Our AGM for 2021 was held on October 25th and our Chair, Vanessa Monaghan, gave her report on the happenings in the group since October 2020.
This was my first full year as Chair of the LGBT Network and I’m delighted with the progress the group has made in that time. I’m also delighted with the feedback we’ve been getting from you about our events.
We started off last year with our AGM and Q&A with Celebrity Masterchef Champion, Riyadh Khalaf. We had great attendance and got someone fantastic press coverage for the event.
After that success we held monthly meet ups with musicians, film directors, activists and we’ve held nights on Housing for Older LGBTQ people and had a night celebrating our Trans Community.
It was hard work ensuring that these events were to a standard that people would enjoy, find interesting and ensure that we could provide a safe space.
That was and still is vitally important for us. We may have been forced into online events with the pandemic, but they have been fantastic for the group and we have to admit, we now cater for people who may not have previously been able to get to in person events due to disability or illness, work or location. Saying that, we’ve had people join us from all over the world.
Our hard work caught the eye of the Embassy of Ireland, Great Britain and we were delighted to co-host ‘Rainbow Crossings’ with them. Hosted by Dr Daryl Leeworthy and our own Dr Joseph Healy, it looked at ‘Gay Irish Migrants and Queer Politics in London in the 1980s’. This was a fantastic event and a recording can be seen on our YouTube channel.
Pride month was busy!
I was asked to help launch the Bród stamp by An Post, which was a great honour as Chair of the London Irish LGBT Network. I was also asked to present a piece to camera for the opening of the Out in the World exhibition in the EPIC Museum in Dublin. The exhibition was curated by our friend and long-time ally Dr Maurice Casey and in the times of Covid, EPIC held some really fantastic online events surrounding this.
In June, we also opened up to our members and asked for their stories about what makes them Proud, what Pride means to them. These stories were beautifully written and gave us a look at a cross section of our group. It was brilliant that everyone felt open enough to be able to share their stories. This is definitely something we want to do more of in the future.
Later, I was also asked to contribute to SafeHomeIreland’s website as Chair of the Network speaking of the emigrant experience.
As Chair of the network, I also have a place on the Community Advisory Board for the St Patrick’s Day Festival here in London. This year, I’ve raised the point for more open LGBTQ inclusion. This is not only important for our community but also for other minorities. This was welcomed by the Greater London Authority who organize the festival and hopefully will pave the way for more inclusivity in the future.
This year we also applied for and were successful in being awarded a grant by the Emigrant Support Programme through the Embassy of Ireland. We felt it was very important to show that, as the group is going through a rebirth, we take our position seriously. As well as giving us the money to be able to upgrade our website and domain in the future and get new promotional material’s for future events, we were awarded some funds to enable us the committee to undertake some training in the areas of safeguarding and equality. We’re not social workers and can’t claim to be but as a community group it is important for us to be able to deal with situations that may arise. Online and in person.
There are some ideas for what’s to come in 2022, our main priority to keep all our members safe from Covid. So, online is best for us for the time being. We are however, looking at ways we can come together for a Winter Drinks in December to coincide with an exhibition launch for our friend and colleague Yvonne Devine. We’re also hoping to be able to mingle more and attend the V&A’s queer museum tour soon.
We have other ideas which if I’m re-elected, I hope to work with the committee on.
So to recap, people have been very positive to the direction the group is going in. We’re a community group, not a political group but we will always work and strive for equality for the LGBTQ communities. And when we do that, if we can, make life better for other minorities and communities. We also acknowledge those who came before us and their work and sacrifice for equality, we want to learn more about our own Irish LGBTQ history but make the world better for those to come.