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Interview with the Outside Project

We speak to our jeweller Laik (they/them) about their incredible organisation the Outside Project, a grassroots charity and London-based LGBTIQ+ centre, shelter and domestic abuse refuge. Laik’s partner Carla (they/them) launched the organisation in 2017.

We’ve been working with the Outside Project since 2019. As well as supporting them with our Eclipse Eye Ring raffle this month, from this week onwards we will be accepting physical donations at our two store locations. Check out the details just after the interview!

1. What was the tipping point or catalyst for launching The Outside Project?

There wasn’t a single tipping point for us but a series of events around 2016. We got married 2 days before the Pulse massacre in Orlando. We went to the Art AIDS American exhibition at the Bronx Museum and visited the site of the Stonewall Riots during our honeymoon in New York. It infuriated us both that equal marriage in the UK was creating this facade of equality but underneath it, all our black, POC and trans community were still being killed because of hate crime and anti-LGBTIQ+ colonial laws, the lack of basic healthcare and housing for our community was still killing us.

We spoke at so many professional meetings looking for support and space to run the shelter but soon realised everyone just wanted free consultation on LGBTIQ+ homelessness. Nobody wanted to genuinely help us. But fortunately, the community had been listening the whole time, fundraising at drag shows and punk gigs to buy us a 12-bed tour bus and that’s where we ran the shelter from over winter 2017-18. 

Laik, a jeweller at TGF, and Carla their partner run the Outside Project.


2. What can people do in their local community to contribute and help support? 

Community support is everything especially when you live in an oppressive Tory country. When we first opened the LGBTIQ+ Centre and Shelter it was in a disused fire station and the local businesses and residents helped us so much. We’d open the front door to find food parcels. 

I think now more than ever with the rising cost of living it’s hard to start up anything, so keep a lookout for grassroots work in your area if you have any skills to share or spare money to give. Get in touch and find out what they need. 

Making time to fundraise and share local activists’ work is a great way to spread the word to those who might need support as well. 

3. Under what circumstances do the majority of your guests come to you, and what kind of difference have you made to their lives?

Our LGBTIQ+ Centre has open drop-in sessions and groups for all ages. Our Shelter is for 18+ and we don’t turn people away if they have complex mental health or addiction otherwise what’s the point? Our team are not just qualified to support those most marginalised in the community but they centre the needs of this group in everything else we do. 

Most people we meet have experienced violence or abuse. I’d say family abuse or hate including being kicked out of home is the main issue for our younger guests. Domestic abuse and people seeking asylum due to anti-LGBTIQ+ colonial laws are other main causes of homelessness we see. 

We have had many people arrive on their first day looking terrified and shaken up and just a few days later they’re dancing around the lounge and vogueing with new friends, going to a queer event for the first time or doing Tai chi. It says a lot [about] the power of community & being seen!

Our team are a diverse bunch, mostly trans and ranging from their twenties to their 70s. Everyone has someone they can relate to and build trust with. We’re a by and for space, so some of the team past and present, have lived with us and that’s just fucking beautiful to see. I think that reflects the importance of the work we do and the way we do it that guests want to join our crew. 

One of The Outside Project’s regular events.


4. What tangible action would you like to see from those in power who could seriously make a difference?

Stop treating the queer community as some flashy commodity whilst at the same accepting/participating in the removal of legislation that protects members of our community.

Over the past few years, we’ve seen action from the government which has led to the removal of vital trans policies in gov legislation. Whilst at the same time party members post backdrops of inclusive pride flags on their online presence. 

It’s been 53 years since the stonewall riot, which led to global protests & equal rights laws that now exist in the UK & our government has given more powers to the police to sanction protests. 

Now they’re threatening to overturn the human rights act… It’s pretty shocking & vile to witness. Tangible action if you’re in a position of power & want to affect change? Be brave & stand up against draconian legislation amendments. Use your voice, vote & influence to loudly oppose this tyranny + boost the voices & support the work of those most marginalised. #peopleoverprofit

5. What does the future hold for The Outside Project?

More space for homelessness queers! In the past year, our LGBTIQ+ Centre has grown from strength to strength, supporting people in our emergency accommodation and the wider community. We’re excited to be expanding services developed at the Centre like the weekly breakfast hub Cafe Queero which will soon move to its own Cafe. Also Star Refuge, the DV refuge we opened throughout the pandemic will open as a permanent project.  

6. What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the fight for LGBTIQ+ rights at the moment? 

It’s difficult to choose just one thing, but for me, I think the trans community has taken some real difficult blows of late. There are some incredible trans-led organisations pushing back, so please research & support them. But so much more needs to be done regarding allyship, compassion, acceptance & support. Globally & locally we owe so much to the trans leaders & community organisers that have paved the way before us. As someone who identifies as non-binary, I think we deserve a lot better.

From today until the end of August, bring the following items to either TGF East or TGF Soho, for us to donate to the Outside Project: 

  • Sports vouchers
  • Clothes vouchers
  • Trainers
  • Nail varnishes
  • Water bottles

Alternatively, donate items online through the Outside Project’s shop:

Store locations:

TGF Soho:
10 Ganton St, Carnaby, London W1F 7QR
020 7439 9357

TGF East:
1-4 Holywell Ln, London EC2A 3ET
020 7729 6240

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