Voluntary Sector Focus: Paul Ryder and Marcus Cotterill, founders of LGBT+ Sparkle Group Social Group | Wolverhampton Voluntary Sector Council

by James Clarke
1 month ago
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Tell us about your organisation, how you started and what you do?

About 8 years ago, there used to be an LGBT+ community hub where LGBT+ people could go but the funding ended and it closed.

Marcus and I decided to set up our group about 16 months ago. We started circulating information by email and through social media. A2B let us have a room one lunchtime per week for a social group and we were able to meet with other people. We did this for about 3 months then the pandemic hit.

Since Covid happened, we have gone online and have regular zoom meetings. We network with other organisations and professionals by sharing information. We also work closely with Healthwatch Wolverhampton; if any safeguarding or data protection issues come up within our online meetings, or if an individual needs support, we can signpost people to Healthwatch Wolverhampton and they take it from there.

We have covered various topics, for example, the myths around fostering regarding LGBT+ people, domestic violence and people from the Trans community sharing their coming out stories. The wider community has also been engaging with us.

What has been your greatest achievement?

Our greatest achievements are:

  • Putting on a virtual unofficial Pride online with 29 acts including me and Marcus as drag queens which we have been doing for about 2 years now. We didn’t have any funding. We worked with Cauldwell Children’s Charity which supports children with autism. They got a student to do the editing and it was all pre-recorded. We raised £220 for the charity and we were in the Express & Star: https://www.expressandstar.com/entertainment/2020/09/22/lgbt-group-holding-pride-event-for-charity/
  • As drag queens, we also raised £100 for HIV for the Royal NHS Trust at New Cross Hospital: https://www.royalwolverhampton.nhs.uk/media/press-release-archive/press-releases-2020/december-2020/drag-duo-to-mark-world-aids-day-to-raise-money-for-trust/
  • I was on Midlands Today as a Covid Community Champion. I talked about people’s fears in the LGBT+ community about the vaccine and whether it might affect people’s HIV medication and puberty blockers. We also put on a zoom meeting with a doctor talking about the vaccine and the LGBT+ community: 23 people came to listen which is the most people we have had at our zoom meetings.
  • The National Fostering Group Team spend a lot of time with the local community getting to know charities, groups, and organisations to help share knowledge and understanding about fostering. We worked with Amy from their Child Care Bureau agency and spoke to her about our group. The interview went out live on Saturday the 22nd May at 2.20pm: https://www.joinouradventures.com/

What is your experience of support received from WVSC?

We see and receive a lot of information from WVSC which is circulated and I’ve also attended meetings and gatherings online.

Sharon is helping us to find a treasurer and a secretary for our group, then we would like to apply for funding and will need support again. We also want to do more social events and fundraising for charities which WVSC can help us with.

What is the most valuable lesson you have learnt about working with people in Wolverhampton?

We’ve connected with a lot of people and organisations, particularly online and since Covid. Virtual meetings have helped our group to thrive and having different speakers at our online meetings has really helped us. I’ve learnt that people want to connect with us.

Not only have we connected with organisations in Wolverhampton but also from different parts of the UK including Derby, Manchester, Wales, Milton Keynes and London.

What are some of the challenges you face and how can WVSC help to support your organisation in the future?

There are challenges; we are still looking for a treasurer, WVSC has circulated this in the newsletter and on social media and we need a secretary too. We would then be able to set up formally and apply for funding.

Also, some people are digitally excluded, for example, through a learning disability, poor eyesight etc. and they can’t access information online. Not everyone wants to go online and they can get left behind.

I would like LGBT+ Sparkle Group to be a voice for LGBT+ people, to tackle the stigma of HIV/AIDS and to break down barriers through meetings and working with the community. It would be great if cafes, pubs, restaurants etc. had a sign saying they welcome LGBT+ people or were LGBT+ friendly for example.

For more information, please contact Paul Ryder or Marcus Cotterill on lgbtqsparkle@gmail.com or visit Facebook or Twitter.

Would you like to be featured in our Voluntary Sector Focus? Contact Sharon Nanan-Sen on snanan-sen@wolverhamptonvsc.org.uk for more info!