• Mon. May 20th, 2024

Oxford’s The Jolly Farmers marks 40th birthday milestone

Byoxfordnewspaper

Aug 27, 2022

The LGBTQ+ community in the UK has seen a tremendous amount change during the last 40 years.

From the devastating impact of the AIDS epidemic to the introduction of Section 28, Eastenders’ ground breaking gay kiss, the equalisation of the age of consent, trans people’s identities being affirmed in the Gender Recognition Act and the legalisation of same-sex marriage.

For Oxford’s queer community, one place has stood firm throughout all that change: The Jolly Farmers on Paradise Street.

READ MORE: Oxford library forced to limit access during drag event protest

Oxford Mail: The Jolly Farmers is an LGBTQ pub on Paradise Street celebrating its 40th anniversary The Jolly Farmers is an LGBTQ pub on Paradise Street celebrating its 40th anniversary

The small tavern which dates back to 1592 became a gay owned venue in 1982 and ever since then the pub has been a focal point for the city’s LGBTQ+ community.

This weekend, The Jolly Farmers marks a major milestone – 40 years as an LGBTQ+ establishment which has been continually gay owned throughout all that time.

The city centre local is one of the oldest LGBTQ+ venues in the entire country and this ruby anniversary consolidates its importance to the local queer community and their history as well as the wider history of LGBTQ+ culture in this country.

Oxford Mail: The Jolly Farmers current owners and staff raising a glass to the iconic pub. Picture: Ed Nix The Jolly Farmers current owners and staff raising a glass to the iconic pub. Picture: Ed Nix

The Jolly Farmers current custodians, Spike Greenwood, 51, and Rob Jordan, 46, are no strangers to what is needed to make a good pub work.

The pair have years of experience in the pub trade under their belts and after taking 16 years out of the sector they were approached and asked if they wanted to take over the pub, as the owner had handed in the towel.

Given the pub’s prime city centre location the risk was that it could be lost as an LGBTQ+ venue forever if the right person did not take it on, so the married couple decided breathe new life into the business.

“We constantly thought that it could do better, it had lost its way a bit and was a bit tired. As places get, quite naturally. It need a bit of a change.

“Because it is the LGBT venue, to a lot of previous owners it was a bar. This is a 1592 tavern, it won’t let you be a bar. It is a pub,” Mr Greenwood explained.

Oxford Mail: An undated photograph of a leather-clad gentleman pouring a pint behind the barAn undated photograph of a leather-clad gentleman pouring a pint behind the bar

Mr Greenwood actually first stepped foot into The Jolly Farmers 23 years ago after moving from Wolverhampton. On that first night, the barman asked him the peculiar question of what his star sign was. Revealing he was Pisces this lead to him to strike up conversations with other patrons, some of whom are still his best friends.

It is the quirkiness which is, perhaps, what the pub owes its longevity to.

Despite being a relatively small boozer The Jolly Farmers is full of character, both architecturally and figuratively.

Retaining its 16th century charm with an open fireplace and wooden beams, the pub has the nostalgic smell of beer soaked into the floor, echoing decades of drinks enjoyed and spilled.

The walls and shelves are adorned with oddities, board games and books. While the pub dog, a basset hound called Sherlock, lives his best life lolling on the soft furnishings.

With this unique aesthetic, it is no wonder the venue’s mantra is that it is ‘an unconventional pub for unconventional people’.

Oxford Mail: An undated photograph of a group of friends enjoying a night out at The Jolly FarmersAn undated photograph of a group of friends enjoying a night out at The Jolly Farmers

While people visit and remember pubs for what happens inside them, the people you end up meeting and the drinks you enjoy, The Jolly Farmers has also played an important role in events outside the establishment during the years.

The business was involved in setting up the first Oxford Pride which took place in 2003 at Oxpens Meadow. Oxford Pride, which will celebrate its 20th anniversary next year, has continued to have a close relationship with the pub and work it on important LGBTQ+ issues in the city.

A spokesperson for Oxford Pride said: “LGBT+ venues are at the heart of our community and we are delighted to see The Jolly Farmers celebrating such a milestone year.

“The pub and its owners have provided a haven for people for many years and continue to offer this, along with entertainment and a space for people to be themselves.

“We wish them all the best and want to thank them for their continued support of Oxford Pride and all that we do together.”

Oxford Mail: Two drag queens pouring pints behind the barTwo drag queens pouring pints behind the bar

As the pub marks 40 years serving the LGBTQ+, the pair believe it will still be here in 500 years let alone another 40.

Mr Jordan said: “Lots of people have said things like dating apps would stop the need of a venue like this.

“But, we can obviously see that has not been the case and the fact that the pub is celebrating its 40th birthday is testament to the fact the community does need a space like this.

Oxford Mail: Punters enjoying a summer's day in The Jolly Farmers beer garden Punters enjoying a summer's day in The Jolly Farmers beer garden

“So in another 40 years I genuinely think this pub will be here and we will be flying the flag.

“You can walk out into the pub garden and see people of all ages, sexualities and genders smiling and laughing together and we will still hear that laughter in 40 years’ time.”

Read more from this author

This story was written by Sophie Perry. She joined the team in 2021 as a digital reporter.

You can get in touch with her by emailing: sophie.perry@newsquest.co.uk

Follow her on Twitter @itssophieperry

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