The Friday Night Club is a new monthly chemsex peer support group launched in January by the team at Wandsworth LGBTQ+ Forum. It’s on again this Friday and Dave Cross had a chat with David Robson (Chair Wandsworth LGBTQ+ Forum) to find out more.
Hey David, so what is The Friday Night Club?
Hi Dave, The Friday Night Club is a gay and bisexual men’s chemsex peer support group. We are a confidential, non-judgemental and non-clinical space for gay and bi men to come along and share any issues to do with chemsex usage.
With it’s stylish neon styled ads and design, it looks like a club night, that was obviously a deliberate decision?
We want it to look like a place you’d be happy to come along too. That isn’t going to happen if it’s a cold clinical flyer with too much text and images that people can’t relate to. We’re trying to create a positive uplifting experience of self-care and peer support. Not a feeling of shame or rejection.
This project is the first of its kind by the Wandsworth LGBTQ+ Forum, what was the decision behind that?
This is a response to what we see as an epidemic in our community. Organisations such as 56 Dean Street and London Friend do phenomenal work in leading the response to the chemsex crisis. To support this, we felt that it’s our responsibility as a community group to offer a preventative based service on a local level to try and take the pressure of some of those services. On a personal level this is an idea I have had for some time. During my own relationship with chemsex I observed there was a need for us to talk and be supported in a sober setting with likeminded individuals. I’ve had many messages on it already, but I think it’s going to take time for people to go from sending an email or Facebook message to walk through the door. When they do, we’ll be sat there ready and waiting for them.
What kind of support do you offer at The Friday Night Club?
The world can be solved with a cup of tea and a chat and that’s our approach with this. Peer support is led by the users and we’re offering the space in which you can be with others who have been or are in the same situation as you. Sometimes you need others to talk to who get that and our friends don’t always understand if they haven’t been there. Chemsex experiences can be quite traumatic and I think our friends find it difficult to know how to support that. I hope they would read this and know there is something out there. I should emphasise that It’s not a clinical site. We can’t treat anyone coming to see us with crystal meth psychosis or G addiction. Our role is preventative and to sign post to other services should they need them.
Some people reading this may use on an irregular basis and just want to know more about the risks, can they come along?
Absolutely. We want the community to be armed with the correct knowledge so they can make an informed decision. We’re not here to judge. People need to know what to do if they or someone else goes into a crystal meth psychosis or goes under from G. Too many people are dying from chemsex.
What can you tell us about the team?
This has been something that has been worked on from behind the scenes by all the committee. They are such a dedicated bunch of volunteers who have been working on the safeguarding policy, marketing and doing various training courses to help see the project realised. There’s a real feeling for this to succeed. They recognise the crisis in our community. I’m the group facilitator of the project so I’ll be the one people meet either on the evening or chat to before in email. They’ll always be another member of the forum on site to be a pair of hands with me too. Probably Richard mainly who has been a huge champion in the community response to chemsex. He has a huge heart and a dab hand in the kitchen which will help as we have the facilities should we wish.
How many services do the Wandsworth LGBTQ+ Forum now offer, and what is on the horizon?
This is the second service the forum is delivering locally in Wandsworth, but is open to everyone across London. The other being the 50+ LGBT coffee morning which runs every Thursday in Tooting, which turns two in April. It’s something that is making us grow as an organisation and we want to be in a position where we’re delivering multiple projects across Wandsworth and the South West London region. With limited resources at present we can only do what we can and these two projects are enough to keep us busy for now.
When does The Friday Night Club run?
On the last Friday night of the month from 6pm to 8pm. It’s pay weekend and that can be a triggering time for chemsex users. It’s our hope that you won’t log onto Grindr or BBrt and instead come and see us. I mean, who could resist; sex party or cup of tea and a chat? Maybe even some food… we know how to spoil you. It’s held at a community based centre at 229 Garratt Lane in Wandsworth. Not a far walk from Southfields tube or a bus ride from Tooting/Wandsworth Town.
And finally, If someone wants to come, but is nervous, what would you say to them?
You might feel nervous the first time, but it will get better. I hope it comes across that this is led by someone who has been there. I’ve felt the nerves and have felt consumed by this thing that is chemsex. You’re not alone and there’s hundreds of gay men who are feeling the same as you, wanting to make a positive change and have some self care. If you can get an uber or a bus to some chill-out in Elephant and Castle in the middle of the night, then you can come see us on a bus in Wandsworth early evening. What have you got to lose? If you come and don’t like it. You tried. If you come and get something from it, that’s priceless.