Save Soho Committee founder Tim Arnold has told Access exclusively that the support for his campaign from high profile artists and performers is down to his friendship with Soho Society’s Leslie Hardcastle.
“Six months ago, Leslie approached me and asked would I get support from my friends in the entertainment industry,” Arnold said. “Because he thought it would help.”
The Committee’s campaign to preserve historic and iconic performing arts venues within London’s Soho neighbourhood has now attracted support from the likes of Stephen Fry (who is the Committee’s chairman), Benedict Cumberbatch, Paloma Faith and Andy Serkis.
The battle over Soho’s redevelopment, which ramped up following the closure of iconic London club Madame Jojo’s in November 2014, continues. A meeting on 12 January brought together members of the Save Soho Committee, landlords, developers, local politicians and the Soho Society to discuss their individual and group priorities.
Guy Hamilton, a founding member of the Save Soho Committee, told Access this week that following a disagreement with Soho Estates, his committee will now begin planning further demonstrations against the redevelopment of the area – whether or not Soho Estates agrees to work together.
“We very much want to work with Soho Estates,” Hamilton said. “But I don’t think we can do anything with them if they are going to take such a short-sighted stance.
“We will not be cowed by them or bullied by them. We have tried to be constructive, we have tried to be conciliatory, at no point have we said that Soho Estates are bad landlords, yet they seem to feel that we have portrayed them in a bad way.”
Hamilton also said that he believes the push to redevelop Madame Jojo’s is borne out of a financial decision rather than any dedication to maintaining Soho’s individuality.
“The heart of Soho, the individuality, the soul is caught in a financial requirement,” he said.
For its part, Soho Estates says that it is motivated to keep Soho’s creative soul alive. Access reached out to the company for a statement:
“Soho Estates have been active in Soho for over 50 years. The company’s founder, the late Paul Raymond, began investing in properties in Soho in the 1960s, including the famous Raymond Revuebar, which was opened in Walkers Court in 1958.
“Soho Estates is one of the landowners keen to honour the creative history of Soho and to secure the future for performing arts venues. Consultation and relations with the local community, including performers, are incredibly important.
“Long before any plans for redevelopment are submitted to the council, Soho Estates go through an extensive consultation processes, involving talking to residents and groups like the Soho Society.”
For more on this story, pick up the next issue of Access All Areas, out in February.
Pictured: Stephen Fry and Save Soho Committee founder Tim Arnold.