Researching the history of the Birmingham Gay Community Centre

Catherine Muxworthy July 22, 2022

Ryan Kearney is a Birmingham-based researcher currently looking into the history of Birmingham’s LGBTQ+ venues. As part of this work, he is exploring the history of the Birmingham Gay Community Centre in Digbeth – from 1976 to 1979 – which was one of the first LGBTQ+ community centres in the UK.

“The work on Birmingham’s Gay Community Centre forms part of a larger project called Queer Space Archive (QSA), which aims to collect and share histories relating to LGBTQ+ venues including clubs, bars, and community centres,” Ryan tells Scene.

QSA is responding to the lack of visual records of LGBTQ+ venues in archives, and the continuing threat these spaces are under across the UK. In Birmingham, in particular, a quarter of venues have closed since 2019.

Ryan is inviting participants “to share their experiences, document how they remember the building and help produce a new archive of LGBTQ+ venues across Birmingham”. In order to fulfil this research, participants will take part in a 45-minute interview at the Birmingham LGBTQ+ centre in the village.

They will be asked to draw a diagram of how they remember the venue, and talk through it as though they were walking through the front door. “This method aims to create a visual document while aiding the describing of experiences in space”.

This method has already been used in “a previous project, The Club’s Conception (or How the Egg Was Cracked), where attendees of the Nightingale Club drew floor plans of its past venues, creating a visual and verbal archive of now-demolished spaces.”

The Club’s Conception


“Birmingham Gay Community Centre is significant because it was one of the first of its kind in England, influencing the formation of centres in Manchester and London which came afterwards,” explains Ryan.

“The centre was funded by donations and run entirely by volunteers, who converted a series of three dilapidated Victorian terraces into offices and meeting spaces for charities Gay Switchboard and Friend; a library of gay and lesbian literature; a café; and a discotheque in the basement.

“The building still stands in Digbeth, moments away from the HS2 development where similar structures have been demolished.”

For those interested in further information or taking part in the interviews, get in touch with Ryan via email: