Taking Libertas

February 11, 2009

York based Lesbian bookshop “Libertas” was once known as a beacon of light in a sea of isolation.

Sadly the day of the specialist bookstore has come and gone. Even the the big high-street chains have had several years of trouble seeing a string of mass mergers between the mainstream book and multimedia retailers, companies that have established links and distribution contracts with one of the main gay mafia “families” also in the same business.

Dillons was bought by HMV, Ottakers was taken over by Waterstones which became a subsidiary of HMV. The group proceeded to take over a number of stores from struggling rivals including Fopp and 8 Books etc stores from rival Borders UK. The market now consists of three key players – Virgin, WHSmith and HMV (HMV have been poised to take WHSmith over).

Despite being a relatively small, local operation based in a small shop in York,  it’s owners quick thinking and success in mastering the mail-order market had paid off. Only 4 years after it was founded the company became “Europe’s Number 1 Lesbian Bookstore”. Sadly the actual bookshop itself which also sold gifts, greetings cards and specialist Lesbian products and local merchandise operated at a loss but stayed open despite facing an uphill battle.

The founders of Libertas are now retired and approaching their 70’s. It’s obvious they cared a great deal about their romantic little lesbian bookshop and must have been heartbroken to be forced to close shop for the last time in 2004. The actual bookshop itself wasn’t just a shop, it was a meeting place for Lesbians and other Women from all over the country. Something that to this day is missing although that does continue to some extent through the York Lesbian Arts Festival that was founded by a group of Women who used to meet at the shop. Various other Women’s groups, reading clubs and small businesses also used the premises including the once independent “DykeLife” newsletter, a free community alternative to the mainstream women’s mags such as DIVA.

The famous Lesbian colonies that still exist throughout the small villages of Yorkshire such as Hebden Bridge weren’t the only people who saw Libertas as refreshing. As the country’s only Lesbian bookshop it also offered gay, bisexual and trans women a national alternative to the male dominated gay lifestyle stores like Clone Zone and Prowler.

When it was announced the shop may be forced to close various reports and letters appeared in the gay press from it’s supporters expressing their shock and dismay. This is a slightly different story than the one portrayed by the Millivres Prowler Group – owners of rival online book store “DIVA Direct”, DIVA magazine (as well as many other titles including GayTimes, AXM, the Pink Paper as well as owning their own chain of gay lifestyle shops and publishing houses) which claimed they were stepping in as the bookshop’s saviors and would keep it alive through the established Libertas online store.

As a result, Millivres Prowler completely took the operation over and moved operations to it’s London office. Two years later the group relaunched DykeLife as a glossy magazine and filled it with targeted advertising and placements for it’s own products, capitalising on the acquisition of the 7,000 strong subscriber base built on the bones of the grassroots alternative it once was.

Despite the claims by the Millivres Prowler Group that the spirit of the bookshop would continue through the continued existence of the Libertas online store at http://www.libertas.co.uk which now redirects to “DIVA Direct”. It’s final remnants exist as the “Libertas forum” – a message board for reviewing titles available through DIVA Direct.

Today it appears Libertas is well and truly dead, although spinning in her grave – May she rest in peace.

Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend.  Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.
~Groucho Marx

“What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world an loses his own soul?”
~Robert Fulghum

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Manchester Pride – The Truth About Where Your Wristband Money Really Went…

August 22, 2008

The shocking truth is that LESS THAN 0.8% of the total £803,000 Manchester Pride generated in 2007 went to the LGBT community groups that the public have been mislead into believing is the main reason for it’s existence.

After Manchester Pride 2007, the organisers claimed out of the £803,000 income in 2007, £95,000 apparently went to good causes. THE TRUTH is over £70,000 of that went to either the LGF or GHT despite both charities being two of the biggest and already well funded. This leaves less than £25,000 for LGBT groups other than the LGF and GHT… but that’s not quite true either!

Considering the maximum grant groups could apply for was £1,500 the sums do add up when you see the published list of 17 groups shared around £1,470 each. HOWEVER many of these groups are actually LGF CORE SERVICES you no doubt will have heard of. THIS IS FRAUD. They are denying other groups and organisations access to funding YOU have been kind enough to pay for. They are undoubtedly STEALING from the LGBT COMMUNITY plus anyone who has gone to the trouble of purchasing a Big Weekend Wristband, and leaving other worthwhile causes with an insulting 6% (less than 0.8% of Pride’s overall income) of what’s actually left once they’ve taken their cut.

This “Ghost Ship” of “Good Causes” listed as “Our Groups and Services” on the LGF website and in the majority of their corporate literature or are in actual fact run by or at least in very close partnership with the Lesbian and Gay Foundation (LGF) Icebreakers, 40+ Men’s Group, Gay Married Men’s Group, Stepping Stones, Black LGBT Group, Northern Wave, Rainbow Families, Carousel, Keshet, Pride Sports and “The Art Class”. Literature outlining the LGF’s core services states “The LGF provides and develops services and activities which work towards improvements in health and quality of life for lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgendered people. Our group work -Stepping Stones and Icebreakers (coming out groups for women and men respectively); Married Men’s Group, for men who are or have been in heterosexual relationships and feel attracted to other men; the 40+ Gay Men’s Group; Carousel, a black LGBT group.” If these groups and services the LGF obviously do run, and have run for many years don’t cover the above remit what part of it’s work does? Further to that, few, if any of these groups, either by name or direct involvement proactively include the Transgendered community. Despite this claim, the LGF’s own literature including it’s monthly publication “OutNorthWest” is regularly inconsistent in their use of the term “Transgender” – or lack of it.

Age Concern and Queer Up North also received an as yet undisclosed sum of funding from the pride bucket in 2007. These two organisations are very well funded and already have many existing sources of income. It’s is a positive step to see Age Concern are at last making a concious attempt to support some of society’s most isolated and at risks groups of people, so why does their work around older LGBT’s have to rely on applying for relatively tiny pots of funding from Manchester Pride to sustain this important area of their work? What fraction of Age Concern’s £14 Million annual turnover goes towards running services for older LGBT people?

Queer Up North is run by the North West Tourist board and Manchester City Council. It just received a grant (most was to pay it’s director and support staff) of over £100,000 this year – which dwarfs the combined incomes of pretty much all the other groups funded by Manchester Pride (other than the LGF and GHT) listed above. Youth Groups promised they would benefit from events and activities run by Queer Up North and their new found £100k+ arts funding have failed to be contacted by the organisation. Local artists who should have been supported by Queer Up North have been snubbed by Queer Up North in favour of paying for performers from all over the world to fly in to Manchester.

“Women’s Space” is listed as a being a part of Manchester Pride’s Big Weekend within the ticketed gay village compound. It aims to provide “a day of events to amuse, inform and entertain. There will be a wide range of entertainment to reflect the diversity of the lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered women’s communities including bands, cabaret acts, dance, performance, poets, book readings, DJs and comediennes” and runs on Sunday between midday til 11pm. Members of the Lesbian Community Project fought for many years for Women’s Space to become a reality and it is a testament to their determination and perseverance that it still takes place each year.

Considering the mammoth budget provided for the “Big Weekend” to take place and the entry fee of over £20 (not including the extra booking fee) festival-goers are asked to pay to get in to the gay village to enter Women’s Space in the first place the question should be, why isn’t funding set aside for Women’s Space just like all the over Big Weekend events? Why does Women’s Space have to apply each year in this manner so they can have the privilege of running their own event that charges people to enter but then. Women’s Space should automatically be funded fully by the Manchester Pride piggy-bank. It is not.

The only other local LGBT groups that got any funding from Manchester Pride 2007 (and there are many more who remain unfunded as far as we know) were four relatively small, independent, self-governing groups without a direct connection to the Lesbian and Gay Foundation, who are the most genuine and needy of all the groups funded by Manchester Pride. These four groups were Biphoria, Manchester Parents Group, Lesbian Community Project, Young Women’s Peer Health Project (LIK:T). It’s also startling to know these groups have been charged to run stalls in the Lifestyle Expo which used to be free of charge to small groups. Groups not listed have been turned away yet again this year.

How has a situation occurred whereby the LGF are allowed to apply for MULTIPLE sums of Manchester Pride’s funding under different names whilst other legitimate local groups and organisations are only permitted to apply once? Many of these smaller groups face the constant treat of closure, have few if any actual paid staff but still engage with as many people if not more than the LGF do?

JUST WHO THE HELL DO THEY THINK THEY ARE?

Taken from Gay Mafia Watch – Blowing the Whistle on corporate exploitation of the LGBT Community in Britain today. https://gaymafiawatch.wordpress.com