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Authority record
Lesbian history

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.

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.

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.

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).

Shocking Pink!

  • Corporate body
  • 1981-1982; 1987-1992

Shocking Pink! was a zine written by and for young women, with an emphasis on topics like contraception, abortion, sexuality, lesbianism, queer issues, violence against women, feminist arts and culture, skill sharing (e.g. how to form a band, a women's group etc.), racism, women's rights, politics, and more.

Collegamento fra le Lesbiche Italiane

  • Corporate body
  • 1981-2008

Collegamento fra le Lesbiche Italiane (roughly, the Coalition of Italian Lesbians; CLI) was a network for Italian lesbian individuals and collectives, which provided opportunities for connecting, organised seminars and conferences, and conducted and disseminated research on Italian lesbian culture. The CLI published a monthly newsletter for around 21 years, along with a raft of other publications.

In 1983, the CLI and several other Italian feminist collectives founded the Feminist Separatist Centre (CFS) in Rome. In 1986, they established the Archivi di Lesbiche Italiane (Italian Lesbian Archives; ALI), which comprised an Italian and foreign-language library, a newspaper archive, and a collection relating to Italian lesbian history and culture. In 2003, the CLI founded Archivia, an archive and library relating to women's histories. In 2008, the CLI's operations ceased and its collections were donated to Archivia.

Older Lesbian Network

  • Corporate body
  • 1984-

The Older Lesbian Network (OLN) meets socially in London, with other regional groups meeting and self-organising in Birmingham, Nottingham, Southampton and elsewhere. The OLN was established in 1984, and from the late 1980s onward, they held frequent meetings at Camden Lesbian Centre, 54-56 Phoenix Road.

International Lesbian Information Service

  • Corporate body
  • 1980-c.1998

The International Lesbian Information Service (ILIS) was international organisation which aimed to foster and promote lesbian organising internationally. It was founded by ILGA in 1980, becoming an independent organisation in 1981. ILIS organised several conferences and published a quarterly newsletter. In Shelley Anderson's 'Lesbian rights are human rights!' manifesta (1995), she lays out ILIS's five demands as follows:
'1. We have the unconditional right to control our own bodies.

  1. We have a right to education that is not sexist or heterosexist and which includes positive information about lesbian lifestyle.
  2. We need the right to self-organisation.
  3. All governments must repeal legislation which criminalizes us or discriminates against us.
  4. Therefore, all governments must pass human rights legislation to protect individuals against discrimination based on color, class, creed, sex and sexual preference.'

Camden Lesbian Working Group

  • Corporate body
  • c.1980-1982

Camden Lesbian Working Group was a previous incarnation of the Camden Lesbian Centre Project (in itself a previous incarnation of Camden Lesbian Centre & Black Lesbian Group). The group was formed at Kentish Town Women's Workshop around the late 1970s or 1980, and they were originally named the Kentish Town Lesbian Group.

When Camden Council Women's Committee was established sin 1982, they adopted the group as a subcommittee and it became Camden Lesbian Working Group. Later that year, the group was again renamed, this time, with a name that would endure for longer: Camden Lesbian Centre Project (CLCP). As CLCP, the group successfully applied for Council funding, coordinated meetings and events, and began looking for premises to establish a physical centre for the local lesbian community.

In 1985 CLCP merged with the Black Lesbian Group, thus establishing Camden Lesbian Centre and Black Lesbian Group (CLCBLG). CLCBLG would secure premises at 54-56 Phoenix Road in February 1986; the Centre opened on 31 October 1987, and closed in late 1995/early 1996.

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.

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