Nottingham & Notts Lesbian & Gay Switchboard

Started 1974 .... or 1975 .... or 1976

Why Switchboard?

We simply copied the first such service, London Gay Switchboard, which started in 1974. The idea being that - in the method of the old telephone switchboards - we would connect people to appropriate information and services. At the moment (2008) there is a debate about changing our name, but a survey on this has yet to reach any clear conclusions, though the suggestion which at the moment leads the field is "stick with your current name".

Switchboard's three names

Later, to recognise that some women did not feel that the word "gay" applied to them, we added "Lesbian" in 1991.

In 2004 we added Nottinghamshire to demonstrate that our service covered the whole county. We knew it did, but by adding the "Nottinghamshire" bit and taking on a second phone line with a North Notts friendly dialling code, we tried to make our coverage more explicit.

Why three starting dates?

In 1974 we began as a drop-in service offering face-to-face information.

In 1975 we acquired a phone line.

In 1976 we started using the name "Switchboard".

Having three starting dates is quite useful when celebrating major anniversaries, as we can celebrate them three years running.

When Switchboard first started, like many similar helplines it received a lot of hoax and abusive calls. In terms of hoaxing, sometimes it was clear that it was the caller who had been hoaxed.

I’m having trouble with my bunions (it’s my orthopaedic shoes) can you help me?
You are all damned and within 21 days the Lord will descend on you and you will be cast into the fiery pit. (A letter, written in green ink of course)
I am Avon of Blake’s Seven, and I am coming to destroy you. But we are still here. ccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccc ccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccc
This is PC Jones from Central Station. I’m phoning about the bicycle which was reported missing by Mr. McQueen
I've been told to phone to get the details of the hang glider which you have for sale?
We received a letter saying "I would like to support Switchboard by being sponsored to have a nail hammered through my tongue." As the person involved was a famed exhibitionist, we are not breaking any great confidences by printing the newspaper excerpt from the Daily Mirror which is shown on the right. In both 1976 and 1978, British stuntman Eddie Shingler tried to organise his own crucifixion as a spectator event in Nottingham. Witnessing the actual nailing up of Mr Shingler was to cost three pounds whereas just watching him hang there would be a reasonable fifty pence. Both attempts were foiled by the police, who announced that they would arrest anyone trying to nail Mr Shingler to the cross on a charge of assault.

Click on the buttons below to hear Switchboard volunteers talking about some of the calls they took.

If you are having difficulty downloading any files, copy and paste the following link into your browser

Most of Switchboard's work and history can be viewed on its website by clicking HERE  It is a sign of the times that in 2011 Switchboard, for the first time, received more contacts by e-mail and texts than by phone. Switchboard also has a presence of Facebook, Twitter and Gaydar.

In 2015, Switchboard produced a 40th anniversary booklet. To download the booklet, click HERE

Switchboard developed out of Nottingham CHE. To find out about Nottingham CHE click HERE

To return to People Talking, click   HERE

To return to Our Heritage, click HERE

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