Exploring the LGBTQ+ community's needs from public spaces


San Francisco has one, as does New York, Manchester, LA, Berlin and Zurich; but not London. The last 12 years have seen a closure rate of 58% of LGBTQ+ venues; a figure that is disproportionately higher than net losses in non-LGBTQ+ venues, showing that the LGBTQ+ community has been hit particularly hard.

Flamingo offered its consultancy and research expertise pro bono to a team of dedicated volunteers in the LGBTQ+ community, who are working to highlight and correct this issue via a project to open London’s first LGBTQ+ community centre. The project has received £100,000 in crowdfunding and has gained the support of Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.

Says Jordan Osserman, semiotician at Flamingo, who led the research: “More than ever, LGBTQ+ people have said that access to welcoming spaces is necessary for their life and culture to survive and thrive, and that recent closures exacerbate problems in the community around mental health, stigma and socio-economic opportunity. This is a savage blow to the most marginalised members of these groups, who suffer disproportionately from loneliness, isolation, lack of safety and community focus.”

Flamingo carried out work with a diverse group of LGBTQ+ Londoners, to assist the campaign to build and communicate its objectives clearly and support fundraising, and to understand the needs and aspirations of the LGBTQ+ community so that the eventual space can facilitate casual socialising, education and community building outside of traditional drinking locations.

Flamingo also examined the challenges faced by similar groups and opportunities for creating an LGBTQ+ ‘family’ for the proposed centre to serve as a platform and hub for existing groups.

Flamingo ran focus groups and friendship pair interviews with members of the LGBTQ+ community to fully explore their needs and requirements from such a venue; we also joined forces with the campaign volunteers to help them understand Londoners’ need for an LGBTQ+ centre and help the campaign build and communicate its proposition. Interviews with community leaders working at both LGBTQ+ organisations, and other community centres — from both inside and outside the LGBTQ+ community — also helped informed the vision of what the centre could, and should, offer. 

The Flamingo team also examined the meaning of ‘community’ via semiotic analysis, exploring how existing community spaces around the world create inclusive and welcoming environments, through architecture, tone of voice, layout, décor and other cues. 

With the initial fundraiser now complete, the campaign volunteers have begun the process of locating an appropriate space in Hackney, working with the Flamingo team to identify the core values underpinning the centre.

Milly Liechti