LESBIAN INFORMATION SERVICE
In July 1987 Lesbian Information Service was established with the help of the Government's Enterprise Allowance Scheme. At that time, Jan Foster (now Jan Bridget) was receiving f40 per week from the E.A.S. to try to establish L.I.S. as a business. Later that year Sandra Lucille joined L.I.S. as a volunteer.
The aim of L.I.S. is to facilitate communication between Lesbians and promote understanding of Lesbian experience in order to combat discrimination. Objectives were:
- to generate discussion and dialogue;
- to generate positive activity to combat oppression;
- to increase the visibility of Lesbians - our struggles and successes;
- to identify and expose anti-Lesbianism;
- to encourage an awareness of the needs of Black Lesbians and Lesbians of Colour, Differently-Abled Lesbians, Lesbian Mothers, Old Lesbians, Radical Lesbian Feminists, Working Class Lesbians and Young Lesbians.
L.I.S. would do this by: providing training courses for Lesbians and heterosexism awareness training for heterosexuals; running Lesbian conferences; work with Young Lesbians; production of training materials for work with Lesbians; setting up a library of books, periodicals and general information; production of book lists; providing an enquiry and referral service and establishing a national Lesbian Newsletter and Network.
In order to receive funding from Leicester City Council a separate bank account and draft constitution was set up in the name of Lesbian Information Service (Leicester City Council Funding). An extensive annual report for the year 1987-1988 was produced which covered the local activities of L.I.S.
By July 1988, after the introduction of Section 28 of the Local Government Act, it became clear that support for the L.I.S. local activities (Young Lesbian Group, Lesbians and Phobias Group, Lesbian Line, Lesbian Coffee Bar, Lesbian Library) from Leicester City Council was no longer forth-coming. Due to this, and to the degree of anti-Lesbianism experienced from various local organizations, L.I.S. decided to cease all local activities and concentrate on developing other elements, in particular, the national Lesbian Information Service Newsletter (LISN).
At the same time it also became clear that L.I.S. Could never become a viable "business", not even to sustain the employment of one person. However, since L.I.S. had commitments to subscribers it was decided to continue as a voluntary organization and to run it on a purely voluntary basis. L.I.S. was a member of Leicester City Council Community Printing Services and became a member of Leicester Council for Voluntary Services (later Voluntary Action Leicester), as well as the Eastern Shires
Purchasing Organisation, Stationery Suppliers for Leicestershire County Council.
LESBIAN INFORMATION SERVICE NEWSLE'I'TER
LISN developed from a local Lesbian Newsletter which began in January 1987. Since August 1987, when LISN came into existence, it has developed and expanded through Letters, News and Listings - a network of individual Lesbians and Lesbian groups throughout Britain is gradually being built up, Articles Section and International News, provides up-to-date international information. Contacts have recently been made with Lesbians in Europe, Latin America, Thailand, and Canada and coverage of International News is being expanded. Lesbian Tales is an important way of Communicating individual experiences and Lesbians are invited to write short autobiographical pieces.
An annual Index of Contents is produced as well as Annual Reports which evaluate the work of L.I.S. and identifies areas for expansion.
"I.ISN" has included exclusive interviews. Reports have included the ILIS 1988 conference; Disability Workshop at the Lesbian Summer School, 1988; Janice Raymond's Talk at the Lesbian Summer School, 1988; Feminism and Lesbian Separatism; and Lesbians in Cuba. A variety of articles from other publications has been reproduced, for example, Lesbian Organisations in Latin America, (ILGA Pink Book); Lesbian Battering Conference (off our backs); First Ecuentro of Feminist Lesbians (off our backs).
As well as having LISN available on subscription it is available in bookshops and, more recently, at different Women's Centres. LISN is important in building a Lesbian network and in keeping Lesbians visible and informed about matters which are important.
JULY 1988 - JULY 1989
The beginning of the year saw the cessation of the L.I.S. local activities. Efforts were concentrated on acquiring funding, developing a Lesbian Studies Course and expanding LISN.
In order to publicise the activities of L.I.S. and the newsletter an application was made for funding to the Equal Opportunities Commission for project "Contact," the aim of which was to tour Britain talking about the work of Lesbian Information Service and LISN. A lot of time was spent completing the necessary paper work and costings and L.I.S. was given two excellent references. We were unsuccessful. No Lesbian organisation has yet received funding from the E.O.C. We appealed against this decision and contacted several M.P's. Clare Short wrote to the E.O.C. on our behalf but still nothing came of our application.
We also applied to Account 28 (a Lesbian and Gay organisation) for funding to buy special equipment, e.g. electro-stencil machine for the production of the Newsletter, but again were not successful. Nevertheless, 1989 saw the addition of this equipment paid for out of our own pockets.
LESBIAN STUDIES COURSE
Starting in March 1989 L.I.S. ran a twelve session Lesbian Studies Course at Nottingham Lesbian Centre. Although we had been promised funding for this course by the W.E.A.it never materialised. The reason given was Section 28. A draft Lesbian Studies Course Pack was made available, for Lesbians only. We hope to run this course again and develop the Pack accordingly. The course, and pack, covers: What is heterosexism? How does heterosexism affect Lesbians? Parallel oppressions. Lesbian politics. Lesbian history. Lesbian culture. Lesbian communities.
A short book-list, used on the Lesbian Studies course, which contains the details of over 48 books and covers areas such as: Ageism/Old Lesbians; Black Lesbians/Racism; Counselling/General Lesbian Sexuality; Employment; Heterosexism; Health; Housing; Lesbian Mothers; Lesbian Politics; Lesbian and Gay Politics; Lesbian Herstory; Lesbian Studies; Periodicals; and Young Lesbians.
Lesbian Health book-list: Quite a Comprehensive book list appertaining to Lesbian health. With 32 books - mostly with annotated notes - and a few relevant articles.
We have had articles published in various publications including Leicester Rights Bulletin and Lesbian and Gay Socialist.
EXPANSION OF LISN
LISN was not only expanded to include new sections but in June/July 1989 we decided to go bi-monthly and doubled the content - it now consisted of 50 pages and included national and international news, letters, features, reviews, reports, and a national and international listings section. Some of the topics covered have included: health, disability, young Lesbians, relationships, racism, separatism, fat oppression, ageism, and book lists. Our national, and in particular International, contacts were expanding. In the April issue we conducted a survey of the readership of LISN, the results of which were analysed and published in the Aug/Sep issue. Efforts were made to publicise LISN. Whilst exchange advertisements were completed with various Lesbian and feminist publications, after repeated efforts to advertise in Spare Rib were refused we gave up. We have been unable to obtain regular publicity in the women's media. Nevertheless, subscriptions and sales of LISN expanded in 1988 - 1989.
ENQUIRY AND REFERRAL SERVICE
L.I.S. continues to receive requests for information from organisations and individuals.
Whilst 1988-1989 saw the development of LISN and the expansion of the Lesbian Network, as well as a slight increase in subscriptions, the implementation of a Lesbian Studies Course, and the publication of Book Lists, the continued effects of Section 28 were felt, in particular in relation to funding. There can be no doubt that many funding organisations are using Section 28 as an excuse to refuse funding to Lesbians.
Given that Spare Rib had refused to advertise LISN, the refusal of the E.O.C. grant was devastating. Discrimination against Lesbians and Lesbian Information Service continues, making the work L.I.S. does imperative.
INCOME AND EXPENDITURE ACCOUNT
for the year ended 6th July 1989
Subscriptions and sale of publications 3,080
Grant: Leicester City Council re running costs 26
Stationery, printing, photocopying and postage 1,986
Rates, light and heat 267
Motor expenses 606
Travelling expenses 40
Net loss for the year ( 230)