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London LGBTQ+ Community Centre opens today

Photo by Rhubi Worth
  • A six-month pilot for a sober, intergenerational, inclusive LGBTQ+ Community Centre opens today, 1 December, on London’s Bankside
  • The opening event will fundraise for National AIDS Trust to mark World AIDS Day
  • The public can visit the Centre from Wednesday to Sunday, 11am-8pm. It offers a cafe, lounge space, social space for events, and LGBTQ+ specific service provision including mental health, sexual health, and services supporting trans, youth and older LGBTQ+ people
  • Mondays and Tuesdays are reserved for closed bookings by LGBTQ+ groups
  • The project is funded through a crowdfunder and the National Lottery, and informed by research into the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on London’s LGBTQ+ communities
  • The Centre is working with partner groups including Mermaids, Gendered Intelligence, METRO, Opening Doors and Tonic Housing, and is supported by Southwark Council and the Mayor of London

The London LGBTQ+ Community Centre opens today on Bankside, close to the Tate Modern and Blackfriars station, as a temporary pop-up space for six months. Modelled on similar centres in New York, LA, Birmingham and Manchester, the space will be a safe, inclusive, sober, intergenerational and intersectional space run by the community for the community. The six-month pilot will serve as a proof of concept for a permanent Centre. It will be a place where chosen families can form and flourish—where LGBTQ+ Londoners and visitors can relax, be themselves, feel safe, build connections, and access services. 

The pop-up offers a cafe and meeting space open to the public from Wednesdays to Sundays, 11am-8pm. Mondays and Tuesdays are reserved for closed event bookings by LGBTQ+ groups to ensure privacy. Expect excellent coffee provided by London roastery Grind, comfortable and stylish second hand furniture which has all been sustainably sourced with the help of communications agency Zetteler, and events programming in partnership with the many amazing groups and charities the Centre is proud to be working with. 

Sketch collage by architect Martha Summers

The space has been transformed into its current form and fitted out by an all-LGBTQ+ building crew under the direction of queer architect Martha Summers. She has worked in the UK and Switzerland on a range of projects from design to construction including schools, exhibitions, and workplaces. In her own practice, she donates time to community projects that require non-normative ways of making buildings. Between 2017-2020 she was heavily involved in the creation of the Feminist Library’s new space in Peckham.

The project has also unveiled new branding to coincide with the opening of the pop-up, created pro-bono by multidisciplinary studio Here Design. The space will offer comprehensive holistic and LGBTQ+ specific services, signposting and information provision under one roof, including mental health, sexual health, services supporting trans, youth, older LGBTQ+ people. 

The free opening event, to be held on the evening of 1 December, has sold out. 

​​The opening of the Centre coincides with World AIDS Day, an important day in the LGBTQ+ calendar when the community remembers those lost to HIV/AIDS, and pledges to never stop fighting for a world with zero new HIV transmissions and a world that’s free from shame and stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS. During the opening event, visitors will have an opportunity to donate to the National AIDS Trust.

Some of the upcoming events at the Centre include: an LGBTQ+ Winter Market with offerings from independent, local queer artists, a Polari workshop, a Queer Book Club, free regular yoga and meditation classes, and more. The Centre is encouraging community groups, individuals, charities and organisations to get involved and be part of our programming through contacting bookings@londonlgbtqcentre.org

Affordability, sustainability and accessibility are at the heart of the project. 

To champion intersectionality and inclusion and combat poverty and classism, all of the Centre’s offerings will be genuinely affordable. Visitors can also pre-pay for cafe offerings for someone else, and anyone is able to redeem these “pay it forward” vouchers at the Centre. 

The Centre team’s mission has been to provide solutions to the issues the LGBTQ+ community faces, not to exacerbate them, and the project’s impact on the environment is part of that. This is why as many materials as possible are second-hand, including pre-loved furniture sourced with the help of comms agency Zetteler. The Centre’s team wanted to ensure that furnishing the space was in line with the project’s values, and reduced the impact on the planet and the city, without eschewing the comfort or welcoming atmosphere our community deserves.

It has taken 12 months to find a premises that is affordable and available. As the London economy recovers following the pandemic and multiple lockdowns, spaces in central London are at a premium and in short supply as business returns to the city. This exacerbates the challenges for a charitable endeavour that requires both a discreet and accessible location. The detailed accessibility specifications for the Centre are available here: https://londonlgbtqcentre.org/statement/pop-up-centre-accessibility-statement/ 

The cafe, meeting space and the programme of sober events will provide a tonic to London’s huge LGBTQ+ population which has been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. During 2020, the organisation provided mutual aid through online services, and now with the physical space will help LGBTQ+ Londoners reduce isolation, improve wellbeing and connections to the community, as well as provide a safe space to many who may have been forced to live with homophobic, transphobic or biphobic family members or housemates, navigated financial uncertainties or struggled with mental health.

With nearly 60% LGBTQ+ venues in London closing in the decade leading up to 20171, 24% of homeless young people identifying as LGBTQ+2, LGBTQ+ people being more at risk of poor mental health3, and with hate crimes related to sexual orientation and gender identity increasing year on year since 20154, the need for a space like this has never been greater.

Funded through a 2018 crowdfunder as well as recently acquired support from the National Lottery, the pop-up Centre is informed by a user-first approach through latest research conducted by the organisation into the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on London’s LGBTQ+ communities. Their A New Queer London survey ran in August-November 2021. This is the second time the project has conducted research into community needs to ensure the Centre is useful, accessible and safe for all members of the LGBTQ+ community in London and genuinely rooted in their needs. In 2018, an initial research period showed enormous need for a physical space which included a sustainable cafe (72% respondents), event space (67%), mental health service provision (61%) and sexual health service provision (53%). The findings of the most recent survey have already informed the creation of the pop-up Centre, and will be formally published in 2022.

Sarah Moore, Volunteer Director of the London LGBTQ+ Community Centre, said: “It is incredibly exciting to be opening the space after four years of hard work by countless volunteers. We are extremely grateful to all the Centre supporters and partners to get us to this moment. When our communities are recovering from the impact of the pandemic, and continue to be disproportionately affected by mental health issues, addiction, poverty, homelessness, and in particular the recent attacks on the trans community, the importance of sober, safe, intersectional spaces cannot be overstated.”

Dale Williams, Project Management Director of Here Design, said: “After personally following the centre’s journey from its beginning, it has been a privilege to work with the team at Here Design, alongside the committee at London LGBTQ+ Community Centre, on the identity system for this important space. We were so inspired by this step forward within the community and knew we wanted to be part of this project. The design encompasses expressive mark making created in collaboration with patrons of the centre and is purposefully flexible in its application, reflecting the rich mix of unique users this new landmark in London will support. We look forward to its growth and success.”

Among the groups making the most of the Centre during its six-month opening are trans charities Mermaids and Gendered Intelligence, older LGBTQ+ people’s charities Opening Doors and Tonic Housing

Carrie Lyall, Mermaids’ Digital Engagement Manager, said: “Mermaids is proud to support the London LGBTQ+ Community Centre Pop-up. This vital project will provide a much-needed positive, affirming space for trans, non-binary and gender diverse young people to connect with others in our community, and we look forward to working with our friends at London LGBTQ+ Community Centre Project and others on filling this space with trans joy.”

Matthew Riley, Tonic Housing’s Communications and Marketing Manager, said: “From experience, we know how crucial LGBTQ+ affirming spaces are to our community’s safety and quality of life. We’re super excited to see the London LGBTQ+ Community Centre pop-up open, and can’t wait to see how this much-needed project grows!” 

The Centre is being set up with generous support from Southwark Council, who have helped the team in sourcing the pop-up location. 

Cllr Alice Macdonald, Cabinet Member for Equalities, Neighbourhoods and Leisure, said: “At Southwark, we are incredibly proud of our diverse borough. We are thrilled that the London LGBTQ+ Community Centre pop-up will call Bankside home. This safe space where LGBTQ+ residents in Southwark and beyond can meet and access support will help provide the blueprint for a permanent community space at the nearby Bankside Yards development.”

The project has received support from Mayor of London Sadiq Khan who pledged to support the creation of an LGBTQ+ Community Centre in London in his election manifesto. He said: “We know LGBTQ+ Londoners have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and the loss of so many of our LGBTQ+ venues means that it has never been more important to have a safe, inclusive, all-day space for all LGBTQ+ communities to be themselves, reduce isolation and improve wellbeing.

“London will always be a beacon of inclusiveness, acceptance and diversity and I’m really proud to support the creation of this LGBTQ+ Community Centre in the heart of our city and will do all I can to transform it into a permanent space.”

–ENDS–

Notes for editors

More photography of the Centre is available here: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1kHn4OxQz_CfkEPNTxA441zxjxrR7KgCp?usp=sharing 

The London LGBTQ+ Community Centre is located at 60-62 Hopton Street, SE1 9JH and is a Company Limited by Guarantee (CLG) and in the process of becoming a registered charity. The concept for the Centre came out of conversations between friends and was brought to life by a group of volunteers. Since the inception of the project in 2017, hundreds of volunteers have contributed time, expertise and enthusiasm to get us to where we are now. To find out more about our core team, visit www.londonlgbtqcentre.org/meet-the-team 

WEBSITE https://londonlgbtqcentre.org/ 
IG/TW/FB @LDNLGBTQCentre

The National Lottery Community Fund is the operating name of The Big Lottery Fund.

Through 2018-19, The National Lottery Community Fund supports all kinds of projects across the UK. From small, grassroots organisations to ongoing partnerships with expert leaders across the sector, our work is varied and far reaching.

The National Lottery Community Fund supports ideas and projects that matter to people and communities. Through their funding and relationships to help create stronger, more connected communities.

WEBSITE https://www.tnlcommunityfund.org.uk
IG/FB @TNLCommunityFund 
TW @TNLComFund 

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