All happening at the Gay Centre, Digbeth, 1977
The Gay Community Centre in Bordesley Street was set up not long after the time that Gill and Betty moved to Birmingham (1975)
Gill: “Somebody secured the premises on the corner of Bordesley Street and Allison Street and people put a lot of effort into getting them fit-for-purpose. I can remember going, when they’d just acquired the building, going with Ro and some other women, to decorate one of the rooms. Quite a few women got involved with painting and generally getting the place into a reasonable state”.
Betty: “Neil Matthews and Pete Kirby were involved with the early bits”.
B: “When I walk by that building, I still feel that it’s ours and that someone is only temporarily living in it and we ought to have it back. I can remember the building really well. You came in and turned right to get in. There was a lobby with a payphone and a bulletin board, stairs going up, loos on a couple of floors, and meeting rooms, then also there were rooms occupied by Switchboard and Friend. There was the disco area down in the basement, the ground floor had a coffee bar where you got your coffee and things. Another room where you sat, generally it was a sort of social area. There were a number of groups that used that room: the transvestites, who all seemed to wear crimpolene, came one night a week; and I think MCC (Metropolitan Community Church) used that room one night a week. Gay Outdoor Club may have met there; all sorts of groups met there”.
G: “I remember going to a lesbian feminist discussion group there for a period”.
G: “We used to have Saturday night mixed discos which were in the basement. And I used to go with the children who were quite little, about seven and nine, for the first hour or so and then I’d take them home because it would have been too noisy, but also it would have been too late. But we would turn up at the beginning when it was a bit more relaxed and then. One year, I and the children and my then partner went for Christmas dinner at the Gay Community Centre, which was great. The youngish gay men cooked all the food. And there was a really big group of us having Christmas dinner together. It was quite fun”.
B: There was a group of gay teenage men who were heavily into nail polish and babysitting, the rest of us referred to them as ‘the fluffies’. They were very helpful in running crèches if I wanted to go off to a Switchboard meeting - these rather fluffy teenagers would happily play with Sam, (who was about 3 or 4) and do things with him and giggle. Oh those lads could giggle! I was on Switchboard and a number of lesbians were”.
B: “It was very dark (to get to the Gay Community Centre), if you went up Allison Street by the Police Station, I remember a lot of standing outside the Police Station for Switchboard, to meet people because women in particular, but gay men as well, who had never been before, were worried about that walk up Allison Street in the dark”.