Garrick Club to accept women for first time in history after Stephen Fry, Sting vote in favour

Gentleman’s club has faced pressure to change admissions rules since membership list was leaked to the press

Tom Murray
Wednesday 08 May 2024 09:14 BST
The Garrick Club and Stephen Fry
The Garrick Club and Stephen Fry (Getty Images)

The Garrick Club in London has voted in favour of accepting women for the first time in the members’ club’s 193-year history.

60 per cent of the club’s 1,500 members reportedly answered in favour of the change following a two-hour debate at a venue in Covent Garden.

Women were previously only allowed to enter the club if invited and accompanied by a man.

Speakers in favour of the change included Stephen Fry, James Naughtie, Jonathan Sumption and Nigel Havers, The Telegraph reports.

The decision comes after The Guardian published the gentleman club’s membership list earlier this year, which included the King, Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden and Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove as well as entertainment figures including Sting, Benedict Cumberbatch and the actor Brian Cox.

Sir Richard Moore, the head of MI6, Cabinet Secretary Simon Case and several judges subsequently resigned from the club, which has repeatedly blocked the admission of women since the 1960s.

The Garrick Club and Stephen Fry
The Garrick Club and Stephen Fry (Getty Images)

David Pannick KC, who spearheaded the Brexit Article 50 case against the government, then conducted a review of the Garrick’s rulebook as prompted by members who wanted to allow women. His team concluded: “In our view, the language of the rules is clear. There is no prohibition on the admission of female members.”

Pannick added that while the language of the rulebook is geared towards men, using only male pronouns, this “is entirely within the ordinary use of English language that a reference to the masculine denotes the feminine unless the context otherwise requires”.

“I’m glad that men who were previously comfortable with the club being men-only have thought again and decided that they are now uncomfortable with that arrangement,” Jude Kelly, the theatre director who previously described feeling “humiliated” when she had visited the club in the past, told The Guardian of the decision.

“These clubs were created as places for people who were given superior privileges. This is not the same as having an all-girls picnic or a boys-only cricket club. This is a place that sustained male power.”

Seven women in elite roles were proposed to become the first female members of the club if it agreed to change its rules.

Tory former Cabinet minister Amber Rudd, Channel 4 News presenter Cathy Newman and the classicist Mary Beard were among those put forward by members. It is unclear whether any of the women put forward will join the club.

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