We found this article written in August 15th 2011 by Natasha Bell (a volunteer for Reading Pride at the time) for the Get Reading Website.
Almost every weekend over the 2011 summer, a Pride event will be held to celebrate Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) people’s rights and diversity. Reading Pride will be on Saturday, September 3.
Natasha Bell speaks to Simon Hallam and John Wood to gain an insight into the everyday reality of being in the LGBT community over the last 20 years.
Simon Hallam, landlord of The Wynford Arms pub, worked part time in The Tudor Arms in the 1980s. The pub held twice-weekly gay discos before it closed early in 1987.
In the next six years occasional gay nights were held in and around Reading, most notably Tuesday nights, first at Coopers and then at The 3Bs.
In that time, Simon trained to take on a pub himself and volunteered on the Reading Lesbian and Gay Helpline (now known as BeYou).
In 1992 he and fellow Helpline volunteer Sue Green bought The Wynford Arms, which opened on October 3, 1992.
In the 1980s and early 1990s there was high intolerance of homosexuality, so opening a gay pub was a challenging and risky business.
“There was a lot of reluctance from brewers to have a gay pub,” says Simon. “I wanted to provide a safe space in Reading for gays and lesbians to meet, and this happened from the goodwill of the community.”
Simon has a publican’s insight into changing attitudes about LGBT issues. “Not only do we now have a much larger gay scene with pubs and clubs but also social networking sites where people can meet and interact,” he says. “For around five years Reading had no regular venue, so going to London or other towns with gay pubs was the norm.
“I’m delighted to say that nearly 20 years on, The Wynford is open 365 days a year, providing space for the gay and lesbian community in and around Reading.’
John Wood also began his work in the LGBT community through volunteering for the Reading Lesbian and Gay Helpline. John moved to Reading from Southampton in 1984 and since then has had a massive impact on the community groups in the area. As one of only 15 people taken on, he was instrumental in setting up the Aids Helpline in the early 1980s. He joined No.5 Children’s Counselling and the Berkshire Older Lesbian and Gay Forum in the early 1990s, ReachOut in 1993 and the Berkshire Anti-Homophobia Group in 1997. He says the gay scene has changed massively during his time volunteering in Reading.
“Some people’s attitudes toward homosexuality have changed for the better and some for the worse,” he says. “Young people today treat equality as their right, but they don’t realise how much people had to fight to get us where we are today. “Having a Pride in Reading was unthinkable 20 years ago. It would never have happened.” There’s still a long way to go, he says.
“People’s attitudes are still in the wrong frame and the only way to change this is through education. “If we are open and honest and explain then it will become more accepted. “The use of ‘gay’ as a derogatory term must end to stop the negative image and marginalisation of the LGBT community. But education has to be global to work.”
Since this article was written, BeYou is mostly a coffee meeting once a month, with Support U offering a full service delivery for the LGBT Community.