Sometimes all we really need is a space to be our authentic selves. That can be harder to find for some more than others. Nearly 60 percent of LGBTQ+ spaces in London have closed in the last decade. The London LGBTQ+ Community Centre, which opened a six-month pop up on the South Bank in December, is looking to change that.
‘It’s about creating additional spaces that complement the ones that currently exist and have existed,’ says Jay Crosbie, co-director of the project. From the London Lesbian and Gay Centre in Farringdon that existed from 1985 to the early ’90s, to The Outside Project, a community centre and homeless shelter based in Borough, to Elop, an LGBTQ+ centre offering social and emotional support services, London has been home to a rich network of spaces serving queer people. ‘So many others have been lost. As a project, we want to bring one back,’ says Crosbie.
The first meeting for what became a years-long mission was held in an east London pub in 2017. The goal was to create an intergenerational, sober, safe space for members of the LGBTQ+ community, ‘The party scene has its place, and will always have its place,’ says Sarah Moore, another co-director. ‘But we’re trying to build somewhere that people can just be, with no pressure on them to do anything, to spend money, to perform or to drink.’
As well as a café and lounge, the centre provides event space for hire and resources on mental and sexual health. ‘We’re trying to create somewhere that can be the first port of call for anyone with questions,’ says Moore. Not just members of the LGBTQ+ community, but friends and family looking to be better allies and ‘people who might not have any connection to the community but suddenly become immersed in it for whatever reason’.
Above all, the centre feels like a warm hug, a sigh of total relief. ‘I want people to feel like it’s a family,’ says Moore. ‘And that you’re supported here no matter what.’