Refuge partners: The George House Trust
As February is LGBT History Month, we thought it’s about time we introduced you to our charity partner, George House Trust.
George House Trust is instrumental in providing support services to people living with HIV, their carers, partners, and families, and they’ve been giving this vital support since the 1980s. The importance of their work along with the history of how, and why they set up, is beautifully—and heartbreakingly—portrayed in Russell T Davis’ latest series, It’s A Sin, which has got everyone talking about HIV and the treatment of those diagnosed in the early years. We caught up with the Chief Executive of George House Trust, Darren Knight, to find out more about their work and the ways it’s woven into Russell T Davies’s stunning new drama.
“It’s my absolute privilege to be the Chief Executive of George House Trust, a charity supporting people living with and affected by HIV. We were originally set up in the mid-1980s as Manchester AIDS Line, and were founded because people living with HIV were dying and there wasn’t the support, treatment, information or networks around to help people at that time. Fast forward 35 years and It’s a Sin has brought HIV right back into our living rooms. It’s got people talking about what it was really like then and how things have changed for the better.
Russell T Davies—the writer of It’s a Sin—is a patron of George House Trust and we’re lucky to have him as a supporter and champion of our work. We’re also pleased that he’s put together such a powerful, honest, hard-hitting drama to tell the story of gay men and HIV in the 1980s and early 90s. There are so many stories that haven’t been told. So many people forgotten. Shame, stigma and fear led to people being treated appallingly by families, employers and health professionals. It’s a Sin has brought that to the fore and it’s good that now, people are being reminded of what happened.
HIV activist, Paul Fairweather, delivers George House Trust’s Positively Speaking programme and was involved in setting up Manchester AIDS Line – he was one of the people Russell spoke to when developing the ideas for the show. Paul and Russell met for lunch about four years ago and shared stories of what it was like in the 80s in Manchester. Paul shared a story of a man locked in a Manchester hospital ward because of the lack of knowledge, awareness and fear around HIV, and that story is reflected in the show. Russell also used the log books from the calls to Manchester AIDS Line for inspiration. Those log books are now kept at George House Trust and I read them at Christmas – they’re an interesting read and a real piece of history. There’s humour and sadness in those logs, just like in It’s a Sin.
I think the timing of It’s a Sin during LGBT History Month is important. The stories of gay men dying, the homophobia, discrimination, hate and stigma experienced is such an important part of the LGBT community’s history that everyone should know more about. The HIV and AIDS epidemic and its impact on already marginalised communities needs to be understood by everyone.
HIV activism and activists have never gone away, and the popularity of the show and the amazing cast has resulted in HIV being talked again about on mainstream media platforms, which is so important in tackling the stigma that still exists. Seeing one of George House Trust’s Positive Speakers, Nathaniel Hall, cast as Olly Alexander’s characters’ partner was amazing. Nathaniel used his platform to educate and inform people about HIV before the show and It’s a Sin has enabled him to reach more people – and that’s so beautiful to see.
While It’s a Sin provides a window into the past, it’s so important to recognise that we’ve seen significant progress with HIV treatments, access to support from organisations like George House Trust and a change in public attitude. Someone living with HIV can now expect to live the same length of time as someone who doesn’t have the virus. HIV is not a death sentence: it’s a long-term condition like diabetes that can be managed effectively with medication. An even more impressive development is the fact that if you’re on effective treatment and the amount of HIV in your body is undetectable, you can’t pass HIV on to your sexual partner; we call this Undetectable = Untransmittable and this is something that everyone needs to know!
Even though times have changed, and things have got better, stigma still exists for people living with HIV. We’ve made such progress, but there’s still lots left to do in order to educate and change people’s perspectives. That’s why George House Trust will continue working with Kimpton Clocktower Hotel (and The Refuge) until our work is done and everyone living with HIV can lead a happy, healthy life, free from stigma.”
HOW WE’RE SUPPORTING
For us, this partnership is incredibly exciting – to join forces and help raise awareness for such a wonderful cause means the world to us.
And while we’re doing our bit here in Manchester, we’re also part of a bigger family: InterContinental Hotels & Resorts (IHG). This month, IHG earned a 100% score on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index (CEI) and has been recognised as a Best Place to Work for LGBTQ equality for the seventh year in a row.
The Index is viewed as a significant endorsement of our company’s efforts to promote LGBTQ equality in the workplace, but it also goes much further for us. Our motto, Come As You Are, means we’re an inclusive space for all. Love is love, people are people.
We really looking forward to our continued work with George House Trust and have some fantastic plans in the pipeline… Keep your eye out for more info on our socials very soon!
Darren Knight | Russell T Davies | Nathaniel Hall (photography by Anton Mellor)
UNDER THE PINK PALACE PLAYLIST
If you’ve watched It’s A Sin, you’ll have seen Manchester record store, Clampdown Records, make a regular appearance. Neil from Clampdown Records is a good friend and one of our resident DJs, so as a fitting tribute he’s compiled a playlist of tracks from the show and the 1981-91 era for you all to enjoy. La!