The LGBT Society have been busy bees this year, with their Chair attending the NUS Delegates conference, launching campaigns, carrying on their queer film nights and launching a charity calendar.
We spoke to Alex Butler (English and Film Foundation Degree) and James Lovatt (1st Year Chemistry) on the eve of their Prom event, and chatted about Pride, upcoming projects and what else they’ve got planned.
Tell us a little bit about the society
James: “We are one of the oldest societies about…”
Alex: “Yes, we have been running a long time. I know that the society has been around for the last seven years. We are one of the largest societies on campus as well.”
James: “So our members identify as LGBT, and there are some allies too — I believe our treasurer is an ally. So besides having that one thing that ties everyone together, all our members are different. We have different year groups with people from foundation year to current graduates, across many different courses. So I do science courses, but we have people from English, Computer Technology, Art and Design, Film, Fashion — it goes across the spectrum.”
What has the society been up to this year?
Alex: “Andy Harmon, our Chair, went to the NUS Delegate conference this year as our campaigns officer. He liaises with the committee about NUS policies that have been passed, and how the committee should respond to them, if we should respond to them. Andy is also heading a campaign with Molly, the Campaigns Co-ordinator at The Union, which is called ‘Out in Education’. We’ll have more to share on that soon, but it’s to encompass the work the LGBT+ society has been doing around campaigning. The first project is a survey around transphobia, homophobia and biphobia, finding out more about students’ experiences on campus.
Back in January we started to do regular queer film nights. I think we’ve successfully run three of those now. We generally try to go for something with an LGBT+ theme, although the last film we showed was ‘The Nightmare before Christmas’, so the quality of the film varies! I think we’re planning to show student films at the next one. We have a lot of members of the society who work in film, so quite a lot of them have student films all about the LGBT+ community.
Earlier this year we launched a charity calendar, which was partly successful. We had most of the committee members take part, and we’re going to try and do another charity merchandise thing next year, possibly t-shirts using the design we’ll use for Pride.”
What events have you got coming up?
Alex: “So we’ve got the LGBT Prom tomorrow. As we’ve sort of skimped on events for the whole year, we thought we should probably splash out this time and not be so stingy. We decided to blow the budget on a load of decorations and rent out the top floor of The Salutation for a prom themed evening. There will be a few games, and we’ve got drag artists coming. We’ve got students across the board all coming together to have a prom — if you couldn’t have a prom when you were at school or if you felt you couldn’t go to prom, it’s for that. We’re also recognising our leavers and we’re coming together to celebrate their time here.”
James: “And we have an amazing cake.”
(Interviewer can confirm – the cake was amazing.)
What have you got planned for Pride this year?
Alex: “It’s still in the planning stage. Before the event, we will be getting the float ready. We’ll also possibly be doing a bit of online campaigning just to make students on campus aware it’s happening. We’ve got a whole range of ideas there — we’ve got a save the date article and a poster competition coming up so look out for those.”
James: “We’re going to be producing a logo and a theme and a poster and the plan is to plaster it across everything that we can stick it on to help unify us, so we have an MMU presence at Pride.”
Alex: “We’re going to try and produce leaflets or cards which have a fun fact on one side, but also to provide students with information about where to go, directions to The Union and safety and education information about being at Pride. We’ll try and point out safe spaces and where to report incidents, and maybe include fun facts about Pride, the society, the gay village and LGBT+ things in the city.”
How can students get involved?
Alex: “We’ll be doing a banner making session in July. Potentially we are going to be doing some make-up tutorials with Pride-themed makeup from some of the drag queens at our disposal.”
James: “Within Pride itself, the plan is to work with The Union and the University and try and arrange meet and greets so people can come and work out what they are doing that day, meet people and particular we want to try and interact with new freshers who have come to MMU. I didn’t want to come to Pride last year as I felt like I didn’t know anyone, and the people I was going to come with bailed on me at the last moment. The idea is to open it up so that more people can get involved and have the ability to interact with people and can make new friends and be aware of the society before they come to university.”
What else does the society get up to throughout the year?
Alex: “There is a lot of going out. We do monthly or bi-monthly socials, which are usually big going out evenings, which involve going to the village. We try and vary it up a little bit occasionally.”
James: “The village is so close and so central, and it’s the LGBT+ safe space in Manchester so it’s a perfect location to go out and meet people. Externally from the society, I’d say that people are mostly friends with their fellow members, just like you might make friends with your course mates or flat mates. I can easily spend most days with members of the society, not meeting up for any reason, just as mates. Without sounding cheesy, it’s almost as if the society becomes a family within itself. We keep in touch with our graduates, so people may finish university, but they don’t finish within the society — without making it sound like a mafia or cult — you can’t leave!”
What would you say to anyone interested in joining or getting involved in the society?
Alex: “Pick up your flag and your wig and get going!”
James: “If you’re open and you’d like to be a member, then go for it! Join us at the first opportunity which is probably fresher’s fair. If you are perhaps a little more discreet about being a member, you can of course sign up for any society online, and our socials will be advertised on our Facebook page, which is a closed group and we monitor carefully. We try and make it so you can get involved in a discreet way if that’s what you want, or you can be like Alex!”
Alex: “Our society acts as a sort of gateway into the community itself. The gay community in Manchester is very inclusive, but can be isolating to people outside of it, perhaps if you don’t know who to talk to. So we act as a way into that community.”
For more information about the society or if you want to get involved, check out their page.
Keep your eyes peeled for more information about Manchester Pride 2017.