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Authority record
London

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.

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.

A Woman's Place

  • Corporate body
  • c.1970-c.1986

A Woman's Place (AWP) was a feminist collective and women's resource and information centre based at Hungerford House, Victoria Embankment, London WC2. Established around the early 1970s, AWP was a key site of knowledge exchange and connection for women across and beyond the WLM, producing research reports, coordinating events and social gatherings (with childcare provision), and making a range of information services available to women. In the mid 1980s, AWP's upper space was home to the Feminist Library for a short time before the Library moved to its present home in Southwark around 1986.

It is unclear when AWP wound up its operations, but material in CLCBLG/4 seems to indicate that this happened around c.1986.

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.

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.

Women's Health and Reproductive Rights Information Centre

  • Corporate body
  • 1988-2006

Women's Health was formed in 1988 as a merger between the Women's Reproductive Rights Information Centre (WRRIC) and Women's Health Information Centre (WHIC). The Women's Health Information Centre formed in 1982; Women's Health Information Centre was established in 1983 after a split from the National Abortion Campaign. At the time of the merger, the group was known as the Women's Health and Reproductive Rights Information Centre (WHRRIC), before changing its name to Women's Health.

The aim of the centre was to provide information and support to women on health and reproductive issues, motivated by the idea of information as a form of political empowerment. They worked with, and acted as a resource for, medical professionals, women in health groups, self-help groups, community groups and trade unions in line with the ethos of the Women's Liberation Movement. The centre collected resources relating to all areas of women's health, including books, leaflets, journals, press cuttings and articles. As well as providing an information service, the centre was politically active, and made submissions to the House of Commons Select Committee on AIDS, as well as acting as a point of contact for the media on women's health and reproductive issues.

Women's Health was based near Old Street and closed in 2006.

Black Lesbian and Gay Centre

  • Corporate body
  • c.1985-c.1995

Based in southeast London, the Black Lesbian and Gay Centre challenged racism within the mainstream LGBT community, homophobia and erasure within Black communities, HIV/AIDS, Thatcherite politics and the rise in hostility toward LGBT people, and sexism. They provided advice and counselling, a helpline, a library, and other resources.

The Black Gay Group applied for funding from Greater London Council to open a centre, and in 1985 they received a GLC grant which enabled them to do so. After the GLC was abolished in 1986, the Centre's funding situation became ever more precarious, primarily coming from donations and membership fees. Blackout, a black lesbian and gay magazine, printed its first issue in 1986 providing a forum for the many black gay and lesbian groups that had emerged in London.

By 1995 the BLGC was blighted by insurmountable funding and resourcing issues, thus the Centre wound down it operations around this time.

London Women's Centre

  • Corporate body
  • c.1970s-c.2000

Based at Wesley House, 4 Wild Court, the London Women’s Centre was a thriving hub for women’s orgs for around three decades. The Centre was home to numerous women’s and feminist groups, including the National Abortion Campaign, Asian Women’s Network, Microsyster, English Collective of Prostitutes, Women’s Network for Palestine, Camden Women’s Bus, London Fat Women's Group, Lesbian Archive and Information Centre, Women's Information and Resource Exchange (WIRES), Women's Resource Centre, and many more.

From 1984-1996, the LWC housed Lesbian Archive & Information Centre, whose collections now live here at GWL. The Lesbian Archive makes up around one-third of our total archive holdings, and the LAIC library – up on the mezzanine level of our home in Bridgeton – comprises feminist and lesbian feminist literature, many of which titles are increasingly rare and hard to come by.

Facing increasing pressure from their main funder, Camden Council, to turn away from their explicitly feminist focus and instead become a more commercial venture, the LWC rebranded themselves as a music and events venue The Wheel in the mid 1990s. The rebrand was ultimately unsuccessful and Wesley House closed around 2000 (date unconfirmed).

Capital Gay

  • Corporate body
  • 1981-1995

Capital Gay was a free, weekly London newspaper established by Graham McKerrow and Michael Mason. It was priced at 20p when first published but became free six months later, and went on to be Britain's longest-running free gay newspaper. It was initially distributed only in London but was later also distributed in Brighton. Its readership eventually grew to around 20,000.

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