Bards and Books a very friendly and sociable LGBTQ+ book group which meets on the first Monday of each month (apart from when this falls on a Bank Holiday in which case it moves to the second Monday). We meet from 11am to 1pm in a venue centrally located in Birmingham. There is the option to continue on to a group lunch after the meeting.
After managing, by using monthly Zooms, to keep Bards and Books going throughout the pandemic, we are now trying to return to face-to-face meetings. Some members still feel unable to meet in person and several have got new jobs. Therefore we are in the position of being able to offer new membership to anyone who would like to join us.
The group overall is in the 50+ age group although we do have younger members. There are more men than women and we would particularly welcome more women and people of colour.
Each meeting discusses a different book before broadening out to discuss wider issues of LGBTQ+ interest. Books chosen are by LGBTQ+ writers and/or contain LGBTQ+ themes. They cover a wide range of genres. The book choices are made by majority consensus from regularly updated lists compiled by members. A copy of our ongoing book choices since the group started in 2013 is available on request.
You are welcome to attend one of our meetings to see if Bards and Books is what you are looking for. Some of us have been members for nearly nine years and therefore have discussed around 100 books and are still coming back for more!
We also have a Podcasting project, and we’re looking for volunteers to assist with developing our website, so we can host our podcasts. You can hear some of our previous podcasts if you join our Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/686567058989271.
Please contact Mary Dunne at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested and would like further details.
Birmingham LGBT has signed up to this statement.
For a full list of signatories, visit https://www.consortium.lgbt/2021/02/18/census-consenus-statement/
The England and Wales Census 2021- taking place on 21st March- will ask voluntary questions about your sexual orientation and trans status for the first time. This is a huge step forwards and has come about in part due to tireless campaigning from LGBT organisations and individuals. The inclusion of these questions represents a rare and valuable opportunity to ensure that LGBT communities are counted, which could have a significant impact on future support and recognition from Government and public bodies and services.
As this year’s Census fast approaches, we are calling on LGBT people across England and Wales to answer these important questions.
Currently, there are no robust figures on the number of LGBT people in England and Wales, and existing estimates vary greatly depending on the source. There is also a lack of data on inequalities faced by LGBT people in our nations. As a result, LGBT people’s experiences, and the inequalities affecting our communities, are often not truly recognised by Government and public bodies and services – and LGBT people are missing out as a result. A lack of data makes it harder to recognise and respond to the needs of LGBT communities, and makes it easier to downplay persistent LGBT inequalities.
The data collected through the Census will play an important role in addressing this gap. It will be of particular use to the LGBT sector as we demonstrate the need for national and local Government to increase investment into LGBT-specific support. In the past, Census data on age, ethnicity and a range of other characteristics has been key to evidencing a need for action, and we believe the same is true when it comes to tackling barriers faced by LGBT people.
We are aware that there are valid concerns around privacy and how your personal data is going to be used. We agree that privacy and data protection is of paramount importance and we can reassure our communities that your data will be kept safe and will not be misused. We will work closely with the ONS to ensure they make it clear how this personal data will be protected.
There are robust measures in place to ensure Census data is protected. It is a crime to share personal census information unless required or permitted by law. Laws in place that cover protection of your data include the Data Protection Act 2018, General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Census Act 1920 and Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007. Personal data collected is owned by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and personal Census data is not shared with any other Government departments, local councils or marketing agencies. Census data is kept confidential and no individual or their responses can be identified in the statistics that are published. Answers on the online questionnaire are protected during entry and passed into ONS systems through a secure transfer mechanism. Within ONS systems the information is stored within a highly protected area with limited access and sophisticated monitoring to detect suspicious activity.
By answering the sexual orientation and trans status questions, collectively as a community we can play a vital role in ensuring the potential of the Census to improve the lives of LGBT people – and the services provided to us.
By our Ageing Better Network Enabler (community development worker), Maria Hughes.
Lockdown, self-isolation, shielding . . . if your job is to facilitate bringing people aged 50 and over together in social groups, to combat social isolation, a global pandemic can severely hamper your efforts.
Research has shown that being socially isolated and lonely lead to poorer health in the long-term, yet physical isolation has been necessary to prevent the spread of Covid-19, to protect the health of older, vulnerable people, in the here-and-now.
Figuring a way out of this ‘Catch 22’ has been the focus of the Ageing Better in Birmingham* programme since April, the start of the programme’s final year. I have been working alongside other partners to find out how community groups are coping and what they are doing to keep going and maintain contact with their members. I’ve heard ideas from across the other four ‘Hubs’ of Ageing Better – Tyburn Hub, Sparkbrook Hub, City-wide Hub and Carers’ Hub – and I’ve been in contact with the community groups that our LGBT Hub has been working with to learn what they’ve achieved and what I can do to give further support.
It has been really encouraging to see the efforts LGBT organisers and group members have been making to keep in touch, take care of each other and organise activities that are safe to run. Many groups have gone online, holding social and discussion meetings, playing games and sharing creative ideas. Others have kept in touch by phone and social media apps, not just to socialise but to ensure members have their needs for supplies and medicines are being met. A different kind of resilience is coming to the fore, and even when groups can meet again in person (albeit in a socially-distanced way), the initiatives they have put into place will ensure that members who are unable to join in person can still participate and feel very much part of a group.
I am very grateful for all of the LGBT group organisers and members who have taken time to talk to me about the difficulties they are facing, so that I can work with Ageing Better to adapt our support options. We are still learning as we go, and now it’s possible for small, socially-distanced groups to meet in person, we will continue to learn how this is being put into place and sharing what we’ve learned with community groups across Birmingham. Some groups are keen to continue to connect virtually with members who can’t attend in-person activities for whatever reason, seeing this as a positive option to offer, not just a quick fix for the way things are now. There are aspirations to connect with other groups across the country, from peer-support for people living with HIV, to tips for dog owners, via online Dungeons & Dragons, connecting LGBT+ people of all ages.
I’ve found the ingenuity and caring of the LGBT+ communities – the ability and drive to make ‘something out of nothing’ – very rewarding during my time working on this programme, and it’s been particularly uplifting for me during our current situation. Self-run community groups are vital to the wellbeing of LGBT+ people, and I’m proud to have played a part in keeping them sustained and connected.
If you want to find out more about LGBT community groups and their activities, contact Maria via email: email@example.com, and visit our Events calendar: https://blgbt.org/events/.
*one of 14 programmes across England, funded by the National Lottery Community Fund, to reduce social isolation and loneliness in adults aged 50 and over, through community-based activity.
This blog has been written by one of our newer volunteers, Vinay.
As an out and proud member of the LGBTQ+ community, it was definitely difficult moving to a country where homophobia is prevalent, and over the last 6 years I faced many ups and downs with the city where I moved to study.
Plovdiv, the second biggest city in Bulgaria, is historical and vibrant with so much to offer the new influx of international students and many tourists that come to visit. However, disappointingly, there is nothing to offer the city’s LGBTQ+ members. Unlike the many gay districts we are all used to here in the UK, where we all feel safe and welcomed, Plovdiv doesn’t have any gay bars, restaurants or shops offer the same level of safety. Interestingly, Plovdiv was 2019’s European Capital of Culture –with the rainbow being its official logo – yet there was no sign of the LGBTQ+ community anywhere. To exemplify this, a huge backlash was faced when an exhibition about the Balkan Pride was brought forward: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/apr/07/homophobia-scandal-hits-plovdiv-bulgaria-european-capital-of-culture.
Being “that out and proud individual”, it has not been easy living in a city that has very conservative outlook to people who are “different”, and a change for the better was thoroughly needed.
As June was fast approaching, the rapid and efficient response to Covid-19 in Bulgaria meant life quickly headed back to normal, and with it being Pride month, what a better way to celebrate being post-lockdown than having Plovdiv’s very first ‘mini’ Pride.
Yes, I know what you’re thinking: Vinay Jangra you are out of your mind! How are you hosting Pride in a place where we have established that has underlying homophobia?
That’s a good question, but Plovdiv has a colourful LGBTQ+ community who are hidden away and deserve to be celebrated and accepted by the city they live in, and I felt I needed to do something, anything, to help.
Over the past month, I spent time, with a lovely couple of volunteers, to put together a mini Pride in Plovdiv’s creative district, Kapana: an area in the heart of Plovdiv composed of a labyrinth of narrow, winding cobbled streets, saturated with some of the most vibrant places the city has to offer including quirky bars, restaurants and galleries – the perfect place to host the city’s first Pride. During the planning process, a very interesting phone call took place: the founder of GLAS, Sofia’s gay and lesbian association, was willing to co-host the event. Success! This was an amazing opportunity as they host Sofia Pride every year for the past 13 years, where roughly 7000 people attend. Furthermore, Huge.bg , an online Bulgarian gay magazine, wrote an article explaining the significance of the event. So, from having such a small idea, it had blossomed into something momentous.
On the day of the event, the reality hit and my anxiety levels were through the roof, with so many thoughts and questions racing through my mind. What if no-one turns up? What if we face scrutiny from the wider society of Plovdiv? What if no-one has a good time? There were just so many ‘what ifs’.
As we arrived in Kapana, my girls and I made our way to the first bar where we were met with an eager group of people sipping on their Aperol Spritz. Nervously, introductions were made, cocktails were ordered and the fun really started. As music filled the street, more and more people poured into the bar; conversations, laughter and excitement saturated the air.
I couldn’t believe it, so many people have come to show their support and a chance to belong and feel accepted. It was such a warm and overwhelming feeling.
After the last drink at the first bar, the crowd of roughly 100 marched their way to the second bar with the LGBTQ+ flag in hand: an unofficial gay parade. These were the first steps taken as a large group of queer people through the heart of Plovdiv. It was an immensely significant moment. At the second bar, we met Plovdiv’s resident drag queen, Enigma, who sashayed and slayed her way through her set, albeit in Bulgarian. But the laughs we had was just incomparable, especially during the lip sync battles between guests of the event. I will never forget the moment where my very masculine, heterosexual friend took on Enigma by lip syncing to The Weather Girls’ “It’s Raining Men” and winning by taking his shirt off and erotically pouring a glass of water (I hope it was water) over his body – iconic! The night was concluded at the last bar, where a dear friend of mine DJed a set of gay anthems and we danced the rest of the night away.
As I clambered into the back of the cab, I sat and reflected on how the evening was a huge success; there was no negativity or scrutiny that overshadowed the night, but only love, laughter and acceptance. I am hopeful that this small but significant event will pave a way for a better future for the LGBTQ+ members here in Plovdiv.