Joyce Layland

In 2008 when the LGBT Centre’s youth group celebrated its 30th year of providing support to the LGBT community in Manchester, it was decided that the Centre would be re-named in celebration and memory of a inspirational woman whose hard work and dedication has helped many LGBT young people and their parents and families.

Below Francis Nicol (FFLAG Trustee) reflects on Joyce’s work.

Tribute to Joyce Layland by Francis Nicol

Joyce Layland sadly passed away on 3rd May 2006. Joyce was one of the founders of the Manchester Parents Group and worked hard to establish and maintain links with the LGB community in Manchester for many years. Joyce helped countless parents over the years and campaigned tirelessly for equality. Our condolences go to her family and friends.

I first met Joyce in February 1988, at a protest march in Manchester against the much-despised Section 28 which the Conservative Government was then passing through Parliament.

What stands out about that march was the moment when we passed the group of parents carrying placards of support and the extraordinary reaction of the people marching near us. They clapped, cheered and ran from the march to hug and kiss the stalwart band of mums and a dad. I little knew at the time that these people would become my dear colleagues and friends. Joyce was one of this group but her image was further etched on my mind when, later that same afternoon, she spoke from the rostrum to the rally in Albert square.

I was recently talking to Brenda Oakes about this moment and she reminded me of what Joyce said, it was: “I am the proud mother of my gay son” The whole square had erupted with the cheers and applause of 20,000 people.

In fact Brenda told me that at the time Joyce had felt angry that a normal comment from a parent should have had such an effect. It demonstrated the loneliness and fear of parental rejection that many gay, lesbian and bisexual people had.

So Joyce, as a member of the inspirational Manchester Parents Group was already immersed in working against the inequality suffered by lesbian, gay and bisexual people.

Joyce and Cath Hall organised the first Manchester Parents Group seminars for the several parent support groups around the country, and it was at one of these in 1989 when we first discussed the topic of an “umbrella organisation” for these groups.

In January 1990 Joyce came up with the name “Family Pride” for our new “umbrella organisation” A steering committee was formed which set to work on the aims and formal structure in many meetings around the country. Joyce was the co-ordinator of Family Pride which metamorphosed into FFLAG in September 1991. Joyce stayed at the helm until October 1992. She was impatient as was I with some of the steering committee who thought her views were just too grandiose and her wishes for the launch of FFLAG and a video were really rather wild dreams.

Of course, Joyce was absolutely right and FFLAG has done so much more than Joyce had planned. Ill health forced her to pass on the baton to Brenda Oakes who carried it on with similar brilliance.

Joyce was warm, brave, clever, and politically sophisticated. She made a great contribution to the movement for equality for lesbian gay and bisexual people and her inspired leadership of FFLAG’s beginning is remembered with love and gratitude.