live with Chris….’You two are just meant to be together’ – Chrissie