The Soho Hobo calling BoJo, Re. Jo Jo
Dear Mr Johnson,
With great urgency, I am writing to you as a Soho resident on behalf of the Soho community and the performing arts community of the West End.
As outlined by Alex Proud in the press this week:
"Due to an unfortunate incident, the world renowned entertainment venue Madame Jo Jo's in Soho has been closed. This sorry tale started in late October when there was a violent altercation between the club's bouncers and a customer. It was pretty nasty and neither side comes out of it well. The police report into the incident recommended the club's licence be suspended. Fair enough.
In the interim, the club changed its manager and selected a team of bouncers that Westminster council had approved. You'd think this would be the end of it. But no. Last week Jo Jo's, which has been trading under its current name since the 1960s, had its licence permanently revoked and half a century of Soho history ended."
The demolition of Madame Jo Jo's has now been approved by Westminster council and Soho Estates are set to carry out their redevelopment plans without even allowing one last performance at the club.
I am a local resident and performer. I have lived and performed in Soho for 20 years, as did my mother before me and my grandfather before her. A large part of my work as a songwriter has been devoted to the preservation of Soho's history and it's enduring character. Given my passion and love for Soho, and it's future, it would be improper for me not to ask for your support.
If every Soho establishment that suffered an incident similar to this had their license permanently revoked, countless establishments would close and the character and charm of the area that has attracted a global audience for more than half a century would soon disappear from the heart of our city. The removal of Madame Jo Jo's also makes it open season for further removal of small independent establishments in Soho, a horrifying thought for anyone who supports Soho's 400 year old legacy as a fertile ground for innovation and creation. In addition, Madame Jo Jo's has long been an important platform for emerging artists. Everyone from Adam Ant to Adele has performed there, not to mention the stars of tomorrow whose talent and craft have been nurtured in small venues like Jo Jo's.
The British music industry is one of our largest exports. Some of the biggest acts in the world began their careers by performing in small venues in Soho. The Who, The Kinks, Spandau Ballet, The Animals, The Sex Pistols and Oasis to name but a few. If venues like this continue to be removed from our precious landscape, where will the British musical exports of tomorrow be able to showcase their talent and skill to the British music industry? An industry that is largely based in central London.
There are two questions that I would deeply appreciate your response to:
1. Do you support the performing arts in Soho and if so what can you do to help?
2. Would you be happy to support a request to Soho Estates from myself and the performing arts community that we may be permitted to stage one last show at the club before it is stripped down and demolished?
As I write this, I look out of my window on Frith St which oversees the legendary jazz venue Ronnie Scott's. Ronnie Scott's is a benchmark for Soho institutions that have been operating successfully for over 50 years. Next door from me is a blue plaque remembering the tenancy of one Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Soho's enduring attraction as a global destination has always depended on building around and adding to what has gone before. Not by removing it. Not by demolishing it.
Viva freedom of expression.
My cosignatories and I look forward to your response.
Tim Arnold 'The Soho Hobo', singer songwriter
Benedict Cumberbatch, actor
Stephen Fry, actor and writer
Paul O'Grady MBE, actor and television presenter
June Brown MBE, actress
Ben Miller, actor and comedian
Pete Townshend, musician
Roger Daltrey CBE, musician
Gary Kemp, songwriter and actor
Robert Elms, BBC London
Tracie Bennett, actress
Bill Curbishley, manager of The Who
Eddie Izzard, actor and comedian
Imelda May, singer
Phil Daniels, actor
Shane Richie, actor
Jessie Wallace, actress
Dame Janet Suzman, actress
Jill Halfpenny, actress
Errol Brown CBE, singer
Peter Straker, cabaret artiste
Steve Furst, actor and comedian
Polly Perkins, actress and singer
Hamish Jenkinson, Chairman of Free The Children UK
Kit Hesketh Harvey, cabaret artiste
Issy Van Randwyck, cabaret artiste
Sylvia Coleman, entertainment lawyer,
Jenny Hall, actress
Kevin Eldon, actor and comedian
Debi Allen, DAA management