For me personally, this is terrible news.
London Friend allowed me to ‘cross the line’ between a rather anxious, apparently straight guy into accepting myself for what I really was.
My first visit there took a fair bit of getting used to. I walked in, and a chap said “Oh, we wondered if you needed a chat, you walked past the window three or four times – usually they pluck up the courage and come in. Would you like a cup of tea?” – I saw a group of maybe 40 people, from 16 to 60, and I expected the usual lineup of stereotypical ‘mincing queens’ that I assumed would be there, but apart from one or two somewhat effeminate guys, it was all strikingly ordinary. That was the point where my life totally changed, and I realised I WAS gay.
I didn’t even live in London when I discovered London Friend in the classifieds in the back of ‘Time Out’ – There may be a better support network for gay men now than when I was there in 1991, but I’m sure there are few that could provide the help, understanding and support that I needed without coercion, badgering or any kind of politics. They just answered what I needed to know, and allowed me to discover myself at my own pace.
I will be forever indebted to these people, and I urge anyone if they can to help this unique group of volunteers.
I am one of the 3 Labour Councillors for the neighbourhood where London Friend is based. The rent hike is because last year Islington Council sold-off the premises (along with dozens of other similar) in a bulk deal to a property company. They have waited until the first opportunity to increase the rent. This is exactly what the Labour Opposition group on Islington COuncil warned would happen.
As the former chair of London Friend, as well as a former service user, this is indeed sad, but not very surprising. There have been these types of issues in the past.
I would urge everyone to pass the word about this, so that as much pressure as possible can be put on Islington Council about this.
RobN, Paul & Jose. Thanks for your kind words and support. This really is going to be a tough year for London Friend, as it is with many charities. We have a great team of volunteers and supporters around us and I’m sure we’ll come out fighting at the end of it.
Matthew @ LF
My experience is almost identical to that of RobN. And at about the same time. Wednesday evenings at London Friend followed by a drink at the Salmon and Compasses was the bridge between my previous closeted dark world and my current enlightened and, generally happy, life. I owe London Friend a huge debt of gratitude. Good luck to you in this time of need.