A Haggerston community centre is hosting free LGBTQIA+ self defence classes and art workshops over the summer to help residents get active and learn about the history of Queer protest in the borough.

In August, a group of residents called the Bender Defenders will be running fitness and self defence classes. The group is reviving a tradition born in response to homophobic hate crime.

Hackney's first gay self defence course was set up in Dalston in the 1980s by Toni Blake, after she was punched in the throat by two people.

Thirty years later these types of hate crime are on the rise. The number of homophobic hate crime incidents has increased since the pandemic, from 13 incidents in May 2020 to 27 in May 2021.

Luca Giraldi, Bender Defender instructor, said: "Across the UK there have been more and more homophobic and transphobic street attacks.

"I would never encourage anyone to start a fight with someone else, the use of physical violence should be avoided at all costs and it should happen only when extremely necessary. I want our community to become familiar with the law around self defence and when to use ‘reasonable force’."

Residents can also learn about Queer history and make their own placard in August, as part of an LGBTQIA+ arts workshop.

Hackney Gazette: Queer Hackney activists hold hand-made placards which have been integral to LGBTQIA+ social justice movements.Queer Hackney activists hold hand-made placards which have been integral to LGBTQIA+ social justice movements. (Image: Hackney Council)

The workshop, to also be held at Haggerston Community Centre, will explore the significance of placards in protest movements.

Kai Finn, local documentary film-maker, Rebel Dykes Queer activist and workshop facilitator said: "I came of age in the 80's, I was a young working class Queer teenage punk, squatting in Hackney and Camden town areas.

"The squatting scene along with my first girlfriend introduced me to Marx, socialism, anarchism, feminism and queer activism and to be honest, I've never really looked back.

"Becoming involved in direct action against Thatcher's government who at that time was legislating against my actual life, seemed a natural step to take and was an important part in forming my political and queer identity."

Sign up for Bender Defender classes at https://benderdefenderaugclasses.eventbrite.co.uk

Sign up for the Queer art and protest workshops at https://queerprotestandart.eventbrite.co.uk