My friend and fellow author Elin Gregory and I share passions, LGBT youth and history. And while I don’t write historical fiction, she does it wonderfully. ~B.
Many thanks, Brandon, for agreeing to host me on your blog.
One of the big problems for an historical novelist is how much information to dump into your text. Whatever makes it into the final version has no business being there if it doesn’t move the story along, so sometimes hard decisions have to be made. One of the hardest decisions for me, while writing On a Lee Shore, was to cut out a lot of the text involving a very minor character – Will, the link boy.
In 18th century London there was little publically funded street lighting. Street corners might have a lamp and some businesses might pay for a light to be kept burning but the streets were dark and terrifying places. Link boys served as mobile street lighting accompanying sedan chairs or carriages or walking alongside pedestrians to light their way. Any boy could set up as a link boy – a scrap of wood, a twist of rag, a little oil and he was in business. Some of the children were part of families but many were not. Homelessness for children was a huge problem.
It was very easy for a child to become homeless. They could be orphaned by accident or illness. Some were abandoned by their families. Older children could be turned out to fend for themselves. Hundreds of children worked their way to the city as drovers or ship hands and either got lost in the city or ran away ‘to make their fortune’. Youths banded together in gangs – safety in numbers – to protect their territory and to look out for each other but alone they in danger. Too often they took to crime or prostitution to get the money they needed – no welfare in those days, unless one entered the workhouse, a terrible place. It is telling that two of the victims of the London Anatomist murderers – who killed people so their bodies could be sold to teaching hospitals for dissection – were a 14 yr old cattle drover from Lincolnshire and a 13 yr old boy who had been found sleeping rough near Smithfield. Young lads alone in the city were very vulnerable.
One might hope that as times have changed so has the plight of homeless youth in the cities of the first world. Unfortunately there are still lost and abandoned children in every city and in the Western world, a high proportion of these children are LGBT. Rejected by their families or running from abuse they are as much at risk as the street children of the 18th century.
14.4 – The average age that lesbian and gay youth in New York become homeless.
13.5 – The average age that transgender youth in New York become homeless.
Many of these poor kids fall through the cracks but there are organisations that are doing their best to help. You will find a very good list here on Brandon’s blog but the one closest to my heart is the Albert Kennedy Trust, based in the UK, that provides emergency accommodation and further support for LGBT youth who have nowhere else to go.
“Cath Hall, an experienced foster carer, was involved in Manchester’s LGBT youth group where she became acutely aware of the rejection & ejection of young LGBT people from their family home & the homophobia they faced within school and society.
In 1989 Cath Hall responded to this crisis by setting up a supported lodgings service for LGBT young people with the support of Hugh Fell, Manchester City Council and other key members of the Manchester LGBT community.
Also in 1989, 16 year old Albert Kennedy fell to his death from the top of a car park in Manchester. Albert was a runaway from a children’s home and was suffering depression. In his short life he had experienced rejection and abuse from society.
Cath and the rest of the committee chose to adopt the name the Albert Kennedy Trust not only as a tribute to this young man but also because Albert epitomized the very thing the organisation was set up to prevent happening to other young lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people.
The organization officially became a Trust in 1990.”
[From AKT's website]
The Albert Kennedy Trust is the chosen charity for the UK Meet, an annual get together for readers, writers and publishers of LGBT fiction, which will be happening next weekend in Manchester. We hope to raise a good sum to donate to the trust so they can continue their valuable work.
Elin Gregory lives in Wales, and works in a museum where she has the best office window view ever! She has been writing for over 40 years but only recently realised that she might be able to get her stories published. You can follow here on Facebook and Twitter or on her blog .