Plush, Oxford’s LGBTQ+ bar and club, has announced it will no longer recognise the Student Union’s LGBTQ+ Campaign as an “authoritative voice of the queer community” in Oxford.
Plush is a safe space for the community and the decision comes after the SU campaign allegedly made threats to the venue that made the working relationship between the two challenging.
In a statement, Plush Oxford said: “this, regrettably the working relationship we have long enjoyed with Oxford SU LGBTQ+ Campaign has more recently proved challenging.
“Whilst Plush understands the value such a group could have for the queer community, its current executive committee has sought to bully and harass Plush in a way it no longer finds acceptable.
“Their threats have included proposing to issue statements they know to be factually incorrect, which would result in misleading the community they claim to represent, and threatening to boycott the venue if their demands are not met.
“This is neither professional nor respectful of the open and constructive relationship Plush shares with other representative groups, and which it has long demonstrated is both easily possible and productive.
“Plush would much rather spend time speaking with individuals who want to help it make positive change, rather than defending negative communications that seek only to damage its queer space, and not work to improve it.
“As a result, Plush Oxford is severing communication with Oxford SU LGBTQ+ campaign with immediate effect, until such time that they can demonstrate an approach that is in keeping with Plush’s values.
“Plush will continue, as it has for over a decade, to hold open and transparent discussions with any individuals or representative groups that raise concerns or feedback with us directly. Plush is not perfect; the venue accepts that.
“Whilst the number of incidents is much lower than other nightclubs, Plush accepts it can always do better, whilst also considering the unique requirements of running an LBGTQ+ venue. Plush will continue to work with any individuals or representative bodies or groups who respect the challenges and opportunities everyone must face in the ongoing improvement of Plush Oxford.”
Established over ten years ago, Plush Oxford has built a safe space for the queer community with over 72,000 visits in 2019 alone.
In response, the SU LGBTQ+ Campaign made a brief statement on their website. They said: “Oxford SU is yet to meet with or discuss any matters with Plush directly and is surprised by their statement. We will seek to ascertain if this is something we can assist them with and speak with any students involved to attempt to resolve matters. We will not be doing this publicly.”
In their statement, Plush Oxford emphasise their zero tolerance policy towards homophobia, transphobia, queerphobia, racism, xenophobia, among others.
They said: “Plush has, and always will be, committed to providing a safe atmosphere predominantly for the LGBTQ+ community, whilst welcoming all patrons who share its values and respect its culture.
“The venue always wants to ensure a good night out for everyone, and where this is not the case it has always encouraged people to speak to its staff.
“More recently this has included social media campaigns reinforcing this principle and invitation to its patrons and introducing a direct email address for anyone who has concerns.
“In January, Plush published an online Community Feedback Survey which invited its patrons and the community to comment anonymously on Plush, their experiences in the space, what they liked, and what the venue do better, all with the understanding that there is always room for improvement.
“That survey, which is still active, has received over 200 responses, and Plush’s management are thoroughly scrutinising the feedback in order to make the venue an even safer and more enjoyable experience for everyone.
“Plush has always welcomed feedback and constructive comments from both individual and various bodies that represent the queer community in Oxford, with whom it has forged strong relationships.
“Individuals and collective representatives alike, vested in positive and productive dialogue aimed at strengthening and safeguarding Oxford’s queer community and spaces, will know from long experience that Plush maintains an open-door policy in regards to feedback, listening to experiences, and helpful suggestions for improvement.
“Just in December, Plush’s management met with representatives of Oxford’s LGBTQ+ Society and together agreed upon a number of recommendations which were quickly implemented.
“Plush’s bar staff, door staff, and management are held to the venue’s high standard, and each complaint or concern is immediately and thoroughly investigated, aided by the venue’s extensive CCTV and body camera footage.
“No one is above Plush’s code of behaviour or the law, and this principle has remained unchanged since the club’s inception or its move to Frewin Court.
“Plush has and will forever continue to review any complaint or allegation promptly, and will always take appropriate action where necessary—including, where appropriate, dismissal of any staff found incompliant with the venue’s guidelines.”
Oxford LGBTQ+ Society told Cherwell: “We are incredibly sad to see how the communication and working relationship between Plush and the Oxford SU LGBTQ+ Campaign has developed.
“We would like to stress that whilst the Oxford SU LGBTQ+ Campaign and the Oxford University LGBTQ+ Society are separate bodies independent from one another, we appreciate the SU LGBTQ+ Campaign’s forefront contributions to Oxford’s LGBTQ+ student life. The Campaign engages in a broad range of events and works with the local community, and have, amongst other things, been invaluable in fighting transphobia and improving the living and working conditions of transgender students in Oxford.
“In a similar way we also appreciate the contributions Plush has made towards the LGBTQ+ community. Together we have succeeded in making Plush accessible, and implemented policies to guarantee it remains a clearly designated LGBTQ+ space after concerns were raised by members of the community last term. We welcome their willingness to work together constructively and implement changes where concerns arise, and we appreciate their acknowledgement that more can always be done to improve the venue.
“Just as the past committee has done, we too will set up a working group together with Plush that will continue to constantly improve Plush as a venue and take concerns brought by members of the community seriously when and where they arise. We have reached out to Plush to organise a meeting between members of their management team and representatives of our new committee to re-establish this working group. In addition to utilising Plush’s feedback form, we are always open to individuals contacting the LGBTQ+ Society directly via our own feedback form to direct us to look at specific issues together with the Plush management team (https://forms.gle/ooF6Ki3FRmCnfMY98).
“We would welcome it if the relationship between the Oxford SU LGBTQ+ Campaign and Plush can be restored. We strongly believe that ultimately we all have the same aim of improving LGBTQ+ life in Oxford, be it by providing welfare and support, engaging in activism and local outreach, or running events and providing designated LGBTQ+ spaces. We hope that Plush and the Oxford SU LGBTQ+ Campaign will, over time, manage to return to open dialogue, and that all representatives and advocates of the Oxford LGBTQ+ community can work together in the future.”