‘We must not let the pendulum swing back’: Camden and Islington LGBTQ+ charity chief on the fight for equality

Charles Dean, chair of Camden and Islington LGBTQ+ charity forum+. Picture: Charles Dean

Charles Dean, chair of Camden and Islington LGBTQ+ charity forum+. Picture: Charles Dean - Credit: Archant

Half a century ago, the Stonewall riot in New York saw the LGBTQ+ community stand up against police discrimination.

In 2019 in north London, people are still kicked out of their homes on the basis of their sexuality or gender identity.

In Camden and Islington, forum+, the charity once known as the Camden and Islington LGBTQ+ Forum, works to advocate for those people, and others who are victims of hate crimes.

Founded in 2002, it has ditched the boroughs from its name in a rebrand designed to increase its reach across London.

Its chair, Charles Dean, spoke to this newspaper about his role, and what forum+ continues to do to promote equality and diversity.

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Charles, who lives in Stratford but "has a long association with both boroughs" and even worked for Islington Council, said: "We were set up to support victims of hate crime and to expand equality and diversity across the borough - to try and make a safer and more supportive community."

"We have had people that have been assaulted, people who have been evicted by their landlords. We have also been to court to help support people giving witness statements. And we are just a small charity."

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Unfortunately, Charles said, hate crime is clearly still an issue in north London - there have been a number of high-profile cases this year, while becoming homeless due to discrimination still happens.

He said: "Sad to say, yes it's a regular occurrence."

Charles continued: "I think the progress has been immense. In terms of the equality that we now have it's superb - we have protections in law unimaginable in other parts of the world.

"But the other side of that is we have people who's behaviour is abhorrent." "Not being discriminated against is a human right. In many countries same sexual relationships are still banned. I think our rights here have been hard fought for, but we must not let the pendulum swing back."

Forum+ run LGBTQ+ History Month across Camden and Islington - "the largest of its kind in the UK," Charles said - along with workshops year round and events to mark occasions such as the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.

In London, this year's Pride march is on July 6, and forum+ will be there.

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