We are back to London this week, and visiting another venue that fell victim to the Crossrail development (a large scale construction project which saw a good chunk of central London demolished to make way for a high speed train line).
I had the delight of talking to Ali Brumfitt, a performance poet and all around charmer, about First Out Cafe, one of London’s only daytime queer venues, which was open from the mid-80s up until 2011.Transcript
Ali Brumfitt 00:00
I do remember going to work and having meetings and people go glitter in your air and me thinking
K Anderson 00:13
Hello, my name is K Anderson and you are listening to lost spaces podcast about mourns the death of queer nightlife. Every episode I talk to a different person about a venue from their past, the memories they created there and the people that they used to know Ali Brumfitt is a gender queer performance poet who lives in a static caravan with their dog column. We got together to discuss first out cafe, a venue that first opened on San Giles High Street in the West End in 1986. As London’s first daytime queer venue, highly frequented the cafe from the time they moved to London in 2010, until the cafe closed in 2011, as part of the disruption around the Tottenham Court Road area caused by the cross rail development
Ali Brumfitt 01:36
identified as hate sexual, but I clearly wasn’t or did I even know I think identified as bisexual, but I just never told anyone. And I was married in a monogamous relationship in Oxfordshire, to a man Yeah, to a man. And I think I occasionally had got a new thing when I was in my 20s. At some point, my early 20s, I’d kind of done that thing where I’m like, Oh, I’m in the area of London, I’m going to go into a gay place. I’m going to go to first out not because I’m interested in any of this or anything, but it’s quite a cool place to go. So I think I’ve been there for coffee, but not now. Properly there. So before that, and then before the meeting my girlfriend and going Oh, and yeah, then the dramatic, but actually as good as it could have been under the circumstances, because he was a very lovely man. So it was quite sad. But yeah, then I broke up and ran off with a lesbian.
K Anderson 02:38
Yeah, we’ve all done it. And that my likes are my favourite and I’m doing that you’ve ever told me is about the poem that you read at your wedding? Oh, wait, Which one? The one that I read at my friend’s wedding? Oh, I thought it was at your wedding. Oh, about being single. And why would you ever want to? Oh, no, I did read that.
Ali Brumfitt 03:00
And you know, the nightmare about getting married and having children? Yeah, that one, I think is that one of my wedding. I totally forgot about that. But yeah, it didn’t seem to didn’t twig. No, for anyone on the being really into lesbian porn. And all the other thing? No, it didn’t really twig. But then, but then I always said I was really anti marriage. I just think the whole thing was really strange. So
K Anderson 03:25
yeah, so that is kind of weird. So was it just like her? Oh, yeah, let’s Yeah, let’s go along with it.
Ali Brumfitt 03:31
It was literally like, we’ve been going out for like nine years, maybe we’re never gonna break up. Or maybe we should get married. He was in the armed forces. So there was also like, oh, legally, it’s gonna be much better if you get blown up if we’re married. is weird. I know, and weird things about you being able to have certain benefits. And if we ever wanted a house that was to do that, which I didn’t think we did. But they were just really boring practical reasons. And part of manga well, and why not really, because I probably not gonna break up with you. And we were only Matt, we broke up within a couple of years. I think something happens in your brain afterwards. And you’re like, No, you really are. You really are not made for this. Right.
K Anderson 04:16
But there were nine years before the marriage, the marriage. Yeah, the marriage. And then they were another couple of years.
Ali Brumfitt 04:23
Yeah. So what was I mean, it’s something really right. But I grew up in Oxfordshire and grew up in the, you know, no internet back then back in the day. No, like, was involved in the church massively homophobic. And, and I’d had boyfriends and basically, it was the first boyfriend that I’d actually been actually into at all, and enjoyed his company and, you know, fancied a bit, at least a little fancy quite a lot, in some ways. Yeah. So it was like, Oh, this must be what it’s like, this is great and hadn’t really occurred to me that But I kind of knew in the back that something didn’t feel 100%. Right. But it’s that thing where you think, well, it’s also not terrible. Yeah. And then if we break up, what if I’m wrong, and there was there was a lot of sort of trying to work out what was not quite right. And not really getting it until I started going and doing gigs, actually more gigs in venues where there were, you know, more LGBT people after university. And it was I get on with all these people if I fancy some of these people. And then I invited my girlfriend who I’d met five years earlier to an event. And then was it kind of instantly spiral? Like, about 10 minutes after we met? Is that Oh, and then there was lots of flirting that was Oh, just flirting, just flirting that Yeah.
K Anderson 05:53
And so yeah, so through meeting how you were like, oh, okay, this makes sense. Yeah, this is actually who I am.
Ali Brumfitt 05:59
So I feel like had I been, you know, a generation after that. Not growing up in second 28. Having access to the internet, not having a massively homophobic church. Yeah. And a family that basically just didn’t really talk about sexuality. Like, I’ve got a poem actually, about when I was younger, and it’s partly based on a conversation I had with my mum, recently, and I said, Do you remember that? You know, when I was 13, I asked what you would do if I turned out to be gauged when? No, I said, Oh, you said you’d be quite sad, because I’d had a really hard life. And she went. I don’t remember saying that.
But I still think it’s a bit true.
Ali Brumfitt 06:45
And I was like, I mean, it’s definitely hard in some ways, but I just don’t think you need to think that through.
K Anderson 06:54
And it’s partly hard because of comments like that, isn’t it?
Ali Brumfitt 06:58
Yeah, exactly. And then when I got together with net for ages, my mum would say your friend, or, yeah, we had to have a like, significant conversation of like, No, I’m not inviting my girlfriend to everything. If you introduce those, your friend. It’s not okay.
K Anderson 07:19
Oh, that’s so fascinating. Isn’t and then you end up thinking you need to regulate your behaviour in front of everyone because of because of that one word.
Ali Brumfitt 07:27
Yeah. And they’re like, Oh, no, we’re not homophobic, but slightly totally other than you. It’s like, I was out with my nieces, who are now both grown up sort of in the early 20s. And they’re like, yeah, our parents just never mentioned. I mean, obviously, you were a couple that came to everything as a couple. And they didn’t sort of mention your friends, but they definitely never explained the Oh, and Alice broken up with James and this is who he’s, she’s dating now. They’re dating out what, you know, it just, they just never had the conversation. Let them work out for themselves. And so and that they would have been, I mean, tannish something that, you know, so young, sort of, this is clearly a thing, but it just was never mentioned, it’s just a bit hilarious.
K Anderson 08:14
I mean, in some ways, you could look at that as a good thing that like they just didn’t make a big deal of it. I don’t think that’s probably what you’re getting.
Ali Brumfitt 08:21
No. There’s a whole thing in my family that they just, you know, yeah, it’s the drawing attention. You don’t want to use the word lesbian. They’ve got a real thing about that being a word that will make my mum sort of do weird. This so I like to use it a lot. Lesbian, total gay, raging queer, just all those sorts of things. drop them into conversation with my mum casually to see her sort of have a little ripple.
K Anderson 08:49
Yeah, for most people, that word is moist, desperate. Yeah, but there’s something about it that this makes people shudder. But yeah, so if I ever met your mom, just just say turtle Geyer as much as I can. All right. And so then when your marriage ended, what what were the ripples of that what kind of happened in terms of your family and where you were regular churchgoer at that point?
Ali Brumfitt 09:17
No, it wasn’t by then. Although we did, and with my girlfriend, we went to church a bit, we found a queer church group in Oxford, but I sort of gradually faded out partly with the reaction from everyone, which was just not great. And, again, not openly hostile, but I just felt really uncomfortable and judged all the time. And my parents, they were just really funny about it for ages. And then, like, my mum got really upset. And I remember having conversation where she was really upset at me saying that, actually, I’m not really sure I can deal with you being upset right now, because it’s quite a lot of drama, and emotion for me as well. Yeah. And I’m in it, saying silly things like but what am I going to tell my friend I invite you to do just silly things. I’m sure you remember saying Yes, yeah. And then it was quite a long time before they met. And then we had this thing where we went for a pub lunch, it was all going to be really awkward. And then massively unsurprisingly, because my girlfriend is just be excellent. They got like a house on fire immediately. And then within a week, my dad was like, when snack coming around and stuff like that was just, and it was such a shame that there was that sort of period of a year where where they hadn’t met and they, my parents didn’t want to met and kept referring to them as that woman. Wow, that woman and my my dad was, you know, trotting out all the stereotypes while these people bracket gays that they’re very promiscuous. You know, they might not be you know, you don’t want to throw away that thing. You don’t know what their intentions are.
K Anderson 10:51
When when Has there ever been a stereotype about lesbians or their promiscuity? No,
Ali Brumfitt 10:54
right? My dad’s just like, yeah, I didn’t know. I was like, No, doesn’t happen. In the paycheck.
K Anderson 11:04
Yeah, the jerk is the second day you hire a moving van. So what Yeah, okay.
Ali Brumfitt 11:09
My dad hadn’t gotten the memo. I thought that I was clearly going to be a gay man. I was gonna get like clear shorts and be dance man. So her in some of that, right? I said, Yeah, yeah, yeah, he made me fulfil the non binary thing. And that, yeah, he was probably on it. And the promiscuous thing as well, because you know, being non monogamous. He, he was, it’s just I’m still with the original person. Yes. Yeah. By the way with.
K Anderson 11:36
And so at this point. You were still in Oxfordshire?
Ali Brumfitt 11:42
And I moved to London in 2010. Okay, well, I didn’t move. I had a house and I was commuting. But that was too much. So I got a room somewhere. But that was about two years after I broke up with James maybe a year after. Okay.
K Anderson 11:59
And so can we like before we move into London, you talk about obviously, chair? Yeah. So it’s like, what? Our commute from hour and a half commute from London? Yeah. And like It’s famous for its University. Yeah, what else
Ali Brumfitt 12:16
it has, it has a really good has a good performance poetry scenes are like that. It’s East Oxford’s got a great sort of community scene, this is bit where there’s a specific road and which has escaped my head now.
K Anderson 12:33
Just make something up. I’m not gonna know. I’m trying
Ali Brumfitt 12:35
to think of the community centre that used to go to East Oxford Community Centre, and used to do a lot of things at something called catweazle, which was basically an open might have the most unusual, different people coming to that, you know, they’d be opera singing, and then very serious poetry, and then a bit of comedy, and then something that you really weren’t sure what it was, or how much drugs the person had taken. And then just have a joke with my friend that you couldn’t lose, because you went and you either felt really inspired and blown away. Or just you felt really talented, because you saw that. I’m really great. I should get more gigs.
K Anderson 13:14
Oh, my God, I love that when you’re when you’re on the same bill as a bunch of people that are terrible. Wow. I’m okay. It is. Okay, so I’d always I mean, I don’t I haven’t spent that much time in Oxford. But I always imagine it’s just a very kind of leafy, middle class type of town, where not that much happens.
Ali Brumfitt 13:35
It’s got really different areas. So eat sort of now remember is Kelly road, the Kelly road is quite vibrant. And then there are bits. So I used to do the odd gig in Jericho, which is a lot more sort of bookish people. And then there’s an other bits that are really posh, and leafy. So it’s really mixed, but there is quite a lot going on in pockets, but not like London.
K Anderson 14:00
So, so moving to London, what was that like for you?
Ali Brumfitt 14:03
I mean, I don’t remember how but really quickly, I had been coming in anyway, for that. I did a couple of gigs or whatever, before I come in. And then I met someone there and I think I got invited to a sex party. So it was literally like within a few weeks moving into London, suddenly going to quite a lot of sex parties, and very different culture. Yeah. But also my dad died after I’d very soon after I come to London, so I got London in January, I think and he passed away in May. So there’s a lot going on in my life. And I went a bit haywire. I was drinking quite a lot. Okay, dating lots of people. So in a way that was quite exciting, but also a lot of it was avoidance. Yes. quite significant. grief. Yeah. But I met a lot of my friends in in 2010. So Yeah, next year will be the anniversary. Like 10 year anniversary of a huge group of friends that I met when I got to London sort of alternative cabaret scene a lot of people that used to go to the sort of old style sex parties. I can’t believe you can have an old start but you know that sort of what is why dress up ones with lots of performance that aren’t very serious? They’re not very they weren’t expensive. They weren’t exclusive.
K Anderson 15:25
But wait, wait, wait. So you go to a sex party and you watch a performance? Yeah,
Ali Brumfitt 15:28
there were there was cabaret. Well, this stuff happened afterwards. And there was like homemade low tech costumes. So now all this latex malarkey. But it was I remember going with people wrapped in Clegg going with dressed as a crocodile from Peter Pan, I’d made the thing out of egg boxes. And, and painted it with like, hey, let’s play silly things. And yes, themed rooms. And then yeah, and then I think about midnight, so they started quite late. And then about midnight, everyone had lots of sex.
K Anderson 16:03
But and so what happened to your income? Did you take it off? Are we Yeah, I think I think it got pretty trampled. Oh, okay. Okay, so everyone’s like, eased into it.
Ali Brumfitt 16:15
Yeah. But then some of the costumes do have a funny effect. I remember one where performers who shall remain nameless, but did a performance in which they have in tiny blue face pain?
K Anderson 16:29
Yeah, you could tell who they’d slept with. Yeah, by the trail.
Ali Brumfitt 16:33
So anybody who’s mixed with anyone else with different face pain, it was great. There was like, Oh, you can see where x y Zed person has been? Who has been with the other people that have been and it was great. Like who’ve made out with who and what they’ve been doing by which bit of them had which bit of face pain. It was really fun.
K Anderson 16:50
But wouldn’t that like, I mean, so my, my big bugbear is glitter. So if I saw anyone that had glitter on them, I just wouldn’t want to touch them, or have sex with them. So wouldn’t I just like, put you off?
Ali Brumfitt 17:01
glitter is the problem I have. And there are a few events, I still go to an I think glitters band at quite a few. As Yeah, I do remember going to work and having meetings and people go glitter in your ear. And me thinking.
K Anderson 17:22
So you went to a bunch of sex parties, and we are going to talk about our cafe. Yeah, yeah. Okay. So it could be getting much more interesting stories for me.
Ali Brumfitt 17:33
Much, I mean, you can have that interesting story. And a lot of the thing was, first, ours is a great place to go like the day after, for your Let’s all get together over coffee, and, you know, reminisce or just recover. You know, like, I like I really liked the fact that it was a venue that had stuff in the day, I thought that that was really important because the sort of hanging out and getting to know people, rather than being in a venue that you’re either fornicating or the other venues, which is really loud music, and I’m not really a clubbing person. And so being able to chat over coffee, with people that you may have been dancing around in ridiculous outfits with the day before is really nice.
K Anderson 18:15
That is really interesting, because most bars, like queer or not, are too loud to actually do, like, actually have a conversation or actually connect with someone unless you’re connecting non verbally with your private parts. So it is really interesting that there was a queer space in London, where it wasn’t about loud music and it wasn’t about drinking, and it wasn’t about shagging someone, or going home with them. But why do you think it was important that it was a queer space? Why couldn’t you just meet up in any cafe?
Ali Brumfitt 18:47
I think there was a sense of community about it. Certainly for me, I could go and now on my own and not feel conspicuous. Not that I was looking conspicuously gay at the time, but just feel like also then there’s all the bits of paper around advertising clear, flat chairs, not that I wanted one. And I used to pick up all those magazines, you know, all the boys that still going I think and then another one. I can’t remember the lesbian one. You know, you could say they wouldn’t get those. Also, you could make the free condoms, the toilets that weren’t so much. It just had a better
K Anderson 19:22
choice. Terrible that free lube. Sorry, I don’t
Ali Brumfitt 19:26
know. It’s right. But yeah, I mean, they’re not great condoms, either. But, you know, I just put them on sex toys so that you don’t have to have great confidence in them in the same way as if they’re, you know, yeah. But yeah, and I guess it was just an atmosphere and a feeling of it. I’d been in these very straight communities and feeling very alienated and that other people were sitting in their heterosexual couples talking about heterosexual things and just assuming everyone was the same so it was nice to have. And it was straight couples that went there as well. But it was nice to feel Like, they weren’t in the majority that there would be lots of people sitting around and same sex couples and people who were, you know, conspicuously LGBTQ, as in sat around covered in rainbows or extremely camp or or you know, and feeling really, really comfortable to be in the space, even if they’re just on their own working on their laptop. Yeah, yeah. And, and they were, you know, you felt safe to go there on your own, which is really nice. Yeah. And they Starfall is really funny. He could just chat, and it was great for eavesdropping. You can’t do that in a bar with thumping music and people used to bow in there quite a lot. Not loud, showery rounds, but couples would go and I kind of
K Anderson 20:41
Ali Brumfitt 20:42
Yeah. However, like you said you were going to and then they’ll be like, I’m terrible. I kind of love that.
K Anderson 20:47
So do you remember any juicy conversations that you eavesdropped on?
Ali Brumfitt 20:52
No, I think I saw a breakup thing. Once they didn’t even get to the dinner. There was a lot of there was some error. And then I can’t remember, I don’t know exactly what had happened. But I think one of them was late. And that was the part of it. And then something happened and they were going to order food. And I think they did that. Over felt sad for the one person because I think they ordered the food. And then the person stormed out. Before the food arrives. It’s always thinks we awkward because then then everyone knows what’s happened. Because it’s like, two meals arriving now. Though, my friend had to go in the middle of a dinner recently, and that was my first thought because we’d ordered the food and they had goats. They’re gonna think and staff kept asking me if I was all right. And it was like it’s okay. I haven’t just been dumped. I’m happy. I’ve now got two meals. You could have milked early.
K Anderson 21:41
I mean, come on. They deserve you cried.
Ali Brumfitt 21:44
Yeah, I could have said they’ve left. At least I can only afford my own meal. Yeah, you’re right. I mess that up.
K Anderson 21:54
Okay, so prior to having moved to London in 2010, you had been to first Yeah, but after like moving here and being a Londoner, do you remember your first time going to first out?
Ali Brumfitt 22:07
It might have been after pride? Because I know that time. Yeah. Cuz I think I went to pride in 2010 was 2011, the year that they’d sort of didn’t really have anything happening was the year before that. And I think a lot of people then met in the square and got taller than that. And we went back but came back to the area the next day for coffees. did a bit of a thing. We went there and then we went to retro bar, which I think is also closed.
K Anderson 22:38
No, I think retro. Oh, good. Oh, I heard a rumour some fact checking. Right.
Ali Brumfitt 22:44
I heard a rumour. I hope it’s a rumour. But yeah, I think it was a group of people that had been to pride.
K Anderson 22:50
Well, well, so it was after your first pride. Let’s talk about the pride.
K Anderson 22:54
What did that feel like?
Ali Brumfitt 22:57
It was really great to feel part of it, as opposed to somebody who was a kind of sneaky spectator when I was doing lots of flirting as well, because there was somebody that I’d met at a party that was going to be marching. So and then sort of my manager equaliser. Yeah. And then I did the whole leaping over the barrier and marching a bit with my friends, because there wasn’t any of that sort of nonsense about wristbands and all that stuff. No, nobody really cared. So I think I jumped in and out of I didn’t do the whole March, I was in the crowd, but then you could meet people in the crowd, and then jump in and out of the crowd. And there were lots of, yeah, it felt quite free flowing and not massively organised. But I didn’t like it by the evening, because everyone got a bit too solid. And yeah, in the square people were a bit. It just didn’t feel as safe. Yeah.
K Anderson 23:52
And so the time that we’re talking about when you’re at first, I was the next day. Yeah. Meet people came back to meet people. And so was it like everyone being hung over? And
Ali Brumfitt 24:03
what I’d gone quite early because I didn’t like people getting all drunk and falling back. So it mostly for me was to find out who got drunk and got off with who. And to make sure that the person that I you know, to find out who the person that I was interested in whether they did interact with anyone. Yeah. Well, they did. But But you know, the joy of polyamory, is that I think they ended up going out with both of us briefly. But I wasn’t sure at the time that would have so I remember being really annoyed that that person had stayed and hooked up with this other person down, maybe I should have stayed. But hey, whoa.
K Anderson 24:41
But it didn’t make a difference. No, no. It’s the joys of polyamory. Are you okay? Talking about that person.
Ali Brumfitt 24:50
The person that I hooked up with at that point, turned out not to be very nice tall, that we probably shouldn’t talk about that much. Because as soon as I say my ex, that was not Very nice tool, everyone. We know who that one was. Although we did go to first out quite a lot for a period of time, so I probably shouldn’t talk about her. But she’s moved to Berlin, so it won’t be too much problem.
K Anderson 25:13
This is going on the internet. Very nice.
Ali Brumfitt 25:15
Yeah. Well, I mean, people will know. But yeah, turn
K Anderson 25:19
that over. Okay. So you were with that at this stage? Yes. You’re, you’re still with now.
Ali Brumfitt 25:26
Yeah. And that didn’t come to pride because they knew in advance it wouldn’t like all the clouds and the noise and all that sort of stuff. Civil, sensible. I can’t remember if they’d popped in, they do that quite a lot came to say hello to somebody. But hilarious thing. Not quite like the person who hooked up with the person I was interested in. So it was all very, so we were both not happy
K Anderson 25:48
for both just been there. I know if we stayed and sorted it. Yeah. Okay. So at this point, you’ve been with Nat for maybe a year, couple years. Okay. So you were quite clear by this stage? Mmm, yeah. Couple years. Yeah. It was over two years. So it wasn’t so it wasn’t attended to?
Ali Brumfitt 26:09
No, it was. It was like, Yay, my people. And I’m also in London, and I don’t have to drive home. Yeah, it was it was really fun. And a lot of the people that I was there with, I’d met that. So that would be the summer I would have just met them in May, I think is when I you know, when my dad passed away. And so I was in quite a hyped up state of, you know, I’ve got at least grief, but here are my people to support me. And give me love and sex. Oh, and I also felt, you know, so for when we started dating. I always said with Nat that we weren’t gonna be monogamous, partly because I hadn’t dated people to my agenda before. So it seemed really odd to get into this one relationship and stay there. I was bound to be curious about stuff. That was how I felt. I didn’t know that that would be the case. So
K Anderson 27:00
it’s interesting that I mean, I’m making assumptions here. But it doesn’t sound like you did that when you were heterosexual?
Ali Brumfitt 27:05
No, no, I think I think I mentioned it opens a possibility, but it wasn’t. But part of the thing was I dated other guys. And then I met this one guy. That seemed Okay, or good. And so I stayed with him. Whereas I hadn’t dated other
K Anderson 27:21
Ali Brumfitt 27:22
Other women or non binary people. And so I didn’t want it to get out there. Really unexplored. I was a bit like, it’s a bit like being a teenager all over again. You’re like, oh, my god, there’s all these hot people that I didn’t even know I thought hot. Yeah. And oh, my God, sex is so much better than I thought it was. Amazing.
K Anderson 27:39
Anyway, so let’s talk about this person that lives in Berlin now. Yeah. So the day after you go to first out cafe, everyone, is there nursing a hangover? you find out that this person has got off with someone else? Yeah.
Ali Brumfitt 27:52
I think what are your feelings? I think I didn’t know what my feeling is. I was just so like, I felt uncomfortable. But also Yeah, a bit annoyed, but I don’t I don’t remember it being a significant it was just a bit like, oh, bugger, he should have hung around. I don’t even remember if she was at the cafe the next day. But they’ve got such a terrible memory over him. And then you know, that thing, what you can’t remember if a memory is, is like, Am I making that up? Or was that a different cafe? Or was that a different time? Or is that a different sex pie? Or was that a different tried? Is it all a dream? Sometimes I will swear blind that a group of people were there, and I’ll meet the person and go, do you remember that time we were at such and such? And they’d be like, I wasn’t there? No, no, you were no, I really wasn’t. I wasn’t in the country. And I’ll be absolutely want. I’ll be like telling them what they did. And they were like, you’ve supplanted somebody else into this memory.
K Anderson 28:47
So to what you’re trying to say is that you’re completely untrustworthy narrator here. Yeah, totally. Okay. So so everything we were talking about might just not have happened.
Ali Brumfitt 28:58
I mean, the things happened as in those two people definitely got together. And those are just whether they happened exactly at the right time. Whether I was in first out when I found out the exact details. I mean, I’m old now.
K Anderson 29:15
Okay, so then I want to talk about you made a comment earlier about the staff. First out very friendly. Can you tell me about them.
Ali Brumfitt 29:23
I mean, again, I can’t remember names, but I do remember that there was a very attractive person with it’s gonna sound like every other attractive lesbian person that I am like now, but they had dyed black short, spiky hair, and used to wear cut off T shirts with tattoos. And it just made you think I’m gonna sit at the counter quite a lot and just look at the cake. I’m just making my mind up. I can’t decide what to have. I just want to make some more. But it’s really difficult to say. I’ve never worked out how you strike up a conversation with someone when they’re working.
K Anderson 30:00
I can’t, I can’t imagine you ever not being able to strike up a conversation with someone,
Ali Brumfitt 30:06
this is quite difficult. There’s a queue of people behind and I’m just getting into a whole chat. I’m not very good at knowing the difference between just having a chat and flirting. Okay, I’m really good at talking to strangers and getting to know people and then are like, quite like one of them. And how do you go from here into the next bit? And then I’ll find out later, my friends be like, that person was totally flirting with you. And I was like, well, they you should have taught me because I wasn’t sure.
K Anderson 30:35
Yeah, I’m terrible if that is, because how do you close the deal? What is how do you do that transition? Yeah. I don’t know. So. So first out, let’s talk about first out because that’s what we’re here to do. Can you describe the venue?
Ali Brumfitt 30:50
Um, yeah, it’s a cafe. So it’s not very, you know, doesn’t look like a club, but it looks a bit like an old fashioned cafe it had sort of a red shopfront thing and big glass windows, which is also quite good. Because if you wanted to avoid someone, when you were coming up to it, you could see if they were sitting upstairs, because you could pretty much seal that upstairs from the way in. And that was a sort of upstairs seating and Cathy bet that was was really light because of those windows. But then there was the stairs as you went in quite quickly, there’s stairs down. And that’s where they used to have this sort of evening things and where there was another bar down there and it was a bit dingy. And and it wasn’t didn’t have lots of areas and things but looks it was sort of like one big room downstairs. If I remember rightly, the bar and corner and really, really pokey toilet. Because I remember you asking did I have any salacious stories about the flats, I was like, you would not do anything in those toilets. They’re just not enough room. And also there’s a will alley also, I think there was only two, like, I’m pretty sure they’re really really weren’t very many. And they didn’t you didn’t go in and sort of wait in queue, there was just the door. So you’d have been really conspicuous. And people got crossed really quickly.
K Anderson 32:10
So in describing the venue, you were talking about being able to avoid people. Yeah. Who would you be avoiding? Um,
Ali Brumfitt 32:21
I guess. Mostly, there was all there’s always drama, what we used to call poly drama in the you know, polyamorous community, it mostly wasn’t to do with me, but it’d be somebody who’d had a thing with somebody who’d fallen out with or just the person that you don’t really want to have long conversation with. Or if you’d met someone to a sex party that you just thought was quite dull, and you didn’t really want to strike up a conversation with them or any other party. Or sometimes at a gig, you know, gig when occasionally it’s really wonderful for people to come up afterwards and be like Laurie like just stuff. But occasionally there’s someone who’s just really wants to talk about a lot every time they see you. And you don’t necessarily want to talk to that person when you’re sitting having a coffee. So groupies, you’re talking about groupies? Yeah. The whole I’ve maybe had like three but yeah, people, people who could be groupies if you didn’t make the effort to avoid them right at the beginning. I don’t understand anyone who would actually yeah, Want a groupie? No, I much prefer people who, like if I meet them, I’d rather they didn’t know very much about my stuff.
K Anderson 33:40
Yeah, or didn’t like it. I don’t want to know.
Ali Brumfitt 33:47
I don’t think I have that much if they didn’t like it. A lot of people don’t know, don’t like performance poetry. And then they you know, it’s a bit of a stone, like come to the gig and they’re like, Oh, no, it’s not like I thought it would be I quite like it really. But because they don’t they just assume that poetry readings are really dull. Yeah. And people look at a book. And they read from the book, not that they sort of leap around in spangly underwear and strip and not that I do that every game. But you know, they’re not they’re definitely not dry occasion. Yeah, that sound. You know what I mean by that? Yes. Yes, we know. They’re not moist, either.
K Anderson 34:30
Um, so we’re still in 2010. Yeah, having this conversation. You said earlier, that moving to London, and that being around the time that your dad passed away that meeting these people, there was a sense of comfort? Yeah, community from them. And my mind always just goes to they’re like, Oh, that’s dangerous, trusting other people. Oh, yeah. Why aren’t you going to do that? Because you also talked about Relying on alcohol and get out too much. Was there like, kind of an over reliance on other people? Yeah,
Ali Brumfitt 35:07
totally. And that that was how I ended up in that one relationship, which was, you know, in lots of ways, quite abusive. And that turned out to be quite controlling around lots of other things. And yeah, there was there was a vulnerability there of like, oh, there’s citing people. And then when one of those showed me and a lot of attention and a lot of, then that totally spun out into something else. So there’s, there was definitely an element of things that I was doing and ways that I was being that were over the top. But also, I, during that time, I also met some of my most solid friends that I’ve still got now. So I think I could have been a little more cautious. But also, you know, they were a really great community and still are, I think, really solid. Even. Yeah, everyone’s in different places, doing different things. There are quite a lot of my friends are still in London. And I feel like there was quite a strong community. But yeah, I wasn’t in a good place to pick up the problematic elements of that. And I think people, there was a certain type of people that can are aware of that vulnerability and like to be controlling, and I definitely think that’s how that one relationship happened. Yeah.
K Anderson 36:25
So 2010 you’re in London, you’re exploring yourself a bit more, because you’ve got that wider network, you’ve got other venues and places to go. But what happened beyond 2010? How long did you live in London?
Ali Brumfitt 36:42
Um, I think until 2013, I slept around on the boat. So I but when I was travelling around on the boat, I was coming to London an awful lot and moving in, in and out of London. But I think first out shot at the end of 2011.
K Anderson 36:57
Yes, yeah. Yeah. So you weren’t even? You didn’t even go there for very long?
Ali Brumfitt 37:02
No. And it was like I was I was utterly outraged. I remember, like, everyone getting on the phone first out shouting? No. Because it’s like, there is nowhere else in the day. Yeah. Because there were a lot of venues, and some of them you could sit and chat in and like, but it seemed like, Oh, this is a place we can go and hang out in the day. And they weren’t of the places and there still aren’t many, certainly not that are easily accessible. I remember being really shocked, more shocked than I were was when, you know, pubs and bars and other venues shut down. It seemed more like an institution to me in some way. Like, no, not that, but it’s just a little cafe.
K Anderson 37:44
So where do you think that is?
Ali Brumfitt 37:46
I think because it had more of a fact that was a daytime and evening venue and that people could sit and have coffee. And I feel like it had more of a community feel for me. And also a much broader range of age people went there then would go to some of the clubs and bars. So it just really had, it felt like it was important to a much broader range of the community and also was more mixed, it felt like not an overtly gay cupping space, not a, you know, it was part of a community that also straight people would hang out his butt was predominantly
K Anderson 38:20
queer. And so do you have any particular memories that stick out? In the venue? Yeah, it
Ali Brumfitt 38:27
was one with that with a girlfriend. That wasn’t very good. Actually. we’d gone for cocktails in the day. And I was working at a hospital where I was head of communications, which meant that, you know, I managed people, and I think I’d met in the day with someone who worked for me, and I thought, oh, we’ll go to first out because it was a cocktail hour. I can see where this is going. But we were worried. So this was a working day. It was working day, but we’re not talking a little bit early. Okay. So I mean, it can’t be that early, because sort of tea time usually. Isn’t it? cocktail hour? earliest, but not that early. Okay. But I think we’d been to meet someone. And then I met with this girlfriend and person I was working with came with me and we had a drink bar. But there was two for one cocktails, I think,
K Anderson 39:15
Okay, I know where this is going.
Ali Brumfitt 39:16
Yeah. And then we got talking about a lot of things. And the person I was working with, I was quite open. So they knew that I was pulling cameras. They knew that it was queer. Didn’t know that I went sex pies a lot, because I thought you didn’t need people know that. And then someone else arrived to come and see who was also dating the person I was dating, but I also knew from sex parties. Yeah. So this other person arrives. And I’m like, how do I make it clear? While we’re in a space that we’d normally talk about that sort of thing to the people who the person who’s just arrived, not to mention that and I can’t remember I just remember just trying to do some eyes to the scary girlfriend and trying to do some things and then obviously the person I work We’re picking up something interesting that I’m not supposed to know. Now, I don’t think the conversation happened. But I remember feeling and also a bit pissed because you’d had some cocktails and you’re like, I have to handle this situation. But I’m going to do it really obviously, because because I’m a bit pissed in the middle of the afternoon. So then I’m sort of doing, like conspicuous eye rolling and head shaking and like, giving, giving. Yeah, it was, it was all and they were literally like, about four of us in there was really early. So it wasn’t, it was just really a no remember the person behind the bar, finding the whole thing knew something was going on. And just finding like there wasn’t anyone else in so she could legitimately just laugh at us. So I remember that being incredibly embarrassing, and then travelling back because I worked on the other side of London and but so did the person who worked me so we had to travel from the home on the to back and there was always so what was all that about? And I was like, oh, that person they date my girlfriend as well. You know where probably Yeah, when there’s something something else? No, nothing else? Nothing else?
K Anderson 41:13
Oh, no. And then how much longer? Did you work with that person? Did you live it down?
Ali Brumfitt 41:18
Oh, that person had to put up with quite a lot. Yeah, I’m not sure I lived it down. But it was better than the time that went out. And that was it that RVT got a bit tolerated and ended up being piled into a taxi with a very attractive person thinking this is great. This never happened before. But then waking up at her house without any clothes to wait work. I’m thinking I can’t wear a T shirt to work that says tofu makes you gay. Eat more tofu. This person that worked for me this long suffering person work me saying, Have you got some clothes that will fit me that look like work clothes, because I haven’t got I can’t get back to get any clothes. And I’m in this place in the off end of nowhere at some girl’s house. And her being like, I’ve never had one of my bosses asked me that. I can do? Yeah,
K Anderson 42:09
I think did she come through? Yeah, yeah. It’s kind of personally want to work with.
Ali Brumfitt 42:14
She was a good person to work with. I think genuinely, I’ve been really lucky with the people I work with, particularly who worked for me. It’s didn’t really if asshole managers that are above that I’ve had issues with ads, everyone. But no, yeah. not totally.
K Anderson 42:31
Who told you? That first hour was closing?
Ali Brumfitt 42:35
I think it came on a news thing on social media. When sites shared the story with me on Facebook, I think. And then it because it was it went round really quick. You know, it was in the paper, and then everyone was on the phone going. Did you know Did you know? It was a bit like? Yeah. It seemed like it was quite a big thing.
K Anderson 42:56
And it was
Ali Brumfitt 42:56
Yeah, I mean, I feel like other venues have shut down that, that I didn’t know for ages and other ones that shut down that I was like, occasionally went there. But this seemed more of a thing. I think the only one that would have been bigger and they didn’t shut in the end was the whole thing over whether the RVT was gonna go? Yes. Yeah. Which would have been monstrous. Yeah,
K Anderson 43:18
that would have been huge. And so in that period between finding out that it was going to sharp and shutting, did you get to go back?
Ali Brumfitt 43:27
No, it was a really short period of time. I feel like the articles were like, the last days that literally. I feel like it was really quick. I don’t know exactly how long but I feel like I was like, Can we organise to go there? No, there isn’t time. Because I think by that point, I was off on a boat somewhere. So I wasn’t sort of as stationary if you like, I really can’t remember what was going on. But I can remember trying to work out if we could get there. And figuring out it was like literally closing within days and we weren’t going to be able to make it and and also feeling outraged that there hadn’t been a big, you know, there was no final event or we’re going to have a lead. So it just felt like for a place that felt like such a community. We’re just like, oh my closing it. There was no yeah, no last night event that I was where unless no one just invited me. It just felt like it just was open and then sharp with no fanfare or anything but some articles so the articles were like yes, this iconic thing. And I was like then why are we doing
K Anderson 44:44
now? Did you ever go to first out cafe. Do you have any stories or photos or anecdotes that you’d like to share with me about that place? If you do then please get in touch through social media. You can Find me on Instagram and Facebook and Twitter with the handle K Anderson music. Lost spaces is not only a podcast, but also a concept record. I have been writing songs about venues and the people who live their lives there. And we’ll be releasing songs over the next 12 or so months. The first song from the set is called well groomed boys, and you can hear it playing underneath my talking right this very second. If you like the sound of it, and you want to hear more, then please find me on streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music and have a listen. Finally, if you enjoyed what you heard today, please do subscribe to the podcast. And it would make a huge difference if you were able to tell your friend or anyone who you think would be interested in finding out more. My name is K Anderson and this is lost spaces