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London Lesbian and Gay Centre

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The London Lesbian and Gay Centre was a lesbian and gay community centre located at 67-69 Cowcross Street, London.

In 1984 The Greater London Council (GLC) published Changing The World - a charter of gay rights and supported a number of open meetings in the council chamber of County Hall during that summer. These resulted in the creation of a working group to create the UK's first LGBT centre, which included Brian Kennedy, Revd Richard Kirker, Helen Carr, Helen Jenkins, Alison Wheeler, Jaci Quennell and Lisa Power amongst many others.

After looking at many buildings, a disused former meat warehouse near Smithfield market in Farringdon was located and purchased by the GLC. Plans were drawn up to convert the building to community use, with a club / theatre space in the basement, a bar and cafe on the ground floor and technical facilities for printing and photography on the first floor. The second floor was designated as 'women-only' space and the third (top) floor was converted to offices for the Centre management team, with some rooms being leased to other organisations, such as PACE. All areas of the building had full disabled access.

Many LGBT organisations were allowed to use the centre for postal purposes, such as Presente, the Lesbian and gay solidarity group for Nicaragua. Many others used the meeting rooms for regular groups.

The building opened in 1985, although during the months leading up to the opening different user groups had laid claim to control parts of the building and exclude other groups, most notably there were heated discussions over the wearing of leather caps and insignia which resulted, in April 1985, of the banning of BDSM groups for six months. Shortly after the second national Bisexual conference was held there in April 1985 all Bisexual groups were also banned, but for five years, on the spurious grounds that bi men would allegedly harass lesbians.

On 16 April 1985 Gay Sweatshop put on the play "Telling Tales" as the inaugural theatre production and Musicians such as Des de Moor made their debut at the centre.

In June of the same year London's Lesbian and Gay Pride Parade ended at the centre for the first time. It only did so once more, in the following year.

As London's first non-commercial gay venue it suffered from problems with volunteers, political infighting and general mismanagement due to staff turnover. With the abolition of the GLC in 1986 ownership of the building was transferred to the London Residuary Body and although the centre's management team kept the building in operation for another five years, mounting losses resulted in its closure and subsequent sale. The activist group OutRage!, which had taken office space in the centre, was among the last to leave and undertook a brief occupation to try to prevent its closure.

The building was subsequently converted into offices on all floors, then to a bar on the ground floor. It is no longer gay. Whilst there have been discussions on replacing it in some fashion, most notably by Mayor Ken Livingstone in 2004, nothing has so far happened.

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