Origins & Purpose

Intercom began in the summer of 1997, when eight LGB people started meeting in Exeter to discuss our worries about gaps in local services for LGB people and Trans people.

There was a need for advocacy for people who encountered homophobic crime, prejudice or discrimination; there was a dreadful lack of community-led social and support groups for all ages and genders, especially in the rural areas; no-one was providing resources for schools, or campaigning for the needs of young LGB people; no-one was available to work with local government, health, or the business sector to reduce discrimination and provide vital awareness-training for staff and policy-makers.

The New Project, as we called it for the first few months, was going to try to do all those things, and it was going to be (above all) led by ordinary LGB people, and responsive to the broadest possible range of LGB community needs. It was never to lose sight of the fact that the great majority of LGB people in the peninsula are not very far Out, and have very good reasons (family, neighbours, work) for choosing not to be further Out than they are.

Intercom was originally an LGB organisation, but soon after its foundation it became an LGBT organisation.

On 9 September 1997 The New Project was formally set up as a charitable trust, with a long complicated constitution intended to guard and nourish our commitment to being broadly community-led; and it was renamed Intercom.

We called it Intercom to highlight the importance of intercommunication: intercommunication between isolated LGB people and community-led sources of support, and intercommunication between LGB people and the big public authorities which affect all our lives, such as schools, local government, health and the criminal justice system.

We were awarded a start-up grant of £4,700 by the National Lottery in December 1997, which was fantastically, indescribably important: it not only helped enormously with basic infrastructure costs (none of the Founders had any money), it gave us the confidence that other professionals valued the work we were trying to do. In 1998 Intercom became a registered charity (number 1171878). For the first fifteen months we ran Intercom in our spare time, from our own homes, trying to provide advocacy against discrimination and crime, and support local community groups, and start dialogue on LGB issues with public services and across the voluntary and community sector. In 1998 we helped the late, much-missed, Jonno Hindley to set up his Rainbow Café project in Exeter. In 1999 we moved into a one-room office near the Central Library. In autumn 2000 we welcomed our first employee, thanks to a Comic Relief grant to support our work for young people and in schools.

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