OUT in Taunton, the first social/pub ‘gay’ night in the county town for several years, is celebrating its first year of providing a ‘safe space’ for Lesbian, Gay, Bi and Trans people to meet up, socialise and promote awareness of issues such as safer sex.
The music filled night takes place upstairs at the historic Winchester Arms on Castle Green in Taunton, on the first Friday of every month.
Out was the brainchild of local residents Lindsay Pickering and Peter Routley, who felt there was a need for somewhere ‘offline’ to bring the community out and making new friends.
Volunteer organiser Peter explains: “Whilst the UK has seen massive changes in terms of the acceptance of same-sex relationships such as the legalisation of same-sex marriage, there is still much to be done and we really felt there was a gap, certainly in Taunton but also in the county for a place to meet like minded people for a safe night out.”
“There is no intention of hiding in the shadows, and it’s only by walking hand in hand in the town and being confident to be as open as any other couple on a night out in existing venues that people will get used to it. But the reality is there is still plenty of awkwardness and sadly, not everyone has come round to the idea that ‘love is love’. Out in Taunton welcomes all ages of people who identify as LGBT+ and their friends, to come along and enjoy music, have fun and build friendships. In fact the very idea of Out has brought a group of new friends together and widened our social circle in Taunton.”
Social isolation can be a challenge within the LGBT community, particularly for people who don’t want to engage with online social networks, are living in rural areas, or are older. An article in February published by Homecare, stated “Social isolation is a serious issue for older LGBT people. According to Stonewall, older LGB people are more likely to be single, while 41 per cent live alone compared to just 28 per cent of heterosexual people.”
“Openly identifying as LGBT can result in a loss of family ties and support, which is a real issue for many older members of the LGBT community.” (Source homecare.co.uk)
The initial challenge was finding a venue and trying to promote the night on a budget. Volunteer helper Stephen explained how there were moments of doubt: “We were lucky to find a local wine bar to host the night in, but there were limitations in that we could only use the venue on a mid-week night, and we had to put a lot of funds into security, staff and DJ, much of which came from the organisers own pockets. Add to that the cost of promotion, it meant we had to charge a higher entry fee to break even. We never had any intention of making money (it all goes back in) but despite some really busy nights it wasn’t sustainable in that format. So we approached the Winchester Arms and we’re incredibly grateful to them for accommodating us with a Friday night slot in their great space upstairs, and allowing us to keep venue costs to a minimum. We’ve now a healthy group of regulars with new faces all the time!”
The Out in Taunton monthly night is just the start and the group of volunteers, want to see it grow into a more varied social network with ideas such as coffee mornings, cinema and theatre trips or picnics in the park. Founder Lindsay Pickering explains: “We want to build links with other community groups, LGBT partners, Pride Festivals and support groups. In particular we feel it’s vital to keep talking about safer sex and HIV awareness – there is still a lot of misconception and stigma about living with HIV that we need to help educate. Our World Aids Day event last year was a great success with local businesses contributing to raffle prizes used to raise funds for a local support group. It’s amazing what we’ve achieved in our first year and I’d like to thank all our volunteers, supporters and guests who’ve made it so worthwhile”.
Out in Taunton’s anniversary night ‘Straight Out of the 80s’ is on Friday 1st September 2017, upstairs at the Winchester Arms, Castle Green, Taunton from 8pm-1am. Entry is Free.