Amy Richards shares her experience of forming Cardiff Women, a hugely successful LGBTQI social group
BY AMY RICHARDS
Just over 10 years ago I was sitting alone in my room, thinking there must be other gay women in Cardiff who wanted to meet up to do normal things like go for a walk, have a quiet pint, a nice meal, or go to the cinema or theatre. I hadn’t managed to find a local group that seemed to offer what I was looking for; I wasn’t interested in going clubbing, or meeting mums with kids, or getting up at the crack of dawn on a Sunday for a breakfast social.
In the spur of the moment, I decided to find out if anyone else was looking for the same things as me. Before I changed my mind, I quickly set up an email address and went on DIVA’s online forum to ask if anyone wanted to join a new meet-up group.
I had one response.
A couple of weeks went by and I thought I had my answer. But then suddenly, emails started arriving – and I realised that DIVA had published my request on the letters page of the magazine!
So I set a date for the first meet-up, emailed everyone who’d got in touch and waited nervously. On the first night, I was terrified that no one would actually turn up… or, worse, that just one person would turn up and it would feel like the world’s most awkward date.
But in the end, five of us gathered in a local bar and proceeded to have an incredible evening that went on until they kicked us out of the bar in the early hours.
I knew nothing about how to run a social group, so at the start I was just making it up as I went along. But I gradually found my groove, and the group started meeting regularly and slowly growing.
Fast forward 10 years, and we are still going strong, with nearly 800 members in our Facebook group. We meet monthly (well, up until COVID… sigh) and see around 35-45 women each time we meet. We’ve changed venues a few times as the group has grown, formed firm friendships, watched people move away and new people join, and witnessed some members get together (and the inevitable break-ups, too). I even got together with my wife as a direct result of forming the group, so, you know… result!
As we’ve grown, the members have formed their own spin-off groups: a book club, a camping group, a group that organises weekends away, groups for walking and cycling trips and more. The main group remains a central hub, but with all the additional groups there’s something for everyone.
Member Zeb Friedman says, “I first went to the group about four years ago. It’s been an incredible experience. What started as an occasional social event became so much more very quickly. Meeting once a month meant that there were always people I knew and new faces every time. It kept it friendly and fresh – and clique free! The space has always felt inclusive, friendly and connected. I’ve made so many important friendships through this group. Beyond that there is a feeling of having a wider community to rely on. I’ve just relocated to Brighton and I wish there was a similar group.”
We’re an inclusive group, welcoming couples and singles, gay, bi and trans women and anyone questioning their sexuality. We’ve had quite a few members join who’ve just come out, like Sian Edwards, who says: “I found the group shortly after coming out and I can honestly say I’ve never met such a bunch of open, welcoming women. Having a safe place to not only socialise with other women but also to discover who I am was invaluable. I’ve made so many amazing friends and can’t wait until we’re allowed to meet up in person again.”
Ann Jones also joined after coming out aged 49. She remembers, “I came out late, and your group provided a safe, supportive and non judgemental place to meet women, and as a result I have a steadily increasing network of friends. The group has changed lives.”
We’ve also had people join after breakups. Kathryn Evans says, “I joined by a recommendation by another member when feeling lost, lonely and bewildered after a 20 year break up. So pleased I did, everyone was so welcoming, kind and friendly.”
I’m looking forward to being able to re-start the group meet-ups when we’re able to socialise in groups again post-COVID. But the group continues online – and continues to grow every month. I was thrilled when several of our members nominated me for the Wales Pinc List this year for my work setting up and running the group – and I found myself on the list!
I owe the group’s existence to DIVA for publishing that letter 10 years ago – but I owe its continued success to our members: a group of friendly, supportive, amazing women who have changed my life.
Based in Cardiff and want to join this wonderful group? Click here to find more.