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Andy King and Hilli Rishworth

Andy King and Hilli Rishworth nee Scrannage


Andy King owns the Fox pub and Hilli Rishworth nee Scrannage is the bar’s manager. In this interview they talk about the Fox and its place within the women’s scene. Hilli also talks about the successful picket and legal action against Jo Joe’s bar in the ‘90s, she also discusses SLAPFM, and the AIDS prevention charity she helped found.


Buying the Fox – 10
Fountain 10
Initial thoughts on the Fox – 20
BSL Deaf signing group 20
Women’s dress in the ‘90s - 30
Busy Sundays – 40
Licencing laws 40
Making the Fox friendlier – 50
Alternative lesbian activities 50
Jo Joes – 60
Freedom Flag (Rainbow flag) 60
Nightingale Entry – 80
No homophobia at work 90
Women’s access to bars 80

10 Buying the Fox

Andy took over the license at The Fox in December 1997. It was already established as a ’girl’ bar run by two guys Tony and Jim, and, he says, has been a lesbian bar for at least 30 years. The back room was initially the dyke bar. Andy states he took over The Fox in order to stop it becoming a leather bar, in competition to his other pub, The Fountain, which he owned from 1996 (he had heard another party was interested in buying it and turning it into a leather bar).

20 First encounter with the Fox

Hilli was working in the Nightingale and in 1994 was invited to help with managing The Fox but turned it down; she wasn’t very comfortable in The Fox as it was very clique ridden. She enrolled in a British Sign Language course which was being held in the back room of the Fox and got to know the pub and its customers and bar staff, so then decided to accept a job there as a barmaid. For a while she worked at both locations.

30 What women wore in the ‘90s

Hilli described the 1990s as the era of checked shirts, leather waistcoats, short hair and sensible shoes (for women); there were femmes in the 1990s but these were not out.

40 Sunday used to be the busiest night

Andy said before the licensing laws were relaxed, Sunday used to be the busiest night in the Village when he took over the Fox in 1997. He thinks gay people probably felt safer on Sunday night. Now, in 2007, the busy nights are the same as in straight venues i.e. Fri/Sat. Andy thinks that gay guys get more street hassle than gay girls. He also says that ‘outgoing’ gays get more hassle.

50 Making the Fox a friendlier venue

Hilli said she wanted to make The Fox a more friendly venue. She started to organise entertainment, and won awards e.g. Best Lesbian Bar. The Fox started to attract a wider range of people, with the pub becoming more of a community venue, and less of a drinking hole. Now a variety of groups meet at the pub. Sunday afternoons sees a book group which alternates with a film group. A quiz night is held which is very popular. Hilli states that it is important that events such as these are held only occasionally so that people do not take them for granted. She feels that The Fox is now an active part of the gay community. It is safe and friendly. She went on to describe the web site which she designed and which is an important source of information for lesbians. Hilli emphasised that men have never been excluded from The Fox but that 90-95% of customers are women. Hilli went into more detail about the film and quiz nights. Films are shown on a big screen in the main bar and the members discuss what they have seen and also choose which film to see next. A very innovative idea is that the profits made from the quiz night go towards funding the women’s area at Gay Pride.

60 The Jo Joe’s demonstration. (1995)

Hilli Rishworth (formerly Scrannage) recalls vividly the incident “I saw an advertisement in the gay press for staff at a new gay venue which was to be opened by Ansells Brewery. I applied for a job as did my girlfriend and another female friend, all of us gay women. We attended the interview, were issued with uniforms and contracts and went home expecting to start work the next day but then I was telephoned by the manageress and told that I wasn’t to be employed after all. The same thing happened to my friends. We thought it was strange. The next thing I heard was that lesbians had been barred from the opening night celebrations as too had Drag Queens”.

“Jo Joes was flying the Freedom Flag but using discriminatory practices. Something needed to be done, so a protest group was started. We made placards, informed the local press, informed the Police and started a petition which had soon gathered thousands of signatures. On Friday 18th August 1995 we marched to Jo Joes using the slogans ’What do we want?, The Freedom Flag Down, When do we want it, We want it now’ and ‘Too many no ‘nos’ at Jo Joes!’”

“The brewery however failed to take notice of the demo, and so on 25th August a further demonstration was held. Jo Joes eventually did close down. In an argument between the gay community and the brewery, we won the day. Realising that we may have a case for sexual discrimination against the brewery we decided to take them to court. The case was won and the three of us received a day’s wages for the day we worked plus £450 each damages. About a year later Jo Joes reopened but was never successful”.

Hilli declares “It is mega important that people protect what they have. The Freedom Flag stands for our Pride, it is ours and should be protected.”


Hilli was part of the charity SLAP FM which was scene-led HIV/AIDS prevention. “We dressed as policemen and went on the scene, we were the ‘Slap Police’. We had a pink riding crop with a slap hand on the end and arrested people, booked them and asked them safer sex questions. We had fun and engaged with people and at the same time distributed condoms and reinforced safer sex messages.”

80 Entry into the Nightingale

Hilli finished with an account of what it was like as a lesbian trying to get into gay clubs years ago. The only way to gain entrance to the ‘Gale was by being signed in by a member, who would be male. She declares it was more of a homophobic world in those days and that the scrutiny through the door peephole was as a result of this.

90 No homophobia at work
Hilli also works at Sainsburys in Northfield by day and says that she has never suffered any homophobia in the workplace.