Thursday, 2 March 2006

Building a Community

Return to normal service after a few days off.

Sometimes last year, I attended a couple of free guided walks around Borough, SE1 by "local performer and poet", John Constable. When he organised a walk for Black History Month, I thought, as the then secretary to the Southwark LGBT Network, it could be a good idea to get John to organise a guided walk for LGBT History Month. I suggested the idea to the executive committee of the network and we commissioned the walk.

Just like last year, the Network, thanks to our Community Development Worker, had organised six or seven events over the month, including film nights, a quiz night and a health information day.

Winchester Palace, Clink StreetTuesday was the last day of LGBT History Month 2006 and also the day when the walk took place. I had contributed with ideas and material for the research (quite heavily drawing from Queer London by Matt Houlbrook) and the fair amount of interest we had registered for the event made me slightly anxious to see how well attended it would be. I should not have worried, despite the cold, 28 people turned up and followed our enthusiastic guide through the darkened street of one of the oldest parts of London. I was also aware of several other people who were interested but could not make it for various reasons (mainly the cold!) and I think we now have a case to have a second edition of the walk sometimes during the summer.

For a more personal and annecdotal view of the walk, please check out Slightly's post on the subject.

John Constable in full flowThe walk end in a gay friendly pub called the Leather Exchange (in Leathermarket, near London Bridge Station), where I had a conversation with one of the people attending the walk. He was an older australian man, probably in his 60's, who, I assumed, had come out recently. He had heard of the walk by chance and was not aware of History Month or of Pride for that matter. I glad to give him all sort of information on these subjects. Also present that night and indeed at all of our events, was another older man who seems happy to enjoy the social opportunities offered by our events.

Even if there had not been such a good turn out at the walk, I think organising the event would have been amply justify by what we provided to these two men on that night. Southwark, because of its location close to the West End, does not have any real LGBT life and even the West End with its bars and clubs culture does not have any real alternative. This is what the Network is about. I went home with a warm sense of achievement, far outweighing the outside cold, in having been instrumental to the creation of that night.

The dark cold streets of Borough


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