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Authority record
Lesbian feminism

Camden Lesbian Centre and Black Lesbian Group

  • GB 1534 CLCBLG
  • Corporate body
  • 1982-1996

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.

Lesbian Archive and Information Centre

  • GB 1534 LAIC
  • Corporate body
  • 1984-1996

The Archive began in London in 1984, firstly under the name of London Lesbian Archive and later as the Lesbian Archive and Information Centre (LAIC). It was funded by the Greater London Council, supporting the wages of one full-time and two part-time workers to develop and sustain a collection of UK lesbian history and culture. LAIC operated out of the London Women's Centre at Wesley House, 4 Wild Court, London, along with many other feminist collectives and women's organisations. Like Glasgow Women’s Library’s own collection, materials in the archive were all donated.

In the early years the archive collection mainly comprised lesbian books including literature, pulp fiction and a significant amount of lesbian & gay as well as feminist non-fiction. It received donations of duplicates from other feminist libraries and archives in the UK, such as Bath Feminist Archive (which is now incorporated into the collection of Feminist Archives South). LAIC also took donations of journals and pamphlets, oral histories, foreign language materials, organisational records, press clippings and manuscripts from individual women, and by the late 1980s the LAIC had amassed an impressive and unique collection of lesbian women’s materials. The collection ranges from organisational records and personal archives to journals and ephemera.

Like many of its sister organisations, LAIC went through turbulent periods in its history. Shifting dynamics in feminist, lesbian and queer politics meant that the collection occasionally faced division, and even at times closure. The political landscape of the 1980s and early 1990s consistently put pressure on funding, and laws such as Section 28 caused precarity, uncertainty and turbulence for projects like LAIC. By 1995, funding the Archive became impossible and new premises were sought. Glasgow Women’s Library housed the collection as a donation; today, the Lesbian Archive comprises around one-third of GWL's entire archive, and LAIC's (uncatalogued) library collection is housed on the mezzanine level.

GEMMA

  • Corporate body
  • 1976-

GEMMA is a UK-wide friendship and self-help network for lesbians and bisexual women, with and without disabilities. The group puts women in touch via email, phone, and in-person meet-ups, as well as maintaining a taping circle for D/deaf and HoH women.

Since its establishment in 1976, GEMMA has published regular newsletters, guides, and anthologies of its members' creative writing. The group maintains a small lending library which members can access upon request. Membership is open to all lesbian/bisexual women with or without disabilities, of all ages, who subscribe to the aims of integration of the disabled and non-disabled.

City Limits

  • Corporate body
  • 1981-1993

City Limits was an alternative culture and event listings magazine for London, published weekly. It was founded by former Time Out staff writers as a co-operative, after TO owner Tony Elliott refused to adopt co-operative working principles. City Limits initially took a vocally radical feminist stance, though later investors tried to rebrand the title as a women's lifestyle magazine.

Camden Women's Bus

  • Corporate body
  • 1983-late 1980s

Camden Women's Bus was a mobile women's information and resource centre, funded by the Greater London Council. The centre comprised a double-decker bus, chosen because it offered a means of connecting with women who were otherwise unable to attend in-person meetings because of socioeconomic, health, caring and lifestyle-related barriers. Its organisers (and drivers) were Louisa John-Baptiste, Anna Birch, and Juleikha [surname unknown].

DAHLING

  • Corporate body
  • c.1990s

DAHLING was a social group for D/deaf, HoH and hearing lesbians. They held regular socials and planning meetings at Camden Lesbian Centre in the early to mid 1990s.

Zamimass

  • Corporate body
  • 1990-c.1998

Zamimass was a radical Black lesbian collective which explicitly aligned itself with socialist politics and intersectional freedom struggles. The group began in December 1990 when three Black lesbians organised Zami Love Day, an alternative celebration to Christmas Day featuring poetry readings, music, and a communal meal. Following this, Zamimass coordinated community actions, creative and cultural events, and a regular newsletter, as well as printing posters and other ephemera. From 1991 onward they met regularly at Camden Lesbian Centre, until the space closed around 1995; after this point, they apparently continued some of their activities before winding down in the late 1990s. The collective's manifesta, a copy of which can be found in the Camden Archive, sets out their vision for working towards liberation along lines of class, race, dis/ability, sexuality, gender, and education.

Southall Black Sisters

  • Corporate body
  • 1979-

Southall Black Sisters (SBS), a not-for-profit, secular and inclusive organisation, was established in 1979 to meet the needs of Black (Asian and African-Caribbean) women. Their aims are to highlight and challenge all forms gender-related violence against women, empower them to gain more control over their lives; live without fear of violence and assert their human rights to justice, equality and freedom.

For over three decades SBS have been at the forefront of challenging domestic and gender-related violence locally and nationally, and have campaigned for the provision of proper and accountable support services to enable women and their children to escape violent relationships and live in dignity. They run an advice, advocacy and resource centre in West London which provides a comprehensive service to women experiencing violence and abuse and other forms of inequality. SBS offers specialist advice, information, casework, advocacy, counselling and self-help support services in several community languages, especially South Asian languages.

Outwrite Women’s Newspaper

  • Corporate body
  • 1982-1988

Outwrite newspaper, produced by a collective of women throughout the 1980s, was dedicated to offering news by women, for women. Self-defined as an ‘internationalist feminist’ publication, the paper focused on ‘the development of feminism worldwide’ and an examination of women’s oppressions ‘in the context of imperialism, racism and class divisions.’

Liberation struggles across Latin America, southern Africa, Palestine, Bangladesh and India, as well as local campaigns including those of Southall Black Sisters, the Sari Squad and the King’s Cross Women’s Centre were regularly featured in Outwrite’s monthly reports. The transnational community Outwrite envisioned and embodied resonates powerfully with the social justice struggles of today.

ONYX: The social and discussion group for Black lesbians and lesbians of colour

  • Corporate body
  • c.1989-c.1995

ONYX was a social and discussion group for Black lesbians and lesbians of colour. By its own definition, it encompassed '[a]ll lesbians descended (through one or both parents) from Africa, Asia (i.e. the Middle East to China, including the Pacific Nations) and Latin America, and lesbians descended from the original inhabitants of Australasia, North America and the islands of the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean'. The group met once or twice monthly, first at London Friend at 86 Caledonian Road (c.1989-1991) and later at Camden Lesbian Centre & Black Lesbian Group at 54-56 Phoenix Road (from 1991 onwards); discussion and publicity were led by volunteers.

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