Loud and proud

New LGBT Society celebrates a triumphant first year

With a blossoming membership, annual event, and a powerful contribution to the global It Gets Better Project in the bag, the Leeds College of Music LGBT Society has arrived in style. Dan Howarth talks to its founder, Heather Coulton (MA Composition), in the lead up to the Society’s first anniversary in September.
 
“There are lots of LGBT societies in Leeds, but there was never one here at Leeds College of Music,” says the Society’s founder, Heather Coulton (pictured right in the photo). “It’s the first thing I wanted to do when I came here.”
 
Enrolling on the MA in Composition last September, Heather contacted Student Welfare Officer Dawn Moore, and immediately set up a stall at the Freshers’ Fair with co-founder Andrea Griffith (pictured left in the photo).
 
Now the Society has over 30 members and meets up every Monday in the Green Room. “It’s a safe place for people to come,” says Heather. “We chat about anything, not necessarily pressing LGBT issues. And people from outside the LGBT community come along to support the society too.
 
“I never had an LGBT society whilst studying for my undergraduate degree, and I think it’s really important to have that sort of support network.”
 
Alternative Love Day was the Society’s first major event, held during LGBT History Month in February, on the day after Valentine’s. The day saw LCoM students and staff joined by LGBT societies from around Leeds for an afternoon of talks and workshops, before a VIP night out on the scene. Tom Hunt from sexual health organisation MESMAC and NUS LGBT officer Sky Yarlett gave talks - alongside musical performances from LCoM students.
 
The event also premiered a short film, produced by members of the LGBT Society as part of the It Gets Better Project – a global social media campaign which shares messages of hope with young LGBT people, launched in 2010 in response to a series of suicides by teenagers who were bullied for being gay.
 
“The videos are for people who haven’t come out yet, or who have and things have gone a bit wrong, who might not have anyone to talk to,” says Heather. “I remember feeling completely alone, like I was the only person in the world who this could happen to.
 
“It’s a really hard time in your life when you don’t think anything will get better for you, but it does. The videos are really positive. They usually start off a bit morbid and build up to an uplifting end – kind of mirroring the experience.”
 
The video features members of the LGBT Society – both students and staff – talking about their own experiences of coming-out, with music by second year Pop student Billy Simmons and postgraduate student Frances Woodcock.
 
“It was quite emotional as people were seeing what they had said for the first time. Seeing your words edited in context with music alongside other people’s experiences was really poignant,” says Heather.
 
Heather is set to graduate in January 2014 but will hand over the reins of the LGBT society to BTEC graduate and incoming BA student John Sermon from September.  “I want the Society to be here for as long as Leeds College of Music is here,” she says. “I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved this year, but there’s so much more to do.  We’d love to hear from alumni if LGBT issues have affected their career in the music industry, and we’re always looking for new members and supporters.  Together I think we can really make a go of it”.
 
To find out more about the LGBT Society, you can join the Facebook group and email lgbt@lcm.ac.uk

 

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Leeds College of Music's LGBT Society presents its own take on an It Gets Better video. Filmed by Heather Coulton and Andrea Griffith; music by Billy Simmons and Frances Woodcock; editing by Mark Rogers.

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