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Over the last couple of months we have been busy planning and obtaining quotations for the conversion of the building. We recognised that the architect’s original drawings, while extremely good, would prove too costly. We redrew the plans to ensure better use of the limited funding available. What we did not want to do was to compromise on the needs identified by our communities when we commence construction. We had to find a way around some major cost items.
One of the issues we face is upgrading the building for its new purpose. As a former retail unit there is only one toilet and the sewage system is basic. There is no ventilation and the air-conditioning is not up to the task we will demand from it. The electrical supplies all need upgrading to meet the increased demands of the kitchens and of our other activities.
The traditional way of solving these problems is to ask experts to advise but they come at great cost. We have gone about the problem-solving in a much more cost-effective way which means that every pound of grant funding or donations from our supporters goes into something tangible. Thus my last few weeks have been spent with engineers specialising in ventilation systems, kitchen designers and suppliers or talking about poo with sewage pumping station suppliers. All this additional effort has been worth it. The direct approach to engineers means that we have much more cost-effective solutions from people who have practical experience of working around problems. It has saved us in the region of £130,000 in conversion costs so far.
On Friday 30th April we install the latest exhibition in the windows from our colleagues at Socially Engaged Artists Salon (SEAS). This deals with the very difficult subject of the lives of LGBTQ+ people from groups which also experience racism. It has a special focus on the lives of refugees. You may have heard me say before that to be a minority within a minority creates especially difficult issues to overcome. As a black or brown LGBTQ+ person who is also a refugee you are a minority within a minority within a third minority. This really makes you vulnerable. I am glad that SEAS will challenge public attitudes and perception in this exhibition. Look out for more details shortly.
My meetings with people representing other cultures in our community have been highly educational. Sometimes what I have learned has been really painful. I shed tears in one meeting learning of the lives of LGBTQ+ refugees in a country to which they fled to be safe only to find themselves repeatedly violently assaulted and not welcomed by the LGBTQ+ community here. It is so clear that the ‘gay’ scene does not fulfil the needs of everyone in our wonderful and diverse community. We need a safe space where people are not judged, questioned, exposed to racism and can be themselves. The Ledward Centre will be that safe space; it is the reason behind the entire project. But, as one respected person of colour said to me wisely, we have to gain first the trust of communities which the LGBTQ+ community has hitherto not well-served.
In the background meetings continue with groups and organisations who want to come onboard to use and support the Centre. In my next blog there will be news of some major ‘signings’ which secure our future.
Over the course of the next few weeks you will see emphasis being placed upon community fundraising and advance membership. Our communities need the Ledward Centre and we need all your support.