Established in the 1980s, Friend Mersey was a completely volunteer-run charity providing counselling, befriends and support groups for members of the LGBTQ+ community. Their services included a telephone helpline that was open between 7pm and 10pm seven days a week, staffed by lesbian and gay men who had undergone counselling training. They received calls from those who were worried or confused about their sexuality, feeling lonely or isolated, and those having relationship problems. People also asked for advice on subjects such as HIV/AIDS, safe sex, and “transvestism” (a phrase used in their leaflets), as well as fascilitating meet-up sessions with other LGBT+ people.

Alongside the main helpline was a separate Women’s line, and a ‘TV/TS’ line for transvestites and transexuals.
In addition to the helpline, Friend Mersey provided face-to-face counselling sessions and facilitated support groups for general socialising and cafe meetups - often at their centre at 14 Colquitt Street and a local cafe  called Scarletts.

Volunteers and users of Friend in the documentary Pink: Past and Present (2012) remark on the legacy of one specific volunteer, Barbra Branton, who was one of the first women to operate phones at the charity. Barbra was a pioneering activist who helped set up other groups around the country, as well as founding the Merseyside Gay Women’s Group and the Gay Teachers Group. Today, 36 Bolton Street remains the site of GYRO - a service providing LGBTQ+ youth groups for children & young people who may be exploring sexuality and/or gender identity.
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