In 1988, the young LGBT activist Alan Nichols, better known in the LGBT community as Alan Joy, repainted the Stonewall Café above the office in the Gay Centre, and renamed it the Blue Moon Café [See Out There: Scene, Non-Scene, and Unseen, livingmemory.org]. Alan then curbed a bit of his activism and made a success of the (old) Blue Moon with the help of two Scottish ladies called Siobhan and Catriona.
According to Alan,“The political people used to think that the people who went to the gay bars and got drunk or whatever were just airheads and not bothering about, and all the political people were boring. And they just never mixed. So the café was a way of getting people to talk to other people that they maybe would never have talked to in the past.”
During the early 1990s, Alan invited the clientèle in the Blue Moon to ‘Joy club nights’ in various nightclubs in Edinburgh. According to Alan, ‘We really did mix it up, you could have one of those techno tunes and then you played Madonna and then you played Rupert the Bear and then you would play whatever, a bit of Bee Gees, ‘Night Fever or something like that, party music, and just mix it all up.’
Alan Joy’s community and entrepreneurial activities helped LGBT life in Edinburgh to come out of the underground of the 1970s and 1980s. During the 1980s the international renowned Fire Island bar above Princes Street (opened by Bill Grainger in 1978, inspired by SMG’s social activities, and closed in 1988 ) was reached by finding an obscure doorway and climbing the stairs to a grimy version of what is now the first floor of Waterstones bookshop. Now everybody could attend the publicly accessible Joy club nights instead. There was no Eartha Kitt, but there was unfettered jollity and bonding.
And there were no cages in the basement where the naked gimps took the heat from lucky toffs who’d been given a key. I learnt about how this felt from a former gimp in Fire Island while drinking with him in Planet in about 2018.
Alan Joy and his partner Colin opened the very gay friendly Regent Bar on Montrose Terrace, Abbeyhill, Edinburgh in 2003 as a peaceful and relaxing alternative to the LGBT bars on the Top of Leith Walk, and the more pretentious New Town Bar on Dublin Street. The property on Montrose Terrace was closed before Alan and Colin started up, though it had been open as the Regent Buffet during the 1950s. Alan and Colin were previously the proprietors of the Blue Moon Café on Broughton and Barony Streets that evolved from the smaller café in the Gay Centre at 60 Broughton St. They were later the proprietors of the celebrated Nom de Plume restaurant, above the LGBT Centre which by then had relegated itself to the basement.
The Regent closed on 23rd March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, but re-opened on 4th August 2020 at 4pm. It re-opened for a second time on 17 May 2021.
I ate and drank in the Regent on numerous occasions between 2005 and late 2021, and have many happy memories. It does tremendous credit to the LGBT community of Edinburgh. The owners treat the bartenders as well as they can within the constraints imposed by our socio-political system, and that reflects on how the bar staff treat and address the customers, The food is usually modestly priced and deliciously cooked.
SHRG, formerly SMG was renamed ‘Outright Scotland’ in 1992. The group continued to effectively campaign for changes in Scottish Society, its laws, institutions, and systems, while attempting to eradicate oppression, discrimination, and prejudice against LGBT people. The group also tried to create an environment of care and support for those who do suffer unfair treatment on account of their sexuality or gender identity.
Outright Scotland received no public funding and depended on a small, hard-working group of committed activists. They struggled with the highly repressive Section 28, approved by the Thatcher Government in 1988, which stipulated that “local authorities shall not ‘intentionally promote homosexuality or publish with the intention of promoting homosexuality”.
The 1988 legislation prevented teachers from talking about LGBT+ issues in schools. Many support groups closed as result, with local authorities afraid to breach the law. Twelve years of renewed homophobic and transphobic repression had begun.
The Iron Lady ‘Thatcher the Milk Snatcher’ lost power in 1990 after the poll tax fiasco. Her brain may well still be rotting in the Styx. With the support of the Chilean dictator and mass murderer Augusto Pinochet, Prime Minister Thatcher was the victor of the highly colonialist Falkland Islands War in 1982. In the process, hundreds of abandoned young Argentinian soldiers were brutally killed and the General Belgrano (formerly the U.S.S. Phoenix) was sunk outside territorial waters by Royal Navy torpedoes with the loss of 323 lives.
It is this aggressive war-mongering, together with her consolidation of neo-liberalism with her mutual admirer President Ronald Reagan, which kept Thatcher in power. In the meantime she was able to get away with murder on the home front,
The repeal of Section 28 in 2000 created a media frenzy, and the effects of the discrimination were still reverberating 20 years later. See thenationalscot/news 16 February 2020.
The members of Outright Scotland had been working quietly away throughout the 1990s. However, bankrolled by Stagecoach owner and major SNP donor Brian Souter,. the Keep the Clause campaign spent millions on advertising the ‘dangers’ of allowing young minds to be ‘corrupted’ with knowledge of homosexuality. Stagecoach was founded in 1980. In January 2023, Stagecoach co-founder Dame Ann Gloag, and brother of Sir Brian Souter was charged with her husband and two other family members by Police Scotland in Falkirk with human trafficking.