LGBT+ youth charity The Proud Trust has unveiled its new, state-of-the-art LGBT+ centre, which over the past four years, has undergone a massive £2.4million redevelopment thanks to the financial support and expertise of household name brands, multiple trusts, and the general public.
The Proud Place, cared for by The Proud Trust, based in Manchester but now serving the UK, is now a homely, welcoming space spanning three floors, where LGBT+ people can access youth and community groups and support workers, as well as making meaningful connections with peers in the LGBT+ community at a range of events.
The centre is proud to have been funded and supported by businesses and brands such as schuh, B&Q, Amazon, Post Office, Siemens, United Utilities, Talk Talk and many others, as well as grants up to £100,000 from local trusts and the generosity of the general public nationwide. Celebrities, dignitaries, funders and LGBT+ young people came together to officially open the centre to the public.
“It’s an honour for The Proud Trust to take care of such an important building on behalf of Manchester’s LGBT+ Community and we’re excited for this next chapter in our history,” said new CEO Lisa Harvey-Nebil.
“Our beautiful new home is such a far cry from the original building, which was built for privacy in the days when many people in our community were fearful of accessing services.”
Now a bright gold building that stands proudly where the old building stood, the centre has been transformed from a dark, gloomy and unwelcoming space; to one that has been designed to feel light, airy, open and to make visitors feel at ease and at home.
It’s A Sin star Nathaniel Hall, attended the opening and spoke about needing such a place in his early years: “The Proud Place is amazing – it is so beautiful. It feels like a place you can kick off your shoes and just relax and let the stresses of life fade away. It’s the place that I, definitely needed when I was 14, 15, 16 growing up and understanding my sexuality and navigating a homophobic world.
“To spend time with other people my age, like me, and grow and learn and connect would have been invaluable. Everyone needs to come down and experience it.”
Programme of events
The charity, with its new space is set to welcome 16,000 visitors each year, as well as launch a programme of events and digital projects to support LGBT+ young people nationally as well as regionally. The charity has collaborated with a long list of UK-based individuals, organisations and businesses to create a space they are extremely proud of.
In 2020 the charity said a fond farewell to the centre that had been a home to the community for over 30 years. The shiny new proudly gold building, The Proud Place, now nestles in the very same spot on Sidney Street in the city. The purpose-built centre will enable the charity and its partners to support triple the amount of LGBT+ people nationwide with a wide range of free, inclusive youth projects, support services, community opportunities, events and more.
Beautiful new homw
Lisa continued: “The LGBT+ Centre has achieved an incredible positive impact over the past thirty years. However, our surroundings were letting us down somewhat as they fell into a state of disrepair, but not anymore. Our beautiful new home is such a far cry from the original building, which was built for privacy in the days when many people in our community were fearful of accessing services. It stands proudly with an openness we all wanted to project across the city.
“The forward-thinking of all our funders and supporters has enabled this transformation. This new building, that many say feels like a home, secures the future of the charity’s life changing and saving work. This new space will allow us to offer our services and make a massive difference to the lives of young people.”
The new building comprises three floors, all of which have been designed as light, airy, open spaces to make visitors feel at ease and at home. It was also created to be kind to the environment as well as the people who use it. Sustainability and energy efficiency were front of mind at every stage of the planning and building process. Furthermore, the centre is a celebration of local talent and history which is weaved into the very fabric of the building.
Local artists including Hammo, Sarah Joy Ford, Meha Hindocha, Jay Neville and Seleena Daye were commissioned to create original themed artworks.
The Lord-Lieutenant of Greater Manchester, Sir Warren Smith, who attended the launch and spoke to those in attendance said: “Buildings in themselves shouldn’t be important, it’s what goes on in the building that’s important, but in this particular case – the building matters. This centre was the first of its kind in the whole of Europe when it first opened. It makes a real statement and should be something that Manchester is really proud of.
“I was the first openly gay Lord-lieutenant in 500 years of history, I must admit it was a challenging route. When I was appointed 15 years ago, the letter came from the palace that the queen was aware of my sexuality, and I was always welcome to bring a same-sex partner to any royal event. That was the first time in my life I felt I was an average citizen. Before then I always felt like a second-grade citizen. I don’t want anyone to ever go through that.
“I went through forty years of being mocked. This organisation will eventually change that, and I am so proud to be a part it. Well done to you all, let’s go from success to success.”
Never looked back
Simone, 24, a service user of The Proud Trust said; “It means so much to be here today. To see it all finally complete, it very much feels like now everything can start.
“I first came to The Proud Trust as a young person to help me with getting employment, they supported me on my options, as I hadn’t been out long as a trans woman and I wanted to know my options and if I would be protected and safe.
“Ever since then I have never looked back. I am actually hoping to start my own group as I am ageing out of the groups now aged 24, to support those, as I was, by the team.”
Another young person who relies on the Proud Trust’s youth groups and supportive services is Amber: “I have used the Proud Trust youth groups for about a year now to make new friends and be in a good, welcoming environment. I think The Proud Place is a really good space for young people, just like me, to come and feel part of a community.”
Inclusion for all
schuh, one of the funders, managing director Colin Temple, who has been part of the successful fashion footwear chain for over 35 years, was in attendance as the charity opened its doors to the public this week. He spoke of their continued support of The Proud Trust and what the new centre means to young people across the UK: “Working with the Proud Trust helps us further understand the key issues for young LGBT+ people and opportunities. We want to continually educate ourselves and our teams, customers, and the wider community.
“We want to use our platform to highlight The Proud Trust, offer support to young people and signpost useful resources.
“We’re committed to equal opportunities and inclusion for all. Our mission is to support everyone of all sexualities and gender identities to express themselves, celebrate and explore their unique talents.
“We are proud to have contributed to the rebuilding of the centre so it can continue to offer life-changing services to LGBT+ young people. Everyone deserves to be proud of who they are, but it is something you can easily take for granted. This centre is literally a shining example of being proud of who you are.”
Hope and support
schuh, was among 29 businesses and brands that made the rebuild possible through not only donating financially via the charity’s “buy a brick’ campaign, but also monetary donations of varying amounts and further supporting with expertise from sourcing to logistics throughout the design and build process. A physical wall of thanks displaying the names of corporate funders and individuals is now displayed on the roof terrace and can also be viewed virtually here: https://www.theproudtrust.org/theproudplace/
Lisa ended: “We’ve come a long way from 1988 and The Proud Place, cared for by The Proud Trust, proudly reflects that, we hope it will be a centre that provides joy, warmth, hope, support, solace, and optimism for all its users for many years to come.”