It’s easy to think of the LGBT+ community as being omnipresent across the capital, with its many gay bars and clubs. Yet, the fact remains there is no distinct safe space for London’s queer community – but plans are afoot.
An LGBT+ community centre is in the works, and trust us that it is no shot in the dark – the concept of bringing the community together in one physically defined space has already worked internationally.
Cities including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Berlin and Zurich boast successful gay community centres.
The shared space will encourage intergenerational support and education, as well as acting as an events hub for everything from musical entertainment to LGBT+ talks and support groups.
There is no space confirmed for the community centre yet, which was announced at a public launch with the backing of politicians Diane Abbott and Jeremy Corbyn. There is currently a Crowdfunder campaign underway to raise the £50,000 required.
New York’s Gay Centre has wide corporate backing from Microsoft, Diageo, Barneys and Goldman Sachs and has supported and represented the community since 1983.
The Center run their own Trailblazer Award which hooks in national and international press annually, who in return raises the profile of the supportive work of the Gay Center.
So as well as nurturing the LGBT community, through commercial and corporate partnerships and awards ceremonies the centre generates a wider interest in queer culture.
The model has been a triumphant success internationally, though London’s last queer community centre lasted under a decade.
In 1986 the Lesbian And Gay Centre opened to a fan fare led by Ken Livingstone who declared that “in a hundred years’ time, when I’m forgotten, the charter [for the new LGBT centre] will still be seen as one of the most significant documents of its time.”
Sadly, inter-group factions pulled the group apart and in the early Nineties the Tory cuts led the building to cease no more.
The £1 million pound project was, at the time, the biggest single project to have been funded by any public body for the lesbian and gay community.
Thirty-odd years on and a fresh interpretation is hoping to learn from the mistakes of the last venture with a new winning formula.
Sarah Moore, who has been working on the project, spoke at the launch. She said: “What’s obvious is that so many people see the potential of an LGBTQ+ community centre in London, a place for mutual support, intergenerational contact, service provision, celebrations, education and improving physical and mental health.”
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Josh Willacy, another member of the project said: “Where once there were extremely public and prescient barriers facing LGBTQ+ people. Today, the biggest obstacles are often less obvious and hidden from view.”
“Overcoming them no less urgent, no less a necessity. Every community deserves a space to exist in that’s safe, secure and filled with love and solidary – and ours should be no different. LGBTQ+ community centres have existed in cities like New York, LA, San Francisco, Berlin and Zurich for decades. Now, our time has come too.”
Diane Abbott said: “I’m here to say how much I support the London LGBTQ+ Community Centre project. Anything I can do to help in the future I will do.
“When I first joined the Labour Party, you couldn’t win a vote on LGBTQ+ rights.
“I’ve lived to see a Tory Prime Minister take through equal marriage, and that is a testimony to the campaigning and the struggle of the people in this room. But, there is still more to do.
“I support this project, Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party, has asked me to pass on his good wishes on to all of you.
“I look forward to when the project opens, because it will represent a tremendous forward advance, not just for the LGBTQ+ community, but it will be an enormous forward advance for the community as a whole.”
You can donate to the campaign to fund the community centre by visiting their Crowdfunder page