Bristol Gay Centre, McArthur’s Warehouse, Gasferry Road, Bristol
From 1978 to 1983 Bristol had a gay centre housed in a suite of four rooms on the top floor of McArthur’s Warehouse.
The building began as a late 19th century brewery and then McArthur’s iron foundry until the late 1950s. In the 1970s the building was home to a motley collection of arts workshops and small businesses.
A committee began meeting in August 1977 to raise funds and find premises for a Gay Centre. After numerous lease applications were rejected, the McArthur Warehouse was ‘discovered’ and within a few weeks the Gay Centre opened in October 1978. It included a café and spaces for parties, meetings and discos; it also provided premises for Bristol Gay Switchboard. The Spike Island location was always a disadvantage, especially at night: a one-mile walk from the city centre, amidst disused wharfs and industrial sheds. Dedicated volunteers did most of the work, but it became harder to find volunteers and the centre closed in December 1983.
“I went there the second day I was in Bristol. You used to be able to get lunch there on a Saturday. It was fine to visit on a Saturday daytime, but I never went in the evening as the roads leading to it were too dark and secluded and no buses that I knew of to take me there and back. I found it very friendly and welcoming, though there were hardly any lesbians there.” Jane