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London is on track to get its first LGBTQ+ community centre - with a little help from Manchester band The 1975.
This June, the four-piece's lead singer Matty Healy gave the centre's crowd-funded campaign an invaluable boost, by donating a generous £5000 to the campaign.
In an interview with The Observer, Healy explained why the centre is so crucial. "You might wonder why it is needed, and even ask yourself what exactly is everyone still scared of," he said. "But sadly, I think stigma still exists even in London and we still have some way to go."
Healy is right on the money. In fact, a report from earlier this year shows that last year saw a sharp rise in homophobic hate crime in the past year.
Campaigners have promised that the centre will provide a necessary resource for young LGBTQ+ people who might be having a tough time fitting in.
Michael Segalov, one of the volunteers, explained to the BBC: "Almost half of LGBT pupils still report to being bullied because of their sex, gender or identity. Having a space people can come to, to find support, to find community, to learn from their elders is vital."
It's true that London still plays host to many thriving gay nightspots - from poptastic Soho clubs, to all-night dancing in Vauxhall. But half of the capital's LGBT venues have actually closed in the past decade, including beloved spots like Hackney's The Joiner's Arms, Camden's Black Cat, and Soho's Madame Jojos.
And it's even harder to find LGBTQ+ spaces that aren't centered around booze.
"There aren't any physical spaces that are open, morning until night, free from alcohol, places that you don't have to spend money to be in," says volunteer Michael Segalov.
Matty Healy isn't the only household name that's supported London's LGBTQ+ centre.
Olly Alexander of the chart-topping pop band Years & Years encouraged his Twitter followers to donate, saying: "We need a London LGBTQ+ Centre!"
Drag queen and winner of Celebrity Big Brother Courtney Act gave money to the cause, and implored her fans to do the same.
Meanwhile, Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn said: "The LGBTQ+ community deserves a secure and open space to call their own. I support the London LGBTQ+ Centre, a project to build a visible and safe haven for LGBTQ+ people in London."
Generous donations pushed the London LGBTQ+ Centre's crowdfunding campaign over its original £50,000 goal, and helped the organisation reach a total of £102,541 - enabling the Centre to fully fit out its 4,000 square foot space in east London.
Organisers promise that the centre will "serve as a cafe employing LGBTQ+ people looking for work, a meeting point, a workspace and a social centre."
It will also help London's LGBTQ+ community to access services that are specific to their individual needs.
Their aim is to "create an information hub with research capabilities and a sign-posting service for those seeking support to discover the brilliant charities and organisations who specialise in LGBTQ+ specific service provision."
At the Centre's opening event this April, shadow home secretary Diane Abbott spoke to an audience about how far LGBTQ+ rights have come, and that there's still work to be done.
"When I first joined the Labour Party, you couldn't win a vote on LGBTQ+ rights," she said. "I've lived to see a Tory Prime Minister take through equal marriage, and that is a testimony to the campaigning and the struggle of the people in this room. But, there is still more to do."
Cities such as New York, Berlin and Manchester already have LGBTQ+ centres. It's about time that London followed suit.
Featured Image Credit: PA
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