On Monday 3 June, armed with 200 tea lights, ten metres of foil curtains and a make-shift goal thermometer made from a repurposed wardrobe door, (please don’t tell my landlord), our friends, outgoing and incoming committees frantically set about transforming Founders’ Dining hall into a palace fit for a [drag]queen. And I think it’s fair to say that they definitely delivered!
Joining us were 115 of our friends, guests and allies for a night packed with celebration and entertainment. Why did we get together? For the Albert Kennedy Trust (AKT). Between every three guests, we took two young LGBT+ homeless youth off the streets of the UK, after raising over an incredible £1.9k through kind donations, ticket sales, raffle tickets and auction bids.
For those of you who don’t know what the AKTs are, they support young LGBT+ people experiencing homelessness or living in hostile environments in the UK – they help them find safe homes, employment, education or training, and they encourage them to celebrate their identities in order to improve their life outcomes.
Well, as the charity beautifully put: “no young person should have to choose between a safe home and being who they are”.
Personally, I wanted to support this charity because, queer or not, everybody should care about homeless people, and LGBTQ+ youths make up nearly 1/4 of this demographic. We should all have a personal investment in the welfare of members of our community. Charity starts at home, as they say, and what better way to give back to our community than by caring for the most vulnerable.
The cause particularly resonates with me because a study revealed that the main reasons for LGBT+ homelessness were due to parental rejection, abuse within the family, or being exposed to aggression and violence. This made me realise to what extent I take my parents acceptation of me for granted. Young people often rely on their parents for safe housing, and it is an unfortunate reality that parents are not always tolerant, let alone accepting of their child’s identity. I am so fortunate that my parents accept me, but for 150,000 young people living in the UK, this isn’t the case. We need to give back and acknowledge these very personal struggles.
Among the most prevalent outcomes of LGBT+ people becoming homeless were sexual exploitation and mental health issues, alongside homophobic bullying and alcohol abuse. It’s evident how devastating a cascade effect can be on the lives of these young people. Not only do the AKTs offer short term emergency support, but they also help create a sustainable and better quality of life long term.
Sometimes it’s easily forgotten that these statistics come from real people. My feelings were affirmed after meeting with our Students’ Union CEO, Tom Flynn, who is a trustee of the AKT. Tom gave me an account of some of the courageous people the AKT have helped. Tom’s insight into some of the situations young LGBT+ people find themselves in, and how valuable this charity is, was yet another reason why I felt so eager to support this cause. Unfortunately, it’s a fact that sometimes acceptance is a lottery, and not everyone is that lucky. I thought that it was important to bring this message home, and to appreciate the love and support our friends, families and allies give us.
After a warm welcome from the Jazz band ‘So What’, and a crowd-warming spectacle from our resident queen Petty Nonsense, we got the ball rolling with our prize raffle. Now is when I thank our generous community for their donations - Greggs, BigFry, Bellini and Acqualina In Bocca, donated meal vouchers. Thank you to Tangerine On the Green, who provided plants, to Lloyd Charles for their hair products and to Ruby Wines. Another massive thank you goes to the Armstrong Gun for donating a huge £50 tab, and finally to Experience Days for the £50 voucher. Lots of guests went home with prizes worth more than the ticket price!
Next came our auction - myself and the current society president Josh Trood went head to head in a Presidential Date-off that Josh won, with other committee donations bringing in even more cash! For me, this was the highlight! It was great seeing our guests compete and bid in the name of charity (vanity aside)! I want to thank everybody who contributed to the night with their generosity! I was particularly humbled to see people donating, when I know they will have to go without in order to do so. The support shown for this charity was overwhelming - not just by way of monetary donation, but by their time and attention. Everybody looked so amazing, and I can’t wait to see the photos taken by Matthew Phillips, and our new promo by Caitlin Robin, who both donated their time to our event!
I set a very ambitious target of £2,000, and we came extremely close. I’m so proud of the current and future committee for all of their hard work, and I’m excited to see how much more successful we can be in the year ahead! This was a huge victory for the Albert Kennedy Trust, for our Society and all for of our guests. It fills me with hope to know that this small, yet significant amount of money raised, will help support several young LGBTQ+ people, and will play a part in changing the outcome of many coming-outs in the future!
Registered charity no: 1141998
The Students’ Union, Royal Holloway
Egham, TW20 0EX