As you may know, February is LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) History Month. I thought readers might be interested to know that it is now forty years since the establishment of the first Gay Community Centre in premises at 9-10 Bordesley Street, Birmingham, in 1976.
The draft rules state that the Centre intended:
‘To promote the benefit and welfare of those persons considering themselves as being homosexual or bisexual and in particular the promotion, maintenance, improvement and advancement of education with the object of improving the conditions of life of the said persons’.
The Centre was to be non-party in politics and non-sectarian in religion.
The lease on the property, three former four storey Victorian shops, was only for three years. In that time, with the help of many volunteers, the Centre established a coffee bar, open every evening; a newsletter; a library and information area, meeting rooms, a disco, and a home for Gay Switchboard (a telephone advice service started in 1975) and Friend, a face to face advice service.By 1978, the following local Gay groups were making use of the Centre:
Bridge Group; Campaign for Homosexual Equality; Drama Group; Friend; Gay Christian Movement; Gay Education Group; Gay Liberation Front; Gay Outdoor Club; Gay Socialist Group; Gay Switchboard; Lesbian Feminist Group; Metropolitan Community Church; One in Ten Theatre Group; Quest (a Gay Catholic Group); Photography Group; Transvestite Group and West Midlands Gay Activists’ Alliance.
As LGBT History Month 2016 is focussing on Religion, Belief and Philosophy, it is interesting to see that Gay Christian organisations were involved with the Centre from the very beginning.
The Centre had to close in 1979 when the lease expired and it took a while to find new premises, but by 1983 a Centre was established at 291 Corporation Street. Gay Switchboard and Friend had found premises in Thorp Street, originally as part of the Nightingale Club, then independently.
This information has been collected from MS 1836 (Accession 1994/081) in Birmingham Archives and Collections. This has minutes, annual reports, newsletters, publications etc. covering the period 1975-2000.