LGBT+ youth charity The Proud Trust has unveiled its new, state-of-the-art LGBT+ centre, which over the past four years, has undergone a massive £2.4million redevelopment thanks to the financial support and expertise of household name brands.

The centre, based on Sidney Street in Manchester, is proud to have been funded and supported by businesses and brands such as Trafford Housing Trust, schuh, B&Q, Amazon, Post Office, Siemens, United Utilities, Talk Talk and many others.

New in position CEO Lisa Harvey-Nebil and the ever-growing team at The Proud Trust would like to thank the following organisations and individuals for their help in making its dreams of a new LGBT+ Community Centre for Manchester a reality.

“Following years of fundraising, a massive £2.4m was raised from supportive funders and donors, including really big household names as well as Manchester City Council, The Big Lottery Reaching Communities Fund, Greater Manchester Combined Authority, major trusts and foundations and donations from the public,” said Lisa Harvey-Nebil.

We honestly couldn’t have realised this transformation without them, and it’s been an epic journey.”

In 2020 the charity said a fond farewell to the centre that had been a home to the community for over 30 years. The shiny new proudly gold building, The Proud Place, now nestles in the very same spot on Sidney Street in the city. The purpose-built centre will enable the charity and its partners to support triple the amount of LGBT+ people nationwide with a wide range of free, inclusive youth projects, support services, community opportunities, events and more.

Lisa continued: “The LGBT+ Centre has achieved an incredible positive impact over the past thirty years. However, our surroundings were letting us down somewhat as they fell into a state of disrepair, but not anymore. Our beautiful new home is such a far cry from the original building, which was built for privacy in the days when many people in our community were fearful of accessing services. It stands proudly with an openness we all wanted to project across the city.

“The forward-thinking of all our funders and supporters has enabled this transformation. This new building, that many say feels like a home, secures the future of the charity’s life changing and saving work. This new space will allow us to offer our services make a massive difference to the lives of young people.”

Zoe Taylor, Communities Manager at Trafford Housing Trust, commented on their £100,000 grant towards to centre: “Trafford Housing Trust is pleased and excited to be part of the next chapter of The Proud Trust and to have supported the creation of their new building, The Proud Place. It is vital that young people can access a safe place where they can find support for their sometimes diverse and complex issues, as well as becoming a community hub for the LGBT+ population.

“Our support for The Proud Trust is part of our wider commitment to the LGBT+ community, which has included funding the delivery of training for front line staff supporting LBGT+ young people and providing telephone support for young people during lockdown and beyond.”

The Lord-Lieutenant of Greater Manchester, Sir Warren Smith, who attended the launch and spoke to those in attendance said: “Buildings in themselves shouldn’t be important, it’s what goes on in the building that’s important, but in this particular case – the building matters. This centre was the first of its kind in the whole of Europe when it first opened. It makes a real statement and should be something that Manchester is really proud of.

“I was the first openly gay Lord-lieutenant in 500 years of history, I must admit it was a challenging route. When I was appointed 15 years ago, the letter came from the palace that the queen was aware of my sexuality, and I was always welcome to bring a same-sex partner to any royal event. That was the first time in my life I felt I was an average citizen. Before then I always felt like a second-grade citizen. I don’t want anyone to ever go through that.

 “I went through forty years of being mocked. This organisation will eventually change that, and I am so proud to be a part it. Well done to you all, let’s go from success to success.”

 A young person who relies on the Proud Trust’s youth groups and supportive services is Amber: “I have used the Proud Trust youth groups for about a year now to make new friends and be in a good, welcoming environment. I think The Proud Place is a really good space for young people, just like me, to come and feel part of a community.”

Councillor Bev Craig, leader of Manchester City Council was in attendance to celebrate the opening, she said: “I think it’s brilliant, fantastic youth space right at the heart of the city. It blends the history of Manchester’s commitment to LGBT+ community in the past and what we have done so far but it also sets a real clear mark that actually in this city going forward LGBT+ young people have got a great, welcoming space.

“The Proud Trust has moved with the times. I’ve watched it grow to recognise diversity not just in Manchester, but the northwest and nationally as it opens its doors today. It’s important to recognise the world has changed since I was a young, gay teenager coming out at 14 back in Northern Ireland facing all sorts of different challenges before moving to Manchester but not everyone’s world has moved on as much as we would like it.

“I know from the young people I speak to, that whilst society is becoming more accepting and whilst there’s been some great legislative changes, still in some of our communities we have a lot of work to do. I also think in particular watching how trans people, and trans young people have been demonised in the media, it really shows the need for organised support to make sure LGBT+ young people in the city and nationwide are getting the support they need.”

Lisa ended: “We’ve come a long way from 1988 and The Proud Place, cared for by The Proud Trust, proudly reflects that, we hope it will be a centre that provides joy, warmth, hope, support, solace, and optimism for all its users for many years to come.”