LBG meets on Fridays between 8 and 10pm at a venue in central London. For as long as I've been going and presumably for some time before that, there's been two separate groups - the main/social group and the personal group. What happens is that people turn up between 8 and 9pm and socialise in a vague sort of way (there's free gay papers to pick up, coffee to drink, and people to talk to), and then at 9pm split into the two groups. The personal group go downstairs for a meeting where members can talk about problems in their lives with a counsellor experienced in bi issues (I think. I've never actually been "downstairs"). The main group meet upstairs for debates, discussions and other such things, which are for some reason called "workshops". Don't ask me why.
I took over as one of the people running the group in February 2000, and officially in April at the AGM. For some months prior to us taking over, the group had been experiencing a large decrease in attendence. We thought this was due to the fact that the previous committee had gone AWOL, so for a while there had been no organisation whatsoever - workshops were being cancelled at the last minute (sometimes because the person running the workshop hadn't been told that they were supposed to be running a workshop) and the adverts in Time Out and gay press had lapsed. So we made efforts to be organised: planning a programme several months in advance and publicising it, updating the web site, reinstating all of the adverts, asking lots of people to run workshops, and adding a fair amount of fun stuff and video evenings to the programme to try to pull in people who are bored with the regular discussion workshops. This did absolutely nothing to reverse the drain. When we were at the stage of an average of 3 people turning up for workshops, one of the committee members quit. I carried on until the end of my officially-elected period, but I've given up now, and I'm not sure I want to go to the group again.
Meanwhile, the personal group is still ticking along happily. Every week 10 to 15 people, mostly 40-50 year old men with few social skills, turn up and go downstairs. None of them will even consider coming to a workshop or watching a video - they just go downstairs, regardless of what we're doing. We could throw an orgy and they still wouldn't come. The last couple of parties have failed dismally - there's been 3 of us sitting around upstairs reading the Pink Paper whilst everyone else goes to the personal group.
Yet all the time people are coming out to themselves as bi and wanting to find other bisexuals to talk to. So it's not that there's a shortage of new people to come to the group. It used to be vibrant, with lots of interesting people of all ages from 20-something to 70-something. Now it's stagnating. We're not getting any new blood. One problem is that for the past few months I've been the only person under 40 there, and another is that I've been the only woman there - so any other young women who've turned up have got there, found it's all old men, and gone away to the London Bi Women's group in disgust. I thought about trying the women's group myself, but they used to have a policy about transsexual women which I disagreed with strongly, and I felt unable to go to the group for political reasons. I'm not sure what their new policy is. Also, early evening Wednesday meetings really aren't all that convenient for me. So I guess I'm destined to get my contact with the bi scene through social meetings, Bi Community News, and the occasional BiCon.
But I miss those workshops.