Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Bristol Lesbian and Gay Switchboard

PRESS RELEASE: The Bristol Lesbian and Gay Switchboard (BLAGS) is pleased to announce that, following a successful recruitment drive, this essential service will be available to callers four nights a week from next Monday, September 24.

Set up over 30 years ago to offer confidential support to the LGBT community as well as others with concerns about sexuality, earlier this year BLAGS was on the brink of closure. Run entirely by volunteers, BLAGS had developed into a busy service providing a vital source of support. However, the number of volunteers had declined and, at that point, there were only three people left to take calls. Running a switchboard with such a small number of volunteers was simply not sustainable; BLAGS was only open two evenings a week and there was an urgent need for new people, new ideas and new enthusiasm to revive this important community service.

“You can always argue that things have moved on,” switchboard volunteer Mike Sanidas admitted. “But we still get calls from people who are distressed and lonely and need to talk to someone. Obviously you have the internet, but here people have the added value of actually speaking to someone. People find it useful to have a confidential service where they can get things off their chest.”

Now, BLAGS is back. Over a dozen new volunteers came forward after a call to arms through local what’s on magazine Venue (www.venue.co.uk) and PrideWest, the premier internet resource for the local LGBT community (www.pridewest.co.uk), and the service is now available four nights a week.

Says new recruit Nick: “I decided to volunteer for BLAGS when I heard that the service was under threat due to lack of volunteers. I really felt that a city the size of Bristol should have its own switchboard to give people a local service, and so that people in the South West could find out about local venues and groups from local people.

“Although much of this information is available from the internet these days, many people prefer the chance to talk to someone, and often those who are feeling lonely and isolated really need a sympathetic voice on the end of a phone. I'm finding that the chance to help other people is very rewarding, and the people involved in the group are a great bunch, which means we also have fun!”

BLAGS is available Monday to Thursday, from 8pm-10pm on 0117 922 1328. The group is still looking for more volunteers, especially women, and if you would like to help call 0117 922 1328 or email admin@bristolblags.org.uk

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