There is Pride in Activism
Pride in London has made strides, this year marks 50 years since the first parade that sparked a call for change. Switchboard is a charity that was started up by LGBTQ+ activists back in 1974 who stood on the frontlines. Today they provide an understanding ear and informed voice at the end of phone lines for those in need.
We spoke with Jamie Richardson at Switchboard about the past 50 years of Pride. The progress made, exciting events coming up and what more still needs to be done.
We asked Jamie about his views on the 50 years of pride. He said, "I guess it goes without saying that it is a pivotal moment for the LGBTQ+ community in the UK. We've come a long way but I think it's clear we still have a long way to go." Touching on the change that is yet to be achieved Jamie said. "Some groups have a longer way to go than others, a more LGBTQ+ support is crucial,"
We are a non-directive service, we empower people to make the decisions for themselves.
In recognition of the 50 years of pride, even in a time when the world is still not where we would like it to be. We take note of the celebration of how far pride and legislation has come. Switchboard will be joining in the fun, by taking part in many events across the country. Using them as a great way to "increase awareness" of their services. Jamie beamed with pride when discussing the importance of face to face engagement. Stating that this interaction with the LGBTQ+ community, that they are such a huge part of, means so much to them. He said it "gives them a sense of purpose" and the opportunity to connect with the people that they are helping. For the volunteers this is an amazing opportunity - as the calls they take are always anonymous and completely confidential.
We are a safe space for anyone to discuss anything.
Jamie took us on an insightful journey into the world of Switchboard. Sharing details about the "different people that reach out to switchboard, both young and old". How they are from all over the UK from the bigger cities right now, to the more remote towns. Listening to him explain the type of calls they take. How that "call could be the first time someone has ever said that they're gay out loud". Or from "someone who has been rejected by their family because of their gender identity". The realisation of these huge moments in these individuals' lives was truly profound.
We were eager to learn more about this vital organisation and if, or how, it has grown over the last nearly 5 decades. "Switchboard started out in the basement of a bookstore in 1974," Jamie said casually. "We are one of the oldest LGBTQ+ charities in the UK and that means we've got a lot of history in our Organisation."
Switchboard was created by LGBTQ+ activists, for those seeking information in the days before Google.
The rich history of this organisation shone through. Switchboard was very much at the forefront of the fight against HIV and AIDS in the UK during the 1980's.
It was clear to see that they had been there, supporting the LGBTQ+ community as each milestone arose. As we all re-emerge either, with new ways of working or returning to normal after the pandemic. We asked how they managed to stay connected to those in need during that trailing time of Lockdown. Jamie nodded "It really impacted how our services have grown. In March 2020 we took our first ever remote call, before then no call had ever been taken outside of the call room. We're doing it remotely and it changed the way we run and propelled us into a digital organisation."
March 2020 also saw the arrival of their emotional well-being support pack. Downloadable from their website to support individuals during this time. A much needed tool kit for some
We aspire to a society where all LGBTQ+ people are informed and empowered.
As part of Toff London's contribution to this great cause. We collaborated on the design of two limited edition watches. 10% of the proceeds will be donated to Switchboard's amazing charity during June. We wanted to hear what their thoughts were on this.
"Both designs are timeless" Jamie said. "The important part for Pride, is the inclusion of the progress Pride flag colours. Those colours celebrate the intersectionality of the LGBQT+ community. The Progressive Pride flag is representative of how far our community has developed. It's very symbolic of that and how far we have come in the last 50 years."
We couldn't resist from asking his opinion on the watches and if he had a favourite to which he responded "Hell yeah, flying the flag everyday!". Settling on the stainless steel design as he felt it was suited to him. Liking the simpleness of the design giving all the focus to the much deserving flag dial.
Jamie said the donations will support the "continued work at Switchboard. Helping us provide volunteers to provide calm words to the LGBTQ+ community when they need it the most."
Our volunteers will continue to provide support and information to the LGBTQ+ community and beyond until the day our phones stop ringing.
We believe Switchboard is an invaluable charity for the LGBTQ+ Community. Which is why we have pledged our support to their cause. We are spreading awareness of it and we would love it if you could too!