Award winning group LGBT Youth North West are hosting a fund-raising night tomorrow to help tackle recent cuts to their funding and continue their work.
The event, which takes place from 8pm til late, is at G.A.Y and includes a series of singer-songwriters, artists and a comedian who have all donated their time to the cause.
LGBT North West were established from the legacy of the Lesbian and Gay Youth provision set up in 1978 by some pioneering parents in Manchester whose children were gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.
That provision still exists today and Sally Carr the Operations Director for LGBT Youth North West incorporates their ideas to continue their work.
She said: “We work with the young people developing their sense of social wellbeing. It is really important that the young people have somewhere to come that is warm and safe and welcoming, so we do build a lot of social wellness with them so that they feel included with everything from the outset.”
The group runs a number of meetings, trips and activities to allow young people in the LGBT community to meet and take part in something they wouldn’t otherwise be able to.
Sally added: “It’s about their resilience and developing their resilience to look to the future positively. We have a programme of activities that are determined in partnership with the young people that address their needs as well as their wants.”
They are now more reliant on public donations than ever as Manchester City Council scrapped the youth service that provided funding for the group and supplied them with four members of staff.
Thankfully they have been granted money from a small grant pool that is in place of the youth service grant even though this is a much smaller amount.
The four members of staff that were funded through the youth service had their hours cut from 12 down to four and now give a lot of their time voluntarily.
“It has had an impact because it has an impact on planning and developing and stability but we were lucky to get funding,” said Sally. “A lot of the staff here don’t see it as a job, it’s a passion so they are giving of their own time. Its something they really enjoy.”
The reasons for the young people coming to the weekly groups vary, some have experienced prejudice and bullying, others just want to reach out to other young people they can relate to.
“The internet is all very nice but it is virtual, it can never replace meeting people,” said Sally. “The groups help reduce isolation and helps tackle the effects of discrimination that is still prevalent for members of the LGBT community.”
Manchester is recognised as a city that is accepting of the LGBT community and Sally firmly believes people come here to begin to explore who they truly are.
This is one of the reasons the group reaches out to a target age group of 16-25 year olds.
The average age of someone approaching the group for support is 17 but Sally says this is not definitive as all ages across the board come to sessions and look to the groups for support.
If people are exploring who they are once they reach university at 18 or 19 they can access the support that is now available to them right through their years of studying.
Sally said: “The beauty of an LGBT youth group is this: we see young people from across abilities. We have a lot of young people who are physically disabled or have learning disabilities.
On top of that we get a broad range of social classes so you have people who may not have done well at school, who may be living in a homeless hostel sitting next to someone who is in their third year of studying to become a doctor at the university.
That role modelling really helps because it encourages the young person to engage in study or work because they see another young person achieving.”
One member of the group is John Smith who moved to Manchester and became a part of the group around two and a half years ago.
He believes that having the support of a group like LGBT Youth North West would have helped his coming out experience.
He said: “You begin to feel like an outsider that no one even notices you‘re on the other side of the wall as it were. It’s the difference between feeling ‘ok I’m trans and I am the only person I know of in 50 miles’ and knowing ‘well I can just pop into the gym and there will be at least 3 of my people there.”
There are weekly sessions at the LGBT Youth North West centre on Sidney Street.
These begin on Tuesday’s with a young women’s group at 6 -7.30pm then there is a mixed LGBT young peoples group 7.30-10.30pm, this same mixed group meets on a Saturday 3-7pm.
The G.A.Y event on Thursday includes: This Morning Call, celebrated lesbian, gothic comedian Bethany Black, DJ Riv and a series of artists who have provided work to be auctioned off.
It is £3.50 on the door and 100% of that entrance and any donations all go to the group with everyone donating their time and skills for free.
Sarah Evans, part of the publicity and fund raising team said: “ We desperately need donations now more than ever. We try and put on as many fund raising as we can. We want to expand to continue the things we do and add additional things and at the moment we can’t.”
For more information on LGBT Youth North West and any of the work they do visit www.lgbtyouthnorthwest.org.uk