- 1986 - 1993 (Creation)
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The Camden Lesbian Centre Project (CLCP) was founded in 1982, when several women from a loose social collective known as Kentish Town Lesbian Group (based at the nearby Kentish Town Women’s Workshop) recognised the need for a space expressly for lesbians. The group - all of whom were white lesbians - successfully applied for grant funding from Camden Council Women's Committee, and they began organising regular meetings and events with a view to establishing a centre for lesbians. In 1984, the Black Lesbian Group was founded as a support group for Black lesbians and lesbians of colour, who faced the tripartite barriers of homophobia, racism, and misogyny; the group used the term 'Black' in the broader political sense.
Having worked closely together, Camden Lesbian Centre Project and the Black Lesbian Group merged to form the Camden Lesbian Centre and Black Lesbian Group (CLCBLG) in 1985. Despite their differences and the fact that CLCP had originally excluded Black lesbians from its initial stages, BLG members felt the merger presented an opportunity to improve things for their community. The merger agreement stipulated that at least 50% of CLCBLG's staff and its Management Committee would comprise Black lesbians and that around half of the Centre's events and workshops would be for Black lesbians only.
From 1985-86, CLCBLG sought out premises across Camden. Although initially unsure of how the site would work for them, the group eventually applied for a change of use for a former retail space at 54-56 Phoenix Road, which they were granted amidst vocal resistance and homophobia from some local residents. The group signed the lease in September 1986. CLCBLG worked with Matrix Feminist Design Co-operative, Support Community Building and Common Ownership Design and Construct (CODAC) to renovate and alter the Centre before opening its doors to the public on Saturday 31 October 1987. From this point onward, the Centre was a social and political hub for many strands of London's lesbian community, becoming home to workshops, socials, seminars, discussion groups and other events. It became the base of groups like the Older Lesbian Network, Zamimass Black lesbian group, and GEMMA, the friendship network for disabled and non-disabled lesbians.
With successive and ever more severe cuts to grant funding from Camden Council, CLCBLG was forced to scale down its paid staff members and operations from c.1990 onwards. The Centre eventually wrapped up its operations in 1996, when the group was informed that they'd receive no grant funding in that year's budget.
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Includes: Peckham Black Women’s Group flyer (n.d.), Peckham Black Women’s Centre annual review (1989), Hackney Lesbians Social flyer (n.d.), Women’s Training Link application (n.d.); Truly Fierce Productions flyer (n.d.); London Black Gay Group publication (essays & creative writing); Black Lesbian & Gay Centre newsletter (Sept, Nov 1986; Jun, Oct 1987; Aug-Sept 1993); In Print Peckham Black Women’s Group newsletter no. 2 (c. 1986).
Also contains London Boroughs Grants Committee application by Black Lesbian & Gay Centre (16 March 1988).
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Content note: account of incest in London Black Gay Group publication.
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Created Summer 2021