On Friday 27th May, LGBT+ youth charity The Proud Trust, unveiled its new, state-of-the-art LGBT+ centre, THE PROUD PLACE which over the past four years has undergone a massive £2.4million redevelopment.
The Proud Place, cared for by The Proud Trust, based on Sidney Street, is now a welcoming space spanning three floors, where LGBT+ people can access youth and community groups and support workers, as well as make meaningful connections with peers in the LGBT+ community at a range of events.
The new opening sparks a new era for the charity in which it will now offer its services nationally for the first time. Celebrities and people of importance across Manchester attended the celebration to cut the ribbon and unveil 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’.
Newly appointed Lord Mayor of Manchester, Donna Ludford, spoke about the importance of the centre and charities just like The Proud Trust as she cut the ribbon: “My daughter is gay, and if she would’ve had somewhere like this to come when she was coming out, it would have been life changing for her. If Manchester, and now the UK, had lost this centre, we would have lost a huge part of the community.
“Young people need to feel accepted in society, they will feel that here. Struggling with your identity, and the ‘who am I, where do I fit in here’ part, which my daughter did at age 14, can be very difficult for young people. To be able to come here and know there is other people just like you, is what’s needed for LGBT+ young people up and down the country. Everyone needs to just be who they are.
“I am very proud to be here today.”
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 Manchester-based individuals, organisations and businesses to create a space they are extremely proud of.
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. The library is inspirational in my eyes. Everyone needs to come down and experience it.”
At the heart of the building is The Proud Place’s heritage library. Surrounded by yellow bricks that echo the original 1988 building’s design, the library features the original ‘gay centre’ sign as well as newspaper clippings documenting the Centre’s history from the 1970s through to today. As well as the main downstairs space being decorated with a timeline, aptly named ‘This is how we got here’ of the centre’s journey spanning over 30 years.
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.”
The development of The Proud Place was made possible by the generosity of organisations such as schuh, B&Q, Amazon, Post Office, Siemens, United Utilities, Talk Talk, as well as Manchester City Council, The Big Lottery Reaching Communities Fund, Greater Manchester Combined Authority, and major trusts such as Trafford Housing Trust and foundations and donations from the public. A physical wall of thanks displaying the names of corporate funders and individuals is displayed on the roof terrace and can also be viewed virtually here: The Proud Place- Manchester’s LGBT+ Community Centre
Councillor Bev Craig, leader of Manchester City Council commented on the opening: “I think it’s brilliant, fantastic youth space right at the heart of the city. It blends the history of Manchester’s commitment to LGBT+ community in the past and what we have done so far but it also sets a real clear mark that actually in this city going forward LGBT+ young people have got a great, welcoming space.
“The Proud Trust has moved with the times. I’ve watched it grow to recognise diversity not just in Manchester, but the northwest and nationally as it opens its doors today. It’s important to recognise the world has changed since I was a young, gay teenager coming out at 14 back in Northern Ireland facing all sorts of different challenges before moving to Manchester but not everyone’s world has moved on as much as we would like it.
“I know from the young people I speak to, that whilst society is becoming more accepting and whilst there’s been some great legislative changes, still in some of our communities we have a lot of work to do. I also think in particular watching how trans people, and trans young people have been demonised in the media, it really shows the need for organised support to make sure LGBT+ young people in the city and nationwide are getting the support they need.”
The new building comprises of 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.
Lisa ended: “Manchester is such a wonderful and iconic city and it’s been our home for over thirty years. We knew we wanted to incorporate as much of it in our transformation as we possibly could. We have been overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity of not only other businesses and organisations but extremely talented individuals.”
“We’ve come a long way from 1988 and our new building proudly reflects that, we hope it will be a centre that provides joy, warmth, hope, support, solace, and optimism for all of its users for many years to come.”
The Proud Place, 49-51 Sidney St, Manchester, M1 7HB
0161 660 3347