Launched in 2011, Planet London has been going for 5 years. In that time Naomi has invested over £11,000 into running costs and supporting the community; enabling the business to invest nearly £10,000 directly into lesbian events, film and businesses.
However whilst Katie and I have always actively supported the community financially (as well as hundreds of in kind support), we have had very little financial similar support in return. More recently, the use of the events calendar (a free resource) has also dwindled as time-poor event organisers choose to prioritise a Facebook event as the main promotion tool. We simply are no longer an asset to the community.
I am proud of what Planet London has achieved; we provided a platform for events and helped over 150 women every day to see what is on in London. We helped many events, films, and businesses to stay afloat. We marched in Prides and increased the visibility of women. I met so many amazing women and helped them to find social spaces in which to meet other women.
There is a huge amount of choice of events, and a number of event organisers. 2 venues in Soho and Bloc Bar in Camden is increasingly offering events for women. So as long as you can find them the choice is there. Going forward it may take you a bit longer to wade through the other events on Facebook; to scroll through the various Tweets but the information is out there to be found.
For those of you who are not on social media - the teachers, the doctors, those still coming to terms with their identity and not out enough to be pubilcly searching and joining these groups I am sorry. I hope that you are able to stay connected to your community through other methods. We have moved into a world where the majority with the numbers and the voices are the only ones heard. This saddens me greatly as it goes against every reason I set up and ran the website - to create a thriving community that is as diverse as those in it, that respects all choices and lives.
Only 1 venue has consistently advertised with us to date, and only 4 event organisers have ever paid us for our services. We recently lost our only remaining paying advertiser and so the sad day has come where we have to say goodbye. For we cannot survive on fresh air alone. It simply does not pay the bills.
Since initially announcing this on Facebook we had a couple of offers of help which have been really nice, but unfortunately it is not time or skills we need - we have lots of this. It is just £300 a month to cover the core running costs. Sounds simple; but I have re-structured the offering so many times, I have met with over 25 event organisers since January and whilst they all love what we do - they just prefer to use free outlets such as Facebook.
I tried launching a membership, designed to save you money so you have more to spend on nights out; trying to directly support both ends of the community spectrum we support in one go - but event organisers I approached didn't want to promote it and take up has been poor.
The sad fact of it is that most lesbian businesses don't make money; those that survive are often propped up by large mainstream businesses or investors. Whilst LGBT businesses are often supported by less frugal, more financially stable gay men. I haven't been able to work out why lesbian women don't support lesbian businesses. In this area I have failed.
I have tried to seek sponsorship along the way but due to the increasingly tight budgets most corporations want to hit all the diversity strands in one go and so will only support LGBT ventures. Recently this has expanded slightly with the growth in trans interests; but it has been impossible to get any support because we only reach women. Another sad example of gender inequality at work.
I hear almost daily LBQ women talking about supporting local coffee shops and avoiding big brands; however for some strange reason this does not seem to translate into other areas of life.
To all our Planeteers past and present, thank you for your support - I know that for many of you this was a great tool to be able to approach and talk to women. I hope that you are able to find alternative methods for this. Be confident, be proud. We've had some fun along the way!
Katie has also decided to prioritise on other areas. Following her success of converting her writing into a webseries and her recent illness she has decided to prioritise her time on her passion - writing. The website is too much for one person to manage and with no money to get any support in, let alone cover costs this is just another reason it will close.
A review of our success
So we have reached the final curtain. Unless a miracle happens and we can get some income over the next 30 days, Planet London will close. However in the time that we have been running, we have achieved a lot:
•sponsored and programmed the cinema at L Fest
•sponsored the Wotever Film Festival
•sponsored G Fest arts festival
•hosted the social space at LFest and provided activities for solo women to help them to make friends and meet other women
•Sponsored banners for various events
•AKT – sponsored bike ride
Such big plans
The sad thing is, I knew that there was more that I could do. I had plans to help plug further gaps I can see forming in the community.
MeetUp is becoming increasingly popular, however there are hundreds of groups with largely the same user base. MeetUp charges large fees - that grow the more people are in your group. The women doing all the hard work are also the ones who are having to pay these fees. Some try to get members to pay, but largely it just becomes an admin nightmare, and as such many groups do not survive. I had planned to replicate the features, but to remove the huge financial burden. For the system itself works. I share this in the hope that someone else may pick this up and run with it.
Some of the numbers
Social media and visitor stats provided up to December 2015.
So all that remains is for me to say thank you to all our visitors and supporters for being key in facilitating me in being able to follow my passion and my dream in supporting our community. It has been a tough 5 years, but overall it has been worth it. I have no idea what is next, I've had no free time for 5 years and suddenly all I have is free time so it is going to be strange. I hope that the community continues to grow, and thrive and that you stay connected to it.