Switchboard - a splash of colour at Pride
LGBT+ employee networks, such as Out at Tesco, are really important to us, not only because they help us connect with our communities and lend us support, but also because it’s vital that a big organisation, like Tesco, is proudly valuing its LGBT+ staff and customers
Founded on March 4th 1974, the London Lesbian & Gay Switchboard’s (LLGS) started out as an information and support helpline. It ran for five hours every evening in a small room above a bookshop near Kings Cross Station. Because of increasing demand, we very quickly became a 24-hour service. We’ve listened to thousands of people since our first phone started ringing.
Throughout our history, we’ve been at the forefront supporting our communities in facing the issues of the day. More than 15,000 people use Switchboard’s services every year to talk about lots of things, like, coming out, domestic violence and sexual health. Volunteers are trained to listen, signpost people to specialist services, and to support them to make informed decisions for themselves.
We’re ringing the changes this Pride by celebrating our new name – Switchboard, the LGBT+ helpline.
So much is changing for our LGBT+ communities, and so is our name, to make it clear that we’re here for everyone however they choose to describe their sexuality and/or gender identity. Even in our increasingly interconnected age, it’s not always easy to find the support people need at crucial times in their lives and Switchboard’s volunteers continue to be here with calm words when they’re needed most.
Switchboard will bring a splash of colour to the Pride parade this year. A specially embroidered parade banner will display the charity’s new logo and a video truck will show photos from hundreds of supporters from across the world who have uploaded a #SwitchboardSelfie to raise awareness of the services Switchboard provides.
We’ll also be marching close to the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners group, who I’m sure you’ll remember from the recent hit film Pride starring Imelda Staunton and Bill Nighy. One of the founding members of that group portrayed in the movie – Mark Ashton – was actually a key volunteer here at Switchboard in the 80s, and he’s being honoured as one of London 2015 Pride’s, ‘Pride Heroes’.
This is an incredibly exciting time for Switchboard. We have so much to celebrate and a new chapter to look forward to. Pride will help us to spread the message that we continue to provide a safe and confidential space where people’s concerns can be listened to and talked through.
LGBT+ employee networks, such as Out at Tesco, are really important to us, not only because they help us connect with our communities and lend us support, but also because it’s vital that a big organisation, like Tesco, is proudly valuing its LGBT+ staff and customers. By giving this support Tesco shows that it’s aligned with our values at Switchboard which include improving the lives of people within the LGBT+ communities. And this support is one of the reasons we’re delighted to have Tesco as a key supporter as we re-launch and celebrate London Pride 2015.