The Queer Bragenda

We’re organising the way we’re organising, not as a product of shared political allegiances, but out of a need to do things in the most fair way. In the most fun way. And I’ve learnt in doing this project that fair and fun are often synonymous. We don’t have a central figure in charge, because it wouldn’t be fair on everyone else in the project to not have their voices heard, and it wouldn’t be fun for the central figure to be responsible for things going wrong. At some point we felt the need for a treasurer, someone to keep an eye on our finances, but it didn’t seem fair to lump one person with that job, so we made it a rotating role. When we got our first letter from the council we felt the need to have a secretary, someone to look after the various official documents we were going to have to handle, but that didn’t seem much fun, so we put the documents in a filing cabinet and wrote ‘SECRETARY’ on it. Rather than having one person in charge of managing information, we make the information freely accessible to anyone in the group. We can be leaner and more agile this way. It’s also more fun.

We’re doing what we’re doing because it was something we needed. We’ve felt the lack of a queer-focused, free-to-use space and the best way to get that was to do it ourselves. We don’t have much money, and we didn’t want to run the space in a way that only catered to people with money, so we needed to do as much as we possibly could for free. Squat the building, skip the food, tat the rest. That way we don’t need to wring our hands thinking up the best way to extract money from our community every month to make up rent or pay off our other overheads, and it makes the service more accessible. Everyone who is involved in the project volunteers their time, and we love doing what we’re doing. Whether I’m organising an event, cooking stuff in the kitchen or pushing a mop around the toilets, I am having the time of my life. Never before have I felt so connected to my labour, and I have worked all sorts of jobs in the past.

But we’re all exhausted. It’s taking a lot of work, and across very few people, to do this project. As things stand, what we’re doing is unsupportable in the long-term. Which is really sad, but also really avoidable. When we work on this project, we feel really connected to the work we’re doing. The worry is that when you guys come into the space, you don’t feel as connected to it, you don’t feel like it’s yours. But it is! For this project to have longevity we need more people to come in and start getting involved. You can get involved with daily tasks like cooking, cleaning and skipping, or the more long-term organisation stuff like networking with local compaigns, booking or running workshops and working on promotion.As much as you want to be involved in this you can be.

We never wanted to be service-providers. The model that most charities use- of extracting money from the more priveleged to provide a service for the needy- seems problematic, in that the service users ultimately feel alienated from the service itself. This project was never intended to work that way, we want to have no distinction between service-users and service-providers. We should be a community that provides for itself. A community that doesn’t petition existing structures, that doesn’t ask for permission. We should work together, look after each other. We should take the things we need and share them amongst ourselves.

To re-iterate; the space is open. Anything you’d like to run or organise here, just let us know. Come and cook, put on a talk, organise a film night. The energy involved in running the space has been snowballing from the start – more people have gotten involved, and started organising things. But we need more, and we’re a long way from reaching the capacity of what this space can offer. Come to open meetings or just drop by, everybody’s welcome (apart from cops).

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6 Responses to The Queer Bragenda

  1. I applaud what you’re doing and wish you luck… I have to say that I’m not surprised to read that you’re getting tired. I do “community development” for a living (if you can call it that lol) I used to run the London Lesbian and Gay Centre. I have not yet seen a successful community project that has not at some point bitten the bullet and given people roles and job descriptions. I am NOT saying you will HAVE to go that way, just that you’ve chosen the hardest way to do it and that the more success you have, the harder it is likely to become. -Which would be a bad reason to stop! I hope you get the support you need.

    All best wishes!

  2. H says:

    Have you thought about a Facebook group (in addition to the page)? Personally I really want to get involved, and I’ve found the page really good for getting news about the centre, but with the set-up as it is I’ve found it quite difficult to get connected with people that would be willing to run or attend events, and as I am quite far away from you and often busy so I can’t just drop in. As posting on the page just posts it to the HoB timeline, only people that access the page directly are aware of it. With a group, unless someone has specifically turned their notifications off for that group, everyone should be notified of every post made, regardless of who the post is by (and everyone can create events and invite the whole group, etc). I’ve had pretty good luck using groups for a feminist collective I’m involved with and a uni LGBT club that I was.

    The only obvious issues with using an open group is that a) everyone’s names will be easily available (solved by using sockpuppet FB accounts?) and b) it’s really easy for police etc. to see what we’re up to, but as long as everything remains above board it should be okay?

    xx

  3. G. says:

    I love what you stand for, we queers need a space we can call our own, although my time is limited once you asked for help I had no doubt, I wanted to get involved. I wrote my name down for the cafe and this Sunday afternoon I made my way over there. One of you guys knew I was coming over (apart from my name being on the board I told him the previous night) I got there 10-15 minutes late and to my surprise the door was boarded up with a sign saying “come back tomorrow” and this person’s phone switched off. I left a message but he never got back to me.

    Now, respectfully guys, this is not on, if you don’t need/want help please don’t ask for it but if you do, treat those who offer the help with the same respect you expect towards yourselves. Pretty please.
    I know the situation is tense at the moment and you guys are under pressure but please don’t do this, we are just trying to help, if you want us to, that is 🙂

    Thanks and all the best.

    • houseofbrag says:

      Dear G

      We are so sorry that this has happened. We were open on Sunday… the sign might not have been changed to ‘Open..’, but there were people coming in and out all day, and the doorbell was working, so I’m really sorry that you weren’t able to get in. I did receive a missed call I missed picking up by only a few minutes, but as the number was private I was unable to respond. At that time I went outside to the road to see if we had missed you – and we must have missed you by a few minutes. This is a really unfortunate event, and we are sincerely sorry that it happened.

      We really really appreciate your volunteering to help, as you know, we are very much in need of extra help, so we do hope you feel that you would like to come and help again.

      Whatever you decide, we hope to see you here again.

      Brags

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