Club F.O.D was initially formed in May 2019 to provide a regular and accessible dedicated safe space for the LGBT+ Community in Reading, Berkshire. These events took place at The Blagrave Arms and it's here that we developed our events so that the Club F.O.D concept can become a blueprint to be rolled out elsewhere.
Across the UK, many towns and cities do not have dedicated bars or clubs for the LGBT+ community to meet and socialise and unlike geographical isolation, social isolation experienced by LGBT+ members of society is less obvious and in many cases, is very often more challenging to escape. Sometimes isolation – and the loneliness it can lead to – can be the result of a sense of being separated from others due to society telling LGBT+ people that they are different.
In early 2020, just before our first birthday, the COVID pandemic rapidly spread around the world and many of our plans had to be placed on hold. Though it was disappointing to see the results of a year of hard work being put on pause, we took the time to evaluate what we had achieved and agree on the direction in which we wanted to head. In September 2020, Club F.O.D became a Registered Charity in England & Wales (No. 1191158).
Led by a small team of dedicated volunteers, we have developed three distinct areas that further our charitable purpose:
- Club F.O.D @ The Blagrave
- Club F.O.D in the Community
- Club F.O.D at Home
- Club F.O.D Befriending Service
- Club F.O.D Youth Club
- Club F.O.D’s Fund of Diversity
As we expand, we're always looking for dedicated volunteers for our projects so if you would like to get involved, visit the volunteer page!
Club F.O.D @ The Blagrave
Our initial physical events at The Blagrave Arms aimed to re-establish a 'home' for the LGBT+ community in Reading. To many people in Reading, The Blagrave is already seen as a home for the local LGBT+ community and the team there have been actively welcoming the LGBT+ community and we have proudly been working with the venue to bring the LGBT+ people of Reading dedicated LGBT+ Nights that also raise money for local LGBT+ Charities, Projects and Causes.
The concept behind Club F.O.D @ The Blagrave is simple. Once upon a time, the late Sel Jones used to romanticise that when he retired he would open a bar called Dorothy’s – a bar reminiscent of the traditional gay bar where all people were welcome whether they were wearing Jeans, full drag, leather or a crop top, greeted at the door on arrival and where every and any aspect of the gay scene would share a great night out together. So Club F.O.D – which incidentally stands for Friends of Dorothy – not only aims to reclaim a sense of the LGBT+ community in Reading but is also a tribute to Sel in every possible way.
On arrival to a Club F.O.D Night, every individual that attends is greeted by a Door Host that introduces themselves and welcomes people to the event. They provide a brief explanation of the event and a reminder that it is a dedicated LGBT+ night. These are very often Drag Queens that have donated their time. Floor Hosts (also known as the FOD Squad) mingle and make sure that everyone attending is spoken to and when possible connecting anyone who is on their own to others who are also attending. They solicit feedback, promote future events and distribute contact cards and leaflets as well as shaking collection buckets.
Like many venues or events, we have a DJ who makes announcements and controls the visuals that attendees see on the TV screens. This includes information about LGBT+ services as well as details of any future events and activities. A game (usually hosted by a drag queen) also take place during the evening.
Club F.O.D in the Community
Currently being developed, our intention is to organise a range of social activities and events away from the pub scene including events and activities for younger members of our community as well as services to support older LGBT+ people in our community as well. Our first initiative was a Camping Trip for LGBT+ people where we stayed in Wiltshire for a long weekend. This event and the dedicated Facebook group established for it has proved popular. An annual Pink Picnic was also been organised in August 2020 and it is anticipated that this becomes an annual event in the Pride Week Calendar.
Club F.O.D has created a number of specialised groups for the community which includes a Book Club and a Gardening Group. These have been restricted to online groups until such a time when restrictions are lifted.
Club F.O.D at Home
When we entered the first lockdown of the COVID pandemic, we did not want a lockdown to leave people locked out. So, we looked for alternative ways to ensure that Club F.O.D could continue with what we set out to achieve. We started producing live streams from our Facebook page and other social media to ensure that when “…even at home, you’re never alone…”
As the first lockdown started to ease, our intention was to discontinue with virtual events but following feedback and messages received after our last virtual show, we realised that online events and broadcasts can literally be a lifeline to some members of our community and we wanted to ensure that our community reach goes beyond that of a physical venue and make sure that not one person is overlooked. That led us to developing F.O.D TV and Radio F.O.D with the help of the National Lotteries Community Fund. Club F.O.D at Home includes:
- Dedicated channels for all members of the LGBT+ community that provides live and pre-recorded interactive content
- An online Radio Station dedicated to the LGBT+ community
- Workshops and activities that support members of the LGBT+ community to create content
- Partnerships with other LGBT+ content providers
Check our pages about F.O.D TV and Radio F.O.D!
Club F.O.D Befriending Service
Whilst Club F.O.D was originally established to prevent Social Isolation within the LGBT+ community, we realised that there was a need for a service that aimed to reduce Social Isolation where it already exists. This has led to us establishing a dedicated Befriending Service for LGBT+ people in Reading. We will offer two types of service:
- Tea-friending - A weekly or fortnightly visit from a Befriender
- E-friending – A weekly or fortnightly phone call from a Befriender
The service is designed for:
- Those who are LGBT+ who are over 50 and are isolated and have Limited Social Connections
- Those who are LGBT+ and housebound (no age restrictions) and have Limited Social Connections
During the COVID Pandemic, the E-friending service will be available for anyone over the age of 18 who is feeling isolated would like the chance to hear another human voice at the end of a phone.