30 years of the Albert Kennedy Trust

This article was last updated on 05/02/21

The In this place: Gaychester series of podcasts by BBC Sounds tells the stories of significant people and events in Manchester's LGBTQ+ past. The city has the UK's largest LGBTQ+ community outside of London.

This episode tells the story behind the Albert Kennedy Trust.

The first boy turned up with a black bin bag with all his things in. He’d been thrown out of home the night before." – Cath Hall

Amazing Phil

Phil Lester presents this episode of Gaychester: In This Place. You may well know him as one half of YouTube stars Dan and Phil. Phil is gay but only came out recently on social media. He says the reaction was mostly positive – but he’s aware not everyone has a good experience when coming out. Some people’s relationships with their families break down – and they may even end up having to leave home.

That’s how the charity AKT – which used to be called the Albert Kennedy Trust – came to be formed.

Cath the foster carer

When he was about 13, I said: ‘Do you think you’re gay?’ He said: ‘I don’t think it, I know it.’

In the late 1980s in Manchester, a woman called Cath Hall decided to become a foster parent when her own kids left home. Her first foster child was a boy called Alan. When Alan was a teenager he told her he was gay. Homophobia – prejudice against homosexual people - was still a big issue at that time. Cath decided to find a youth group which supported gay teenagers.

Cath says the group was a lifeline for Alan: “He said it was the first time in his life that he’d had friends; he was thirteen at the time.” Cath also saw many teenagers at the youth group carrying bags of belongings. It made her realise how many young men were homeless because they had been thrown out or had left home after an argument over their sexuality.

One of the other boys attending the group was a 16-year-old called Albert Kennedy.

Catalyst for change

On 30 April 1989 Albert Kennedy died. He fell from the top of a car park near Manchester’s gay village – an area in the centre of the city known for its gay clubs and bars. A big party is normally held there each August, as part of Manchester’s Pride festival.

During his short life, Albert had been a victim of homophobia. No one knows for sure the cause of Albert’s death. The official verdict was that he died from ‘misadventure’. But some people say that on the day he died Albert was being chased by what were called ‘queerbashers’ – people who deliberately hurt gay people physically or emotionally.

Either way, Albert’s death was the final straw for Cath. She organised a meeting for people who were concerned about the welfare of young gay people in the city. Cath suggested a kind of foster care set-up where older LGBTQ+ people take a young gay person into their home, providing a safe space and some form of mentoring. Named in honour of Albert, the Albert Kennedy Trust (now AKT) was born. It is still doing the same work today.

Celebrating gay lives

Pride month is a chance for everyone to remember the struggles of people like Albert Kennedy. It is a chance to celebrate, and to reflect on the lives of all LGBTQ+ people who have struggled to be recognised or accepted for who they really are.

Phil Lester says: “There are still a lot of issues for young LGBT+ people in the UK but I do think things are improving year upon year. Since my coming out video, I’ve had so many young people sending me messages of positivity and hope, and a lot of them have shared their coming out stories too. It’s really encouraging to see these messages being met with such love and support. And I think society is definitely headed in the right direction.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with issues raised by this story, you can find support through the BBC Action Line.

It is always good to speak to someone you trust about the issues you might be facing, no matter how big or small. It can be hard talking about gender, sexuality and relationships. If you, or someone you know, is experiencing difficulties, you can also find support and further advice at Stonewall and help on a range of issues at Young Minds.

Coming out: living my truth
Coming out: my queer, black identity
How to support someone who's come out to you