“IT FEELS LIKE WE HAVE ALLIES EVERYWHERE AND THAT’S WHAT MATTERS MOST. WE CAN JUST BE OURSELVES, ALL THE TIME”
Interview: Mark Riddaway
The Cider House is Borough Market’s specialist cider and perry bar, offering drinks on draft and bottles of every kind, to drink at the Market or take home. Most of the ciders are English, but the increasingly wide world of cidermaking is strongly represented, with brews from Scotland, Wales, the United States, France, Ukraine, and anywhere else that apple mulch is turned into beautiful booze. And it’s not just The Cider House’s range of bottles that is colourfully diverse, as the stall’s co-managers Aimee and James can attest.
We’re speaking during Pride month. Why is that of particular importance to you at The Cider House?
Aimee: A lot of us in the business, me included, are part of the LGBTQ+ community. I’ve worked in the drinks industry for a while now and it can be hard, because traditionally it’s been very straight, very white, very cis male. But drinks are for everybody. Cider is for everybody. When I got the job here, one of the reasons I was instantly very into it was that I knew I could just be who I am, without having to compromise or change, without having to fit into a mold.
James: I think because we’re so diverse – across the range of ethnicities, and across the LGBTQ+ community, myself being trans and gay – we’re able to offer an inclusive face for people who want to try new things but might feel a little intimidated. We’re able to put the message out there that there’s much more to cider than just a pint of Strongbow in a pub and that the people behind the fine cider movement are as diverse as the drink itself. We want everyone to feel comfortable – customers and staff alike.
It’s easy to presume that in years gone by the cider world would have felt quite blokey and conservative. Is that changing?
James: It has changed a lot in the past five years or so. I feel like we’re at the beginning of an upswing similar to one that craft beer went through about 10 years ago. Craft beer became this huge, diverse, inclusive market, where before it had been quite a blokey thing; now the same is happening with cider. It’s no longer just something that men in Somerset make. It’s a huge industry that employs people of all genders, all ethnicities, all sexualities. We have ciders made by people in the queer community, by women, by men, the whole range. Anyone can make cider, anyone can enjoy cider, and that’s what we want to showcase at The Cider House.
Beyond your stall, does Borough Market feel like an inclusive place to you?
Aimee: Everybody’s so lovely here. It’s weird, because we’re all part of Borough Market, but we’re all in separate businesses. And even though we’re all doing different things, somehow we’re all really similar. There’s this real sense of togetherness. It feels like we have allies everywhere – the traders, the management, the lovely security team – and that’s what matters most. We can just be ourselves, all the time, which is the reason I love working here so much.
James: I have to say, when I first got the job here, I was a little wary of what the Market community would be like, but I felt comfortable straight away. Then the first time I saw the Pride flags go up and the posters saying this a place for everybody, it made me feel even more at home in my workspace. Sometimes being LGBTQ+ can feel a little isolating. When the people in your workspace, the place you spend most of your days, are so open about their support, that’s a huge thing.
For all the progress that has been made, intolerance still thrives in our society. Do you ever experience it yourselves?
James: I haven’t found direct prejudice towards my sexuality or gender in public places. It’s more on social media these days. People find it easier to say mean things when they’re not saying it to your face. They like to hide behind their screens. It’s definitely on social media that the biggest amount of progress still needs to be made.
Aimee: I made a Pride post for our Instagram, and because the Market team collaborated with me on it, it reached a lot of people. We had a lot of amazing comments, but we did have a nasty comment from someone. Borough Market instantly hid it, which was great. They were like: “No, we’re not having that. Gone.” When you surround yourself with people who are so supportive, you forget that intolerance still exists, but it does, and it probably always will. It’s just about being louder than them. It’s about inclusivity being louder than intolerance.
It’s London Pride on 1st July. What will you be doing to mark the occasion?
James: I’m going to pop over after my shift. I’m really looking forward to it. It’s great to celebrate who we are, unapologetically. That’s the whole point of Pride, I think.
Aimee: At The Cider House, we try to be as proud as we can every single month of the year, but this is a time when we can be really visible, feel really accepted, and celebrate how far we’ve come. On that Saturday, it’ll be like we’re having our own little Pride parade. Given how slowly people walk through the Market on a Saturday, it’s basically always a parade!